By embracing stars of yesterday, Dan Gore and Luis Camacho are breathing new life into Oscar’s Palm Springs.
Gore, the owner of Oscar’s, first moved to the retirement and vacation destination in 2014 “to open a celebrity female impersonator show.” He says, “I was attracted to this resort area because of the mountains and the desert landscape.”
Camacho, who Gore calls his right-hand man, says he’d long had his eye on the desert town, which is “going through a wonderful renaissance.” Camacho says, “It offers a lot of outdoor activities, fantastic restaurants, relaxing spa treatments, and great shopping, all in a quaint small town setting. It’s definitely LGBTQIA+ friendly here and the community is quite strong.”
Oscar’s in downtown Palm Springs
The business partners have transformed Oscar’s from a simple restaurant and bar into a vibrant entertainment venue. “We started by introducing drag shows that were outrageous, bold, and just plain fun. That was a huge draw for us, but I knew that we needed to broaden the range of options.”
Gore, who grew up in the ’80s, recalls those days as “a time before Internet fame and we were fixated on TV spectacles that drew us all in. For instance, Wednesdays were Dynasty night at many venues and later we had Queer as Folk, Noah’s Arc, and Queer Eye that would bring the gays together. I took that idea to Oscar’s, but with a spin. I decided to bring these celebs from yesteryear in live. I transformed our large patio into a mini amphitheater and started ‘An Intimate Evening With....’”
Business partners Luis Camacho (right) and Dan Gore (right)
During these sit-downs, celebs delve “into their personal lives, their upbringings, their careers, what they are working on now.” In addition, they often perform, or share multimedia clips. “The celebs so love being here in PS and the locals are so fabulous that we have Hollywood celebrities asking to return,” Gore says.
The event has attracted a wide range of celebrities, from legendary singers like Dionne Warwick and Frankie Avalon, to comedian Sandra Bernhard, Elvis’s widow Priscilla Presley, and actors like Barbara Eden, Lindsay Wagner, and Richard Chamberlin.
From top: Gore with Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie; Gore with Priscilla Presley; Camacho with Lindsay Wagner of The Bionic Woman
Camacho adds that the stars “share such funny, personal, poignant moments of their lives as if they’re talking to a friend. In my opinion, PS — and Oscar’s for that matter — offers the celebrities a relaxed, beautiful, and stress-free environment for them to express themselves and connect with people in a more intimate setting.” It’s the chance to share that intimacy that draws audiences as well.
Camacho is himself a bit of an early ’90s celebrity. One of the key dancers in Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary who taught the superstar how to vogue, Camacho recalls that the singer had “just finished recording her song ‘Vogue’ and was looking for dancers. We were referred to her by mutual friends, thus we sent her a video tape of us vogueing and the rest is history — literally.”
Gore with Richard Chamberlain of The Thorn Birds
The dancer now helps stage elaborate drag performances for Oscar’s Bitchiest Brunch held every Sunday in the venue’s al fresco courtyard. “The girls give it their all when they perform,” Gore explains. “We have a fantastic opening that Luis choreographed, with great Vegas-style costumes. And when you combine that with a delicious brunch menu, you can’t go wrong.”
Plus, bottomless mimosas! Gore adds, “We decided to shake things up with our drag Bitchiest Brunch and our male strip show for brunch called Mimosa Men where it’s all men that are serving sides of sausage, if you get my drift.”
Oscar’s Mimosa Men pose and flex with guests
The fun doesn’t stop as the weekend comes to an end. “Our Sunday tea dance is probably what we are best known for in our community,” Gore says. “In fact, people come from all over the world to dance in our courtyard.”
Camacho agrees. “I’ve literally met people from Sweden, Germany, and Iceland who told me that they heard about Oscar’s tea dance and had to come and check it out.”
“It’s a historical celebration for our community,” Gore says. “As history shows, tea dances usually are an empowerment and equality celebration for the millions who suffered before us in the fight for equality. It’s definitely our most popular weekly event. It’s the only place in town that you can dance outside under the sun in Palm Springs, every Sunday.”
Now Gore and Camacho are opening a new restaurant in Palm Springs. “Crème is our upscale, haute cuisine dream restaurant,” Camacho says, describing it as “Oscar’s slightly older and more affluent sister, if you will, with a strong focus on an elevated dining experience, topped off with musical residencies.”
The menu and ambience of the restaurant are being created by celebrity chef Sevan Abdessian from Herb Albert’s Vibrato in Beverly Hills. Crème opens later this year.
This piece initially ran in the Summer 2022 print issue. Out Traveler is available on newsstands.