Righteous Partying: The Dinah’s Mariah Hanson
Veteran party promoter Club Skirt’s Mariah Hanson on 25 years of throwing the biggest girl party in the world
by Heather Cassell
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the famed Dinah Shore Weekend, which kicks off the women’s spring and summer festival season.
Girls That Roam is on the road to The Dinah heading down Interstate 5 to party with the ladies April 1 – 5 in the California desert … and maybe play some golf. After all, it was the Professional Ladies Golf Association’s annual tournament headed up by the popular Big Band era entertainer and 1970s TV personality Dinah Shore that started it all.
While the golf tournament hasn’t born Dinah Shore’s, who was born Frances Rose Shore on February 19, 1916, name since 1994; her name has been carried on by the lesbian party that has morphed into the world’s biggest women’s music and cultural festival due to award-winning Club Skirts promoter Mariah Hanson’s vision.
The event attracts more than 15,000 women to Palm Springs yearly to catch the chart topping and emerging female musicians and entertainers.
This year hit-makers Meghan Trainor (“All About that Bass”) and Christina Perri (“A Thousand Years”) are headlining the party. 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.
Girls That Roam sat down to chat with Mariah about being addicted to adrenaline, what it takes to produce The Dinah, her vision for creating the best event possible, her and responsibility to the queer women’s community, and ultimately having the best job in the world.
GTR: A lot of promoters don’t make it this far the most they make it is 10 years in the business and then they sort of burn out, how does it feel to have made it to your silver anniversary with The Dinah?
Mariah: I have one of the best jobs in the world. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to bring this caliber of entertainment to our community. I still get really excited about producing the event. Every year we are dealing with the kind of talent that are playing much bigger venues, so that’s incredibly exciting [and at that] level of concert performance that keeps me [and my team] on our toes.
Also, I really love my community. 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.
For me its 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.
GTR: What are some of the challenges producing an event like The Dinah?
Mariah: I guess you could say I’m addicted to adrenaline. It’s always challenging. Production is hard. There is nothing easy about it. I think when you say that promoters sizzle out after 10 years I don’t even think that a lot of them are around for that long. It’s a really hard job. It’s stressful. It’s constantly presenting new challenges that keep it fresh, certainly, but it’s an added element of tension. You have to have nerves of steel to be a producer at any level because you are constantly dealing with unexpected surprises that can compromise your production and they need to be solved and usually they need to be solved yesterday.
It’s a challenge for us to really be the best that we can be.
GTR: You give a lot back to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and include benefit events at The Dinah, how does that influence your vision for The Dinah?
Mariah: [The entertainment decisions she makes with The Dinah] are important and they touch on every decision that I make. “What kind of statement does our community make if I do this?” or “What kind of statement does our community make if I do that that?” all comes into play because that’s important to me. After 25 years of producing events in this community, along with that kind of longevity come a responsibility to create meaning in what you do and so I live that every day.
It is 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. 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. Until that day, we all have a responsibility to our community to stick with our civil rights movement.
I take that seriously. So, I do what I can and I think everyone should.
GTR: What is it about The Dinah that keeps women coming back year after year?
Mariah: We are producing an event at the stature of a small music festival and I think that keeps us relevant. We also happen to throw a great party, but between those two elements we are giving people a reason to continue to keep coming to the event.
We want to give them something really special that they aren’t getting anywhere else, that’s what we want them to take with them when they leave that they are worth it. That living out loud is the best way to live.
GTR: What do you believe is your personal success?
Mariah: There are so many ways to identify success and I certainly do feel like my success is greater than the sum of The Dinah. Life’s about relationships. It’s not even about business. Our whole life is about relationships, the one we have with our self is most important. Once you develop a really positive healthy relationship with yourself every other relationship you have naturally transcends that. We can be generous with ourselves with work and play and that generosity translates to more abundance not less. So, for instance, I really do believe that the more that I give the more it will all come back.
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