Ladies of the Night: Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs
It’s hard to imagine lesbian dance clubs without go-go dancers, hot disk jockeys spinning the latest dance mix, and large warehouse-like spaces packed with glittery women sipping the trendiest drinks and grinding the night away.
This is the lesbian nightlife today, but nearly 25 years ago, when Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs hit the Los Angeles lesbian nightlife scene it was stuck in a rut in smoky bars, dull, with bad music and largely out of sight compared to gay men’s bars and clubs.
The Sapphic dynamic duo from New York instantly transformed the city of Angels lesbian nightlife into a sultry carnival of glam with sexy go-go dancers and the best femme fatale disk jockeys spinning the hottest hits with Girl Bar. Los Angeles’ lesbian nightlife hasn’t been the same, but they didn’t stop there.
Robin and Sandy quickly made their way out to Palm Springs, Calif., U.S.A. with their friend, Jeffrey Sanker, to co-host his annual White Party, and discovered Dinah Shore Weekend in 1990. A year later they co-founded the modern day Dinah Shore Weekend extravaganza with Mariah Hansonof San Francisco-based Club Skirts.
In 2006, the business partners got into a brief legal tango when their 15 year relationship went south.
“It was a partnership that started out well and then wound up not going well,” says Robin adding that Mariah, Robin and Sandy had different management styles and visions for the future of Dinah Shore Weekend. “There’s an expression: some relationships are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and that relationship was for a season.”
Sandy wasn’t available for an interview.
Robin, who declines to state her age, and Sachs, 50, also ended their nearly 20 year romantic relationship four and a half years ago, but their business partnership survived their personal split. The two women continue focused on building their nightlife and party empire, says Robin.
This year the women are taking GirlBar’s Dinah Shore Weekend to Las Vegas, April 27 – 29.
“Once the split happened and I could take the event in the direction that I wanted: I chose to take it in the direction of offering first class entertainment,” Mariah, promoter of Club Skirts The Dinah!, simply says of the threesome’s breakup. “I thought that was something that this community, the lesbian community, really deserved. Quite frankly I don’t think that there are very many promoters in the nation [that] are doing the kind of concerts that Club Skirts is doing — gay or straight.”
The spit opened up the playground for Dinah Shore Weekend guests, say both promoters who have moved on.
Robin and Sandy have taken GirlBar’s Dinah Shore Weekend events international. For the past six years they have been networking with European lesbian club promoters spreading the word about GirlBar’s Dinah Shore Weekend. Their goal is to make Dinah Shore Weekend more than a weekend, but a vacation destination as a week-long Sapphic party.
Just as Los Angeles wasn’t enough for Robin and Sandy, Dinah Shore Weekend just isn’t enough. Both promoters are spreading their desire to party across the nation. In 2004, the party gals launched GirlBar – Las Vegas on the world-famous Las Vegas strip. They moved on to hosting GirlBar nights in Phoenix, Ariz. andChicago,Ill., and plan to party in more cities across the U.S. and into Europe, says Robin.
As if being award-winning queens of the night isn’t enough, the Sapphic duo haven’t given up their day jobs. Robin, is a clinical psychologist specializing in the LGBT community, but she took time off in 2010 to market GirlBar and Dinah Shore Weekend’s 20th anniversary events. Sandy, remains co-owner of one of Los Angeles’ top nightclubs, the Factory Nightclub in West Hollywood, where she spins the GirlBar music every Friday.
Girls making films
Bars and clubs aren’t the only nightlife options Robin and Sandy are attracted to. In 2010, GirlBar Productions, their entertainment company, ventured into producing queer girl films for the silver screen — big and small — with the documentary “Out in the Desert”, about Dinah Shore Weekend’s history, directed by openly bisexual filmmaker and writer Kyle Schickner, founder of Fencesitter Films.
“I like canonize queer history that needs to be documented and put into the annals,” says Kyle about his work and the importance of documenting rites of passages for queer people as, “the ability to have this chance to make an impact on younger gay and lesbian bisexual people.”
Robin and Sandy selected Kyle to direct the documentary after seeing his film “Steam”, which they hosted an after party for the premiere, Robin and Kyle say.
“We’ve been producing events for quite a long time,” says Robin about the new venture and illuminating queer women’s experiences on film. “If you are filmmaker you have a responsibility for what you put on the screen because it influences everyone all over the world. There is a message especially for us.”
Robin was especially excited about documenting the history of Dinah Shore Weekend on film for the party’s 20th anniversary.
“We’ve all taken part in making this weekend huge,” says Robin about all of the Dinah Shore promoters who created “one of the biggest women’s weekends in the world.”
Robin says that they “definitely brought the weekend up to a different level,” but she credits Showtime’s the “L Word”, which filmed on location at GirlBar Dinah Shore Weekend’s parties, for “skyrocket[ing]” the weekend to its worldwide phenomenon, she says.
The weekend’s namesake, Dinah Shore, an entertainer from the mid- to the late-20th century, was an avid golfer. She founded the Colgate Dinah Shore Golf Championship (now called the Kraft Nabisco Championship) in 1972. Naturally the lesbians followed.
“She was the first woman to really recognize female golfers and give them pretty decent financial purse,” Robin says.
Shore never stated in public her feelings about her name and tournament weekend being hijacked by lesbians, but she also wasn’t known for being pro-LGBT rights or feminist either. Shore is 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.”
Kraft Nabisco dropped Shore’s name from the tournament after her death in 1994, but lesbians ironically carry on her memory.
Either way, Robin and Sandy, who celebrated both GirlBar’s and their participation in the modern day Dinah Shore Weekend’s 20th year, believes “It’s a good story to tell the history, how it began, who runs it and has been running it,” says Robin.
“[It] has a huge history [and] has become so important in our community,” adds Robin, “especially it has become, for so many younger lesbians, like a right of passage. Everybody has gone to the Dinah Shore Weekend at least once or twice in their life.”
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