Dinah’s Sizzling Hot at 25
The biggest women’s party on the planet continues to burn hot and bright in the California desert
by Heather Cassell
The Dinah, which is arguably the biggest lesbian party in the world, just keeps getting hotter year after year.
There’s a reason why an upward of more than 15,000 beautiful bikini-clad women from around the world head to sunny Palm Springs, California for a week of splashing around in the pool and partying until dawn at The Dinah.
At 25, it attracts the best all-girl entertainment to Palm Springs and there is no stopping it especially with hit-makers Meghan Trainor and Christina Perri headlining the party.
At the prime of the “lesbian spring break’s” youth, The Dinah continues to attract the hottest lady DJs, go-go dancers and celebrities.
This year won’t be any different come April 1 through 5.
It’s just bigger and better with headliners Meghan (“All About that Bass”) taking the stage at Saturday night’s Black Party and Christina (“A Thousand Years”) getting the fans excited at Friday night’s White Party.
“I cannot tell you how exciting it is to bring this caliber of entertainment to our community,” says Mariah Hanson, producer of the Club Skirt’s The Dinah, about the festival’s feat featuring two female headliners who are ratcheting up the pop charts for the first time.
“It’s legacy-creating. If The Dinah can stand out as this really hip lesbian event that has some of the most top notch entertainers in the nation, I think that’s a pretty cool gift to the community,” continues Mariah, excited to be celebrating the Dinah’s silver anniversary.
The party also features emerging female performers Bebe Rexha and Ivy Levan, along with E11even, Holychild, and Olivia Somerlyn and chart-topping favorites Crystal Waters (“Gypsy Woman”) and Rose Royce (“Car Wash”).
The Dinah wouldn’t be The Dinah without its lesbian comedians. Mainstay Suzanne Westenhoefer is a part of the comedy lineup that also includes Gloria Bigelow, Dana Goldberg, and Dinah Leffert.
The Dinah isn’t all about the party. It’s also making a statement about the community and doing some good from Mariah’s perspective.
She argues that attracting the best and brightest talent to The Dinah year after year can be a “political statement.”
“After 25 years of producing events in this community comes a responsibility to create meaning in what you do and so I live that every day,” says Mariah. It’s a message that radiates from her to her four-member team that grows to 50 during the weeklong event outward to her guests.
Every year the team includes a benefit event to raise money for an LGBT organization.
The celebrity poker tournament benefiting the Human Rights Campaign has been a permanent fixture at The Dinah, and raises thousands of dollars for LGBT rights.
The poker tournament along with the film festival won’t happen this year, says Mariah, due to the additional headliner, but the events will be back next year.
This year, a celebrity beer pong tournament will raise money for HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“It’s the responsibility of LGBT Americans to give back to our community, and that doesn’t necessarily mean money we can give back in our time,” says Mariah, pointing out that the LGBT rights movement isn’t done yet.
“Even when we have full marriage equality, for instance, that doesn’t mean that we have full acceptance in this country to live our lives out loud and proud and with equality and respect,” continues Mariah. “Until that day, we all have a responsibility to our community to stick with our civil rights movement.”
Diamond In The Rough
This year’s party doesn’t look anything like how it all began back in 1972, nearly 20 years before Mariah, who is from Sonoma County, and Los Angeles’ the Girl Bar promoters, Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs, saw an opportunity in the early 1990s.
Palm Springs was long a retreat for Hollywood A-listers and celebrities and LGBT vacationers. It was also the spot for the Colgate Dinah Shore Golf Championship, which was long known as the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The golf tournament was started by popular Big Band era entertainer and 1970s TV personality Dinah Shore, who was born Frances Rose Shore on February 19, 1916.
But Shore wasn’t exactly a feminist. She was famously quoted, “I owe everything –my success and happiness– to men,” a sentiment reflected in one of her hit songs, “It’s So Nice to Have a Man Around the House.”
However, she was an avid golfer and supporter of women’s professional golf, which she lent her star power to boost the then-underfunded LPGA and women golfers.
Today, it is one of the four major golf tournaments on the LPGA tour. Last year, Kraft Nabisco didn’t renew its contract to sponsor the tournament. In November, the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that Ana Inspiration, formerly All Nippon Airways, took over sponsorship of the LPGA championship. Ana Inspiration is Japan’s leading airline.
Lesbians have a thing for women athletes –golf produced its own professional lesbian golfers– so naturally a lesbian following grew. Shore also wasn’t known for being a supporter of LGBT rights, but she never publicly commented about her tournament and name being hijacked by lesbians. The producers of the golf championship have repeatedly stated it had no problem with the lesbian parties being loosely associated with the golf tournament.
However, lesbian golf and Dinah fans disagreed and in 1994, after Shore’s death, her name was quickly removed from the golf championship.
Dinah Shore’s name lives on through the parties. A sculpture of Shore also demarks the plaques of the tournament winners –some lesbian– along the green at Mission Hills Country Club golf course, where the tournament is hosted.
In the early 1990s, Dinah Shore Weekend was a readymade lesbian event in a resort town already popular with the LGBT community, a women’s golf event, celebrities, sunshine, and more it was ripe for a new generation of party promoters.
The California lesbian promoters who lived out loud and proud and were known for throwing parties with sexy go-go dancers and the hottest DJs spinning the latest dance hits teamed up and upped the ante. They took the lesbian parties surrounding the golf championship out of airline hangers, dodgy bars, and house parties and brought them into Palm Spring’s best venues as a new generation of lesbian partiers came of age.
Mariah, Robin and Sandy’s partnership split up in 2006. Since then Mariah took Palm Springs and Robin and Sandy took their Dinah party to Las Vegas.
A quarter century later, The Dinah has grown from “lesbian spring break” into the largest women’s music festival. Record executives vie to have their top female performers at The Dinah, but the party hasn’t lost its lesbian fans. It’s a feat that Mariah is proud of.
“I think that I produce an incredible event,” says Mariah, who focuses on bringing top-notch entertainment and throwing the best parties to keep women coming back year after year. “Between those two elements we are giving people a reason to continue to keep coming to the event.”
The Dinah’s stages have seen Iggy Azalea, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, the Pussy Cat Dolls, Tegan and Sara, and more who along with other celebrities wished the Dinah a happy 25th anniversary in a special video recently.
The Dinah has graced the small screen on Show Time’s The L Word and rolled out the red carpet for celesbians and even produced a small film festival during the weeklong festivities during recent years.
Say Hollywood, a regular guest at The Dinah, keeps coming back because of the entertainment, pool parties, beautiful women from all over the world and the friendships she’s made.
“I will never go to any other circuit ever again besides going to Mariah’s The Dinah,” says Say, a 40-something lesbian partygoer who has gone to many lesbian circuit parties across the U.S. “I think that it’s phenomenal.”
She will be at The Dinah this year with her friends, enjoying the entertainment and the pool parties. She says she’s looking forward to seeing Meghan perform as well as Crystal and Rose.
“I really love my community,” says Mariah. “I understand the importance of the Dinah Shore Weekend in our community. I understand that it’s a bucket list, a rite of passage. It’s a celebration and I’m committed to continuing that because that’s my gift back.”
She hopes that Dinah guests feel special long after they leave the event.
“What we want them to take with them when they leave is that they are worth it, that living out loud is the best way to live.”
The Dinah is April 1-5. Passes are still available. Individual events $10 – $100; Weekend Passes: General $269 / VIP $600. www.thedinah.com
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