A couple of weeks ago Gay Desert Guide’s Jeff Denean Jones interviewed this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday for today’s spotlight. Here is what our friend, Sue Burnside, had to share with us:

GDG: Did you grow up in Palm Springs?
SUE: Yes, we had a weekend house in Las Palmas and when I was entering 4th grade, we moved here permanently.
GDG: What was growing up in Palm Springs like?
SUE: Well, we had no air conditioning in our classrooms, brutal for a chubby kid in polyester! We would hang out at each other’s houses after school. Our parents never worried about us because we would always be home when the sun fell behind the mountain.
You were either a nerd, a jock or a parking lot kid, or you could be a combination of all if you wanted to. What still amazes me is how resourceful and entrepreneurial all my friends were and still are today. I started my 1st business in my desk at Katherine Finchy Elementary. Frank Jones of PS Life and I were talking last year about growing up in PS. Without knowing it, we all developed a keen eye for architecture, design and culture.
Sports were very big in PS and it was so amazing that the women’s teams were better than the guys! CIF Women’s Tennis Champions and CIF Badminton Champions!
There were only two high schools – Palm Springs and Indio – so we had a lot of diversity. We had a lot of respect for each other regardless of how different we were or thought. That respect continues today. We did have a brief Trump moment, but we are all good now!
GDG: How do you imagine it’s changed for young people growing up here today?
SUE: I’m sure it’s more polarized. You have kids going to school within their own city limits and have very little exposure to other kids from neighboring cities. There are rivalries and not much collaboration because they compete against each other. Similarly, you see the same large number of kids never leaving the desert.
There are a lot more people and that restricts movement. I am almost certain kinds don’t ride their bike from PS to Lake Cahuilla. I am sure if you get in trouble these days the police do not take you home — they take you to the station.
GDG: What do you wish was still part of your “growing up in Palm Springs” experience that is not here today?
SUE: I am happy to say the friendships I developed here remain strong today! I’m very grateful to all my pals! I miss backyard swimming pool parties, skateboarding down Rose Hill in Las Palmas and around town and fence hopping. We also “cruised” down Palm Canyon, especially during Spring Break. Town was wild and so busy you could barely walk the sidewalks. A lot of us worked in town, so we got a closeup view of all the craziness,
Uncle Don’s Toy Store and Hertzberg Model Shop were important parts of our childhood, along with Louise’s Pantry for lunch, followed by a movie next door at the Plaza Theater and shopping. Every teenage girl’s dream clothing stores were Bojangles. Ice cream was Swensen’s. We had no real place to just hang out as kids, so we took over Bob’s Big Boy (now 1501 gastropub) after football games and an empty culde sac in the Canyons called “The Circle” was a place for all of us to meet up on Saturday nights.
Running into Frank or Dean or Sammy at Sorrentino’s or Paul DiAmicos.
GDG: I see you just vacationed in Hawaii – another destination of leisure? What activities did you enjoy in Hawaii?
SUE: I love Hawaii, which was another early destination for me as a child. My mother was a USO dancer during Pearl Harbor and it never left her blood. I lived in Hawaii for the 1st gay marriage campaign and fell in love with the culture and islands.
So many things to love… 70 degrees, trade winds and humidity. Water, perfect temperature year-round, tons of fish, the snorkeling and scuba are amazing. The food is incredible. You can find a lot of fattening Hawaiian food if you look, but the poke and fish are really the most unbelievable.
GDG: Not that I would ask anyone to compare Palm Springs to other destinations, especially Hawaii, but do you have moments when you think, I wish we had this in Palm Springs? Or, too bad they don’t do this in Hawaii? If so, what might that be?
SUE: I think Hawaii and PS have a lot in common. Both have indigenous people and the sacred land traditions can be felt in every moment of the day. I wish PS had humidity in the winter and that the summer was only 2 months like Hawaii. In Hawaii, I wish there were more gay places and people.
GDG: Mutual friends of ours have great things to say about you. Which really prompts me to ask you, what is your philosophy of living your best self, and your best life?
SUE: Tell me who they are so I can buy them a drink, LOL! That is a tough question since I’m pretty hard on myself and have pushed myself pretty hard over the years. It has allowed me to have the ability to serve, volunteer and donate to people, organizations and candidates who do good for the community. Being a mentor has played an important role in my political life, being the 1st National Field Consultant in the country. Being of service and making folks life a little brighter, whether that is with a smile or food banking on Thursday or creating a whole new reality for a family or donating to a community-based organization or building an office – that’s what it is all about for me.
My mottos: Life is good, do good and thrive. You can do more and you can do better!
GDG: Thank you, Sue, for sharing with us today. By the way, we wish your mom a very happy 92nd birthday today! ?
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