The Dinah Shore Weekend brings thousands of party girls to Palm Springs
The boys have their Circuit parties all over the place, but what do the gals have? Dinah Shore, that’s what!
When it comes to lesbian parties, nothing but nothing comes close to Club Skirts, The Dinah, held March 31 through April 1 in Palm Springs, California. So says Mariah Hanson, and she ought to know: For the past 20 years, Hanson has been responsible for organizing the largest lesbian party weekend in the world.
No Small Events
"The Club Skirts Dinah Shore Club Skirts Dinah Shore is five days of lesbian Bacchanalian delight," said Hanson. "It is a celebration of our lives and living out loud, attracting lesbians from around the country and the world. All our differences fade away as we enjoy five days of celebration featuring the best talent in the country, in a really wonderful hotel environment with thousands of women stalking about in bikinis."
Unlike the men’s Circuit parties, the Dinah is not focused on all-night, drug-fueled dancethons (not that there’s anything wrong with that ...), but on top-flight entertainment, pool parties, and building community. Women can enjoy the luxury amenities of the Hilton Hotel, this year’s host, without sacrificing the excitement and raucous party atmosphere.
"There are no small events; even the pool parties are bigger than the night parties," said Hanson. This year’s Saturday pool party will feature lesbian hip-hop duo God-Des and She.
Which is not to say that the evening lineup suffers. Last year featured a performer no less big than Lady Gaga. Yes, that Lady Gaga. This year’s White Diamonds party brings in the "It Girl" of the moment, Ke$ha.
The #1 Billboard Hot 100 artist is currently in the running for longest number one debut single by a female in Billboard’s history - or at least since record keeping began in 1977. Hanson apparently has a good nose for the next superstar talent; as with Lady Gaga, she booked Ke$ha early for this year’s Dinah event.
Hanson also has a knack for making history happen. Among the exciting events offered at this year’s Dinah is the reunion of double-platinum legendary female rap duo Salt ’N Pepa, appearing with DJ Spinderella for the first time since 2000.
Ke$a, Satl ’N’ Pepa, God-Des not enough for you? How about this: On Friday, comedian Rosie O’Donnell will return to the stage for the first time in 15 years to do stand-up. Expect lots of zingers aimed in every direction. (You listening, Elizabeth Hasselbach?)
On Thursday evening, hilarious Suzanne Westenhoefer hosts seven other featured comedians at the Laughing Loud showcase, including Erin Foley, Vicki Shaw, Sandra Valls, Jennie McNulty, and more. And a full lineup of lesbian TV series stars will battle it out at Saturday’s Cabana Girl Hilton Hotel Main Pool Area for the Battle of the Lesbian Webisides, duking it out for Dinah Dominion.
Club Skirts will cement its own family ties this year with its first-ever appearance by newly out celesbian Meredith Baxter. The blonde-tressed TV and film star will model at Saturday evening’s Equality California Fashion Show. Baxter will be wearing the practical haute couture of Dugwear, which Hanson calls "really fashionable clothes with enough pockets so a lesbian knows where her sunglasses and Chapstick are, with no fanny packs!" Bless you, Dugwear!
Where Celebrities Can Party, Too
Joining Baxter on the catwalk will be stars Thea Gill, Elizabeth Keener, Briana Stockton, Dalila Ali Rajah, Romaine Patterson, Westenhoefer, and bloggers Nat and Meg. Nor is this Baxter’s first time at the Dinah. Baxter was in attendance last year, before she publicly came out, but organizers kept her profile low.
"One thing about Club Skirts is that we make it a platform for performers to feel comfortable doing what they want," said Hanson. "We take really good care of them, and if they don’t want to be in the public eye but want to do Dinah we let them. This means that sometimes we have members of the B-52s jumping on stage to perform with BETTY. The Dinah is a hotbed for celebrities to hang out and feel at ease, which is also something for our customers to experience. You could just be sitting in lawn chair and look over and there’s Joan Jett."
Despite the parade of celebrities - of which this year’s lineup includes The Motels featuring Martha Davis, the Paradiso Girls, and Lolene - the Dinah at Club Skirts is hardly all frippery.
A Highlight: Rosie Returns to Stand-Up
In the midst of Sunday afternoons bikinis and Bay Breezes is the "NOH8 Pool Party," where guests can don a white shirt and have their photo taken by campaign creators Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, to appear on major news outlets as a public stance in favor of gay rights.
"Women will be studded with tattoos and duct tape on their mouth, and at the end of the day we will take a group photo of the pool party, to tell people that although we had a wonderful time at Palm Springs, we still want our rights," said Hanson. Hey, that duct tape looks great on Jane Lynch, Mayim Bialik, Dear Abby, Hope Olaide Wilson, Shannon Elizabeth, Kelly Hu, Carmit and Cindy McCain!
An event this size takes a considerable amount of work to produce. Hanson is still working nonstop for three weeks after each event, after which she has a couple of slow months. Then it all starts up again, with a few 40-hour weeks, ramping up to 80 hour weeks for the last two months. But it is all worth it, said Hanson, for the decades of priceless memories she has helped create.
This year, O’Donnell’s return to stand-up has to stand out as a highlight. "Rosie approaching us to do the debut of her stand-up at Dinah was amazing," said Hanson. "I am touched by it, and I can’t wait for her show!"
This is the 20th year of the Dinah Shore. "I think it’s a really important event to the lesbian community," said Hanson. "It is considered part of our culture, a rite of passage that some women go to once, and others go to every year. When celebrating with that many different lesbians from all over the country, it becomes very meaningful. When you think of people living out loud...well, we do that on this weekend."