Mariah Hanson and Pat Benatar at Dinah
Dinah Shore 2009
Despite recession, still twice the fun
Published Thursday, 02-Apr-2009 in issue 1110
Fun in the sun is to be had at Dinah Shore Weekend, which has already started and runs through Sunday April 5.
Join thousands of women this weekend for the most anticipated party of the year, including unforgettable performances by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, the legendary Indigo Girls and comedic favorite Margaret Cho. People from all over the world will converge in Palm Springs during the next few weeks to bask in the sun, sip cocktails at the poolside, listen to hot musical artists, watch the party’s namesake golf tournament and of course party, party, party!
The Dinah
Though now far removed from its namesake – singer and actress born Frances Rose Shore in 1916 who founded the Colgate Dinah Shore Golf Tournament in 1978 with some of her closest friends in Palm Springs – this much-anticipated event is the largest lesbian party in the west. How did such an event climb from small golf tournament to first-class party featuring some of the hottest entertainment (and women) enjoying a sun- and fun-filled weekend? Perseverance.
The first Dinah Shore weekend occurred in 1986, when lesbians began to flock to Palm Springs in conjunction with the tournament. Dinners and dances following the golfing became benefits for the Human Rights Campaign and the AIDS Service Foundation. Over time, perseverance prevailed as Los Angeles-based club promoters saw the new desert trend as an opportunity to bring in some stellar entertainment, sponsors, and unite the lesbian community in one massive springtime party. Mariah Hanson is one of those who persevered.
“I was aware of parties produced by a couple of Los Angeles promoters, but they were not all that well organized, nor did they offer much for the price. I wanted to produce the caliber of event I thought that weekend warranted,” said Mariah Hanson, founder of the legendary Club Skirts and maven of The Dinah – the largest and original event of the modern Dinah Shore weekend festivities. “I wanted to create an experience where the hotel was 100 percent occupied by lesbian guests instead of just a room block. The guests needed to feel like they had died and gone to lesbian heaven. The concept worked.”
Hanson has been throwing parties for years, and has been a part of the Dinah circuit for almost two decades. “I entered the market in 1991 and threw what is still considered an unforgettable party in the Palm Springs Museum,” Hanson said. “In 1992 I joined forces with Girl Bar, who shared a similar vision and together we made it what it is today.”
Hanson has come a long way from the party at the Palm Springs Museum. She has not only successfully built a world-wide mythical event with The Dinah, but has also accomplished a cultural and social phenomenon that crosses over genders, races and religious denominations. With her determination and professionalism, Hanson has helped expand Dinah Shore Weekend into an event with the hottest lineup of celebrities and entertainers, lavish locations at luxe hotels and attendees totaling more than 10,000 women from across the world.
How does this event-planning diva reinvent the hottest lesbian party year after year? “We are always trying to outdo the previous year’s success in level of production, entertainment, decor and surprises. This commitment to a high standard of production, where really we spare no expense, which creates a reputation that there is nothing like the Dinah Shore,” Hanson said. “It is mostly instinct. I have very strong gut feelings in the planning process and act on them.”
One of the greatest accomplishments thanks to her instinct and perseverance is securing a stellar entertainment lineup for The Dinah 2009. Major artists recognize the promotional value of performing at Dinah Shore Weekend – it’s not just a gay event but undeniably an important landmark in their careers.
Katy Perry is interrupting her World tour to briefly detour to Palm Springs on Friday, April 3, for an exclusive Live performance at The Dinah, showing once again her support of the GLBT community and her appreciation of her numerous lesbian fans. Lady Gaga is also putting a pause on her Pussy Cat Dolls “Dolls Domination Tour” to join the festivities, Saturday, April 4, during the Hollywood Party at the Palm Springs Convention Center .
Who else but Hanson could secure such an insanely incredible -DINAHMITE - entertainment line up including a Grammy nominee and a Top Ten Billboard artist with the current No. 1 Song in the country?
“I am ecstatic about this year’s line up. I think it’s the best yet. Katy Perry’s hit is the 2009 lesbian anthem. The excitement upon the announcement is tremendous. The Indigo Girls and Uh Huh Her are also getting a huge reaction, so I am really pleased. I am expecting our biggest year yet!” said Hanson.
Yet beyond its social standing in the lesbian community worldwide, it is perhaps Dinah’s economic impact that deserves equal attention. Despite the fact that we are living in times of economic recession, sales for The Dinah 2009 have not been affected.
“In a recession, it’s a giant leap to think, ‘This year I am going to increase my budget,’ but I did. I felt it was the year to create the greatest value I could,” Hanson said. “We’ve created a program where you could go to one event or all the events, so The Dinah ’09 is as affordable as you need it to be. It’s a lot more work to offer so many events and price them separately as well as in packages, but I felt this year we needed to make sure that we offered something for each budget.”
