Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, there weren’t too many people that Brian Wanzek didn’t know.
“Everyone knew one another or was related to one another,” he says.
Palm Springs has become that kind of town for Wanzek, who is probably better known as Bella da Ball, the 6-foot-6 (in heels), big hair, big glasses diva often seen with a microphone and a clipboard as the emcee.
Since 2000, Bella has been at the front of a variety of functions and venues, running Trivia at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, a Cabaret Variety Dinner Revue at Azul Tapas Lounge or helping to spearhead a charity drive. In each case she keeps the show moving, punctuates the air with deadpan humor while disarming just about everyone in her path.
“It’s so much fun because I think they are taken a little awe of it (her appearance), yet they want to have their picture taken with me,” Bella says. “Or they ask, ‘Can I touch your hair’ or say, ‘You’re so tall’.”
Bella’s dedication to the Greater Palm Springs area didn’t go unnoticed. A group of Bella’s friends led by Doug Graham organized a drive to literally cement her place in the town’s celebrity history. On Nov. 9, Bella da Ball will become star No. 358 in front of Azul as part of the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
“I was totally amazed and overwhelmed,” Bella says of the movement to get her a star. “I was just gasping. Totally impressed and honored. I couldn’t believe it.”
It’s not the first time Bella has been honored. Wanzek has also received the Herb Lazenby Community Service Award for the AIDS Assistance Program at the annual Evening Under the Stars event last May, and the Outstanding Community Service Leader award from the Desert Business Association.
“My parents were very involved with community and charity events,” Wanzek says, “and I think they instilled in me to work with people, help people, work with the community, get out there and do a little bit, participate and support.”
While earning a place on the Walk of Stars is certainly a milestone, there are far more stages for Bella to grace going forward.
“I just did a wedding reception for two guys,” Bella says. “We totally surprised the guests. We came from behind the scenes and all of a sudden we were doing a drag show plus a hula-hoop contest. We’ve done funerals and wakes. One woman said if she ever dies, she wanted a drag show at her wake, so we did it.”
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VIDEO: Hear how Bella da Ball got her name, look and where it all started.