BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
Dinah Shore Weekend is the name in girl parties. The multi-day festival for women transforms beautiful Palm Springs, California into a lesbian haven each year. Mariah Hanson, the party promoter behind The Dinah, caught up with Lesbian.com to discuss how The Dinah came to be, where she sees it going and what makes this party draw in so many ladies.
In 1991, you decided to take over the Palm Spring Museum and book local hotels full of lesbians. What was your motivation?
I wanted to bring to Palm Springs my vision of the ultimate party and I felt that as a lesbian party producer, I needed to raise the bar. We deserved more than what I felt we were getting from other promoters.
What is the magic of The Dinah? Why do over ten thousand women make the pilgrimage to attend the event, year after year?
The magic is in our customers. They make it all happen.
I think women make the pilgrimage because The Dinah truly is about sharing a mutual respect and understanding for the different lives women live, the struggles they face, the obstacles they’ve overcome, the battles they won, and the successes they have accomplished. It really is a magical place where unforgettable memories, camaraderies and unbreakable bonds are created and cherished forever. Metaphorically speaking what the Dinah offers is a glimpse of what life would be if everyone was accepting of each other — no matter what the size of their body, the color of their skin and/or the tax bracket they belong to — and, on an universal scale, how perfect the world would be if we could all be free to feel free!
Of course it’s also about the opportunity for them to spend a monumental 5-day weekend packed with not only non-stop activities, spectacular comedy shows, live concerts, activism and legendary pool parties, but also premier talent in music, film and television.
I pick them very carefully and meticulously.
Many of the musicians that perform aren’t queer or queer identified. What do you think they enjoy about performing at an all lez event?
They LOVE it and in fact, the queer artists are often the most difficult to book which is really disappointing. They get famous with the support of the LGBT community at first, and then once they cross over to mainstream they don’t want to play our festivals. Most of the non-queer artists actually reach out to me to play at The Dinah.
The Dinah energy is actually palpable. Our performers love playing it and always comment on how cool it is to play for thousands of women. The love the estrogen! The weather is always amazing and the women show up with the fiercest sense of adventure and celebration.
After over 20 years of producing Club Skirts, how do you keep the event fresh each time?
I have a vivid imagination! But I also stay up to date with the latest social and cultural trends. I pay attention and listen to what my customers say and/or express an interest in. We’re very active with our social media activities and always engage our fans to share their thoughts and ideas with us. As a matter of fact, we’re in the process of also adding a “forum” page to our official website to allow for greater dialogue with our customers/fans. It’s important to stay current and know how to reinvent ourselves to embrace the demands of our wide demographic. That’s why we always feature new events during our weekend to give our audience a selection of activities to choose from. For instance this year we debuted the “Celebrity Poker Game” as well as “The Dinah Film Series,” which were both very successful.
During Dinah Shore Weekend, some cities like NYC and Las Vegas have Dinah themed parties. Would you ever consider producing a Dinah-like CLUB SKIRTS weekend in another city?
I think imitation is the highest form of flattery and sign of success. But as the saying goes “always imitated but never duplicated!”
Like everything else in life, nothing compares to the original. Actually, a lot of these themed parties are sponsored by Club Skirts. We partner with a lot of prominent club promoters across the country as well as overseas to host exclusive Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend soirées.
As for moving The Dinah to another city, I would never try to do The Dinah anywhere but in Palm Springs. It would be like taking Sundance out of Park City…
Tell me your most outrageous Dinah moment. Please?
Ha ha! There are too many to say but we like to operate under the motif that what happens at The Dinah, stays at The Dinah.
While The Dinah has become incredibly successful and lucrative, it seems like a labor of love. What do you want women to take away from their experiences at The Dinah?
Putting together each Dinah installment is indeed a huge labor of love because ultimately our goal is to provide all of our customers as well as our staff members an unforgettable experience. It’s all about what I like to call “The Dinah Love.” We’re certainly a big family and the biggest reward is to see women feel free to be who they truly are. For those of us who have the freedom to walk the streets holding hands with our partners, it’s difficult to fathom the idea that our lifestyle is not the same for a majority of others, but rather the exception.We take for granted the fact that our reality is still a dream many wish would come true. But once a year The Dinah makes that dream come true.
The Dinah is not only a hugely popular travel destination for lesbians but also, and most importantly, is a life changing experience for women. In the course of 5 days out of the other 360 days of the year, The Dinah allows them to be who they truly are without fearing the judgment of others, and as well gain a tremendous amount of self worth.
So what I hope they take away is the highest form of pride and joy in and of our lives.
The Real L Word stars Kiyomi Mccloskey and Lauren Bedford-Russell give The Dinah credit for helping them find the love of their lives. Do you have any tips for women who want to find love at The Dinah?
Don’t drink too much otherwise you forget the next day what happened to her number! Ha ha.
In all seriousness, I believe the beauty of the Dinah is that it is a one-of-a-kind vacation spot where women of all ages, interests, ability, relationship status, cultural background and profession come together for a long weekend getaway to meet and connect with other women, make new friends, reunite with old ones, and yes, find their dream girl! So the best advice I can possibly give is BE YOURSELF.
Speaking of love, have you ever fallen in love at The Dinah?
I have not … yet!
There have been a few documentaries on the ‘behind the scenes’ action at Dinah, most notably “Out in the Desert.” Would you ever consider making the jump from documentary to a reality TV show?
Yes, I might. It’s always a possibility!
How do you think The Dinah will evolve over the next five years? Where do you see it in ten years?
Actually, our five year plan is already in the works. This year we moved the Dinah downtown into the heart of the action, and introduced the inaugural block party concept — the “one ticket for two pool parties” admission offering customers the unique and fun opportunity to travel through two different ambiances and to fully experience the legendary Dinah Shore Pool Parties.
Again this is part of the five-year plan that will see the transformation of the iconic mile-long stretch Tahquitz Canyon Way into a Dinah Shore Weekend block party: one ticket gets Dinah goers into everything: pay once, play over multiple days!
I see it becoming better and better. I have a great staff and we are all committed to always taking the event to the next level so that our customer experience continues to be unparalleled, exceptionally unique and top of the line.
Visit The Dinah’s official site at TheDinah.com