On the Same Wavelength

From their longstanding radio stations to the genesis of a cultural center, Ric and Rozene Supple find harmony together

Sharon Apfelbaum Arts & Entertainment, Social Scene 0 Comments

Stroll through the aroma of sage, past a split rail fence and into a ranch house that feels both cozy and sprawling. Western art and morning sunshine fill the great room, where two silken Burmese cats frolic.

“Meet Phanny and Freddy,” says Rozene Supple, a petite blonde whose vivacious manner belies her 83 years. “They’re brother and sister and still young and playful.”

Rising from his leather chair, Ric Supple, also 83, puts down The Wall Street Journal and rises to his commanding 6 feet 3 inches. Beaming at his wife, he suggests coffee for all. Together the couple exudes an air of hospitality and sportive joy.

This home at Smoke Tree Ranch reflects a life shared since their marriage in 1972, a year after they became re-acquainted at a Stanford University reunion after both had lost first spouses.

“I was a ‘hasher’ [cafeteria helper] at the Delta Gamma sorority house, just like his first wife,” says Rozene, blue eyes twinkling.

Her early childhood was spent in Detroit as the only child of George Arthur Richards, owner of a nationwide chain of radio stations. She has been involved in radio since 1925, when her father bought his first station, WJR Detroit. “I was on air at age 4, doing my rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’ on Uncle Neil’s Show,” Rozene recalls.

Today the Supples manage RR Broadcasting, a business that began with Rozene’s purchase in 1969 of the bankrupt KPAL (she later changed the call letters to KPSI) and now includes five highly rated stations.

Rozene’s parents were among the original Smoke Tree Ranch homeowners, her entrepreneurial father having bought on spec in the mid-1930s the lot at Rock No. 9, close to where she and Ric live now. “And [my father] had only a sixth grade education,” she marvels.

“There was nothing but open desert and Deep Well Ranch between Smoke Tree and Palm Springs High, where I attended school. I became a horseback rider and raced quarter horses. I taught Diamond, my black and white pinto, to jump and play polo. He was fast! Now my kids are fearless riders, just like I was,”Rozene says. She attended Marlborough School in Los Angeles and went on to graduate from Stanford, where she majored in psychology and social science.

Ric explored career options after his Stanford graduation, spending a year in law school and a stint in sales and marketing before fixing on insurance. After working in a large San Francisco brokerage, he opened his own insurance consulting firm and maintained a San Francisco office until the mid-1990s. After settling in Palm Springs, he caught the philanthropy bug and served five elected terms as a trustee on the Desert Hospital board of governors.

“I was part of the great transformation of hospital care, when cost control became pre-eminent and Tenet [Healthcare Corp.] became our for-profit hospital lessee,” he says.

The Supples have worked behind the scenes on many fundraising events, and their $1.4 million gift to Desert Hospital made possible the G.A. Richards Trauma Center. They support the ABC Recovery Center, a charity that in 2005 honored them with the prestigious Firestone Award as valley leaders in business and philanthropy.

“Our family came from Detroit, Mich., and we had a home in Beverly Hills. Our circle of friends included celebrities and movers and shakers like Adolph Menjou; J. Edgar Hoover; Eddie Rickenbacker; and Alfred Wallenstein, conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic, who toured with ballerina Anna Pavlova. But it was also a hard-drinking community. I’ve been dry now since 1984,” says the straightforward Rozene.

The Supples have played a major role in attracting quality arts programs since 1999, the year they purchased Palm Springs’ Camelot Theatre, then a boarded-up eyesore, idle for the previous five years and ready for demolition. They decided to “fix up the old barn,” and today the movie theater not only serves as an art-house cinema, but also is being taken to a higher level.

In January, the Supples announced their founding of the Palm Springs Cultural Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. True to their low-key, low-profile style, the modest couple doesn’t plan on construction of a flashy building brandishing their names. Rather, they envision the Camelot and its surrounding campus as the initial home for programs and events that include more film festivals.

Plans include two additional screens and conversion of the upstairs lounge into gallery space for local artists. Camelot Café, run by Hector Salvatierra, a chef with culinary roots in both Argentina and Austria, will become a full-service restaurant.

The Supples have hired Thomas Ethan Harris as chief programmer to oversee a full calendar of events. Formerly director of programming for the Los Angeles Film Festival and Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, Harris says, “We plan on being an important part of the cultural landscape in the valley. The center’s vision is to advance cultural education and nurture community participation in the arts and to encourage local artists with scholarship awards.”

Already the Supples have shown creative, out-of-the-box thinking. When their first event, a Saturday morning certified farmers’ market debuted in February in the Camelot parking lot, hundreds of shoppers crowded local vendors. Tanya Petrovna, whose Native Foods restaurants extend to Costa Mesa, tossed tofu in a skillet. Adjacent to Petrovna’s vegetarian cooking demonstration, sliced tomatoes and organic dates sat ready for sampling. Clearly an idea whose time is overdue, the ongoing market has fast become a standard stop for local chefs and foodies, as well as a community gathering place — one of the Supples’ original goals.

Ric explains their mission: ”We want to be a repository for good ideas, a conduit for promoting culture and education. Now we’re, ‘broad brush,’ a public benefit corporation.” 

A second venture proved their innate skill at partnering with local groups. February’s Festival of Native Film and Culture, presented in association with the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, provided a forum for celebrating indigenous culture through filmmaking. Other new events included a Student Film Festival in April, the Palm Springs Book Festival in May, and the Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in July.

In November, the cultural center presents AFI Comes to Palm Springs, an eight-year partnership the Supples have established with the American Film Institute. Scheduled for February is another new venture: the Palm Springs Silver Festival, heralding seniors in the film industry.

The Supples are particularly proud of the community leaders who have agreed to serve on the center’s 13-member board of directors. They include local developer John Wessman; impresario Dick Taylor; Michael Hammond, director of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum; Tracy Conrad, owner of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn; Rancho Santa Fe gallery owner and artist Steven Maloney; and Denise DuBarry Hay, president of Palm Springs Women in Film and Television.

Having served on the original Palm Springs International Film Festival Board since its inception and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Supples have learned how to cultivate the community’s cultural seeds.

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