Hanson understands how recessions, leisure and mindset converge to some extent. Most forms of leisure are not purchased for practical purposes but for emotional ones, and for The Dinah audience the economic turbulence does not mean that any type of leisure indulgence is out of the question. Quite the contrary: Leisure diversion becomes a necessity for many (who will seek relief of some sort) especially when it delivers the caliber of entertainment The Dinah has continuously been providing for many years combined with the top-of-the-line selection of entertainment venues (The Riviera Resort and The Palm Springs Convention Center) and the financial incentive of all-inclusive package deals.
The Dinah seems unaffected by the economic crisis – Hanson’s event reports ticket sales are five percent higher than last year, with last year being the biggest year to date.
We’ve seen Dinah Shore Weekend’s humble past and incredible momentum even during difficult times in our country’s history. Where is it going?
“Next year, it will get even more action-packed, with an increasingly broad range of events!” Hanson said. “The community is only getting more hip, and it reflects in the parties.” For those women who have never been to Dinah Shore Weekend, Hanson says: “You have no idea what you have been missing.”
Mariah Hanson with the cast of ‘L-Word’ at Dinah
Girl Bar’s Dinah Shore Weekend
The Dinah is not the only party during this monumental weekend. For those wishing to explore additional fun in the desert, check out Girl Bar’s Dinah Shore Weekend. Founded by Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs in 1990, Girl Bar is the largest dance and entertainment group for lesbians in the United States. Though Los Angeles is their home, Gans and Sachs extend their entertainment prowess to Palm Springs for an annual Dinah Shore participation. In 2009, Girl Bar Dinah Shore Week will celebrate its 19th anniversary – with record attendance and its most spectacular line up of events to date. The Gay & Lesbian Times secured an exclusive interview with these women who are internationally-respected for their elite party experiences.
Gay & Lesbian Times: What are some exciting highlights for this year’s event?
Robin Gans & Sandy Sachs: The pool parties at the Wyndham are definitely one of the big highlights for us – it is the biggest hotel pool in Palm Springs and all the pool parties and evening parties at the Wyndham are exclusively produced by Girl Bar this year. So we get to add all the extra Girl Bar touches that set our events apart. We’ve got amazing live entertainment, and we’re taking everything to the next level to make them bigger, better and sexier than ever. And if you are going to party at a pool, why not party where the girls are the hottest and most diverse group anywhere in the land? From NYC to Dallas, to Paris, to Rio, to Sidney and more, the ladies find their way to Girl Bar parties and make it their exclusive home.
GLT: How has Dinah changed over the years?
RG & SS: One thing we’ve found is that Girl Bar Dinah Shore Week has grown exponentially; the women attending are more sophisticated than ever, sexier and more confident. They’re also very savvy, especially when it comes to social networking. When they go out, Girl Bar patrons have come to expect the best – whether it’s the nicest venues, the greatest hotels or red-hot entertainment. And that’s what we always work very hard to deliver.
GLT: What challenges did you face this year in the planning process?
RG: For both Sandy and myself, it’s definitely the fact that we’ve grown so rapidly in recent years, especially after our events were filmed and shown as part of the TV series “The L Word.” As a matter of fact Girl Bar was the inspiration for “L Word” producer and creator Ilene Chaiken, who is a good friend of ours. We always ask ourselves, how do we top what we’ve done before…in terms of both innovation and scale.
GLT: What’s in store for the future of Girl Bar Dinah Shore Week?
RG & SS: We’ve already started planning for 2010, believe it or not. We like to keep expanding the events to fill up what has now become a week of activities. Everyone should definitely expect the unexpected, in a very big way!
GLT: How has the economy affected Dinah this year?
RG & SS: It’s true that everyone is on a budget these days and we’re pleased with the way ticket sales are going this year. But overall, consumers are choosier as to where they spend their money. We understand that and always want to give our patrons the best value possible… the biggest bang for their buck. So if a party is what they want – it’s a party we will be giving them – like no other!
GLT: How do you keep them coming back year after year?
RG & SS: Feedback is very important to us. We take everyone’s comments and suggestions very seriously and they are a vital part of the direction and planning process.
Mariah Henson presents, The Betty's girls   Photo: Faye Sadou
GLT: Is there something for everyone at Dinah?
RG & SS: Variety and value go hand-in-hand. Our patrons definitely like being able to pick and choose. If you look at Girl Bar’s line-up, you’ll see we’ve got a lot of different things going on during Dinah Shore Week. We’ve got great live comedy happening, as well as live bands and musical performers. We offer smaller and more intimate get-togethers in addition to the larger dance events. We even host an amazing Sunday Gospel Brunch. Also, each of our host hotels has a different feel and vibe. For example, the Wyndham is the center of the party universe, while the Hotel Zoso is more plush with lots of amenities.

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