Interview with Mariah Hanson

AE: Last year, you and I talked about how some lesbians weren’t going to like seeing Katy Perry on the bill. Remember?
MH:
Yes. And while we have Rosie O’Donnell, who’s making her return to stand-up comedy, there’s some grumbling about the music acts, Salt-n-Pepa and Ke$ha. Ke$ha made a statement that she’s bisexual and lesbians jumped on that, saying, "Oh, she’s just trying to make money." You go talk to any 22-year-old. They don’t identify with being [just] straight anymore. They’re definitely in the grey or on a continuum where they feel they can experiment with their sexuality. They really do identify with being bisexual.

AE: Years ago, you couldn’t get a triple-platinum artist to do an exclusively lesbian event. Many of the big names didn’t care about us back then. Isn’t that progress?
MH:
I agree, and that’s why I’m doing it. I think it’s an important statement. We deserve triple-platinum artists. And I want to make another point: a lot of the lesbian artists won’t play the event. It bugs me because it’s like, "Who made you famous? Lesbians made you famous!"

AE: Why won’t they play The Dinah?
MH:
I can’t speak for them, so I don’t know why. But when I asked X, Y and Z, [Hanson declined to name names on record] the answer was, "No." I won’t mention names, in case they ever decide to say, "Yes." I want them to say, "Yes." I do try to book lesbian talent, but it’s the mainstream talent that wants to play the event.

And I’ll tell you what’s really amazing about this and what it says about the lesbian community’s clout. The record industry is looking at it as: "Wow. There’s this lesbian weekend called the Dinah Shore Weekend. And every time an emerging artist plays it, they blow up." So, when I called Ke$ha’s management, I can’t tell you how fast they said "Yes!" Lesbians are now helping to expose emerging artists. We had never been considered early adopters or trendsetters. It’s always been the gay boys.

AE: Well, they’ve held that title for a long time. I love that we’re recognized as influencers now. But hearing the bigger lesbian artists are turning down the event is just plain weird.
MH:
To them, playing mainstream is success. Which is interesting because to mainstream artists, playing the lesbian event is super cool. But whatever.

AE: Do you try to book one hot, new act, and one more established artist each year?
MH:
I definitely try to merge the new with the old because the age demographic is really broad now. So, I try to reach all the different kinds of lesbians who come to the weekend.

AE: How did you become the producer of The Dinah?
MH:
When I started, there were other promoters out there, but I brought a concept that no one was doing. I took some risks that no one was willing to take. No one had taken over entire hotels. I was responsible for every room, and I sold them. Nor had anyone booked the kind of talent that I was booking back then. I booked Martha Wash, who at the time, was the voice of C+C Music Factory, and had five Top 10 Hits. I’ve taken that really aggressive attitude about The Dinah and making it the most amazing event I possibly can, every year, for the past 20 years.

AE: You used to be Dinah partners with Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs of Girl Bar. When did you split?
MH:
The first year was just me. [I hired them] to promote for me. We became partners the second year and we split five years ago. I’ve been doing it on my own ever since and I think that really made the difference. My company has continued to evolve those [original] concepts with the community in mind, and I think it shows. I want it to be the most amazing, show-stopping, mind-boggling, blockbuster event that one can imagine. I think lesbians deserve it. And I’m willing to invest back into that concept and attract top tier talent. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga left their tours to play the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend [last year.] Rosie O’Donnell contacted us this year.

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