Summertime in New York City. The roof comes off at the Maritime Hotel Cabanas, allowing the sun to bathe the Bacchanalians at Stiletto. Pride thunders through town, leaving livers sputtering in its wake. Then what? We descend upon the Jersey Shore to play dodgeball, and then it’s off to Fire Island.
Diva on the Shore, July 22-25, 2010 @ Asbury Park, NJ
Yes, dodgeball. Every year, women from all over the mid-Atlantic region and beyond congregate in Asbury Park, NJ to throw balls at each other and toss back some drinks at Diva on the Shore. Thanks to MTV, the Jersey Shore conjures up images of orange people with caked-on hair product pumping their fists to trance and techno, but the coast of New Jersey is home to many shore towns, each with its own unique character. After a period of decline, Asbury Park has in recent years become revitalized as a gay resort town. If you find a “gorilla juicehead” in Asbury Park, he probably works out at the David Barton Gym in Chelsea and worships Lady Gaga.
Diva can be described as a grittier Dinah Shore or the Aquagirl of the Northeast and it revolves around a lesbian beach dodgeball tournament. A good number of women don’t actually play dodgeball and just show up for the dancing, drinking, disco bowling, and pool parties. This year, the City of Asbury Park clocked in over 3,400 people on the beach during the tournament.
Diva is the brainchild of Angelique Irizarry, co-owner of Shescape, a lesbian events company that has produced mega-events for women for more than two decades. As with many successful ideas, Diva started unintentionally.
“I was sitting on the beach with a bunch of friends on Fire Island and noticed that there weren’t many girls there,” she said. “I decided to run to buy some PVC piping, deer netting and some duct tape, and I went back to the beach and created a dodgeball court. Women started to gather, ending up with about 20 players on one court. From there, the idea was born. The next year we returned with eight teams of 12.”
Diva started out as a one-day event, but more events, such as the pool party and White Party, were added as women requested other activities. It eventually moved to Asbury Park to accommodate more people.
Many teams that enter the Diva on the Shore tournament are formed by lesbian bar and club owners and lesbian club promoters. Said Diva’s resident deejay, DJ JeNRG, who promotes several events around town including Vitamin D*** Saturdays @ Milk Lounge and Fabuloso Airways Tuesdays @ Skyline Cafe, “Angelique’s Diva events are one of the very few events that bring the lesbian community together, especially since there is so much competition out there between bars, promoters, teams, and so on. This event allows everyone [to] leave all of their differences at home. It brings our community together for drinks, activity, and unity.”
Of course, this raises the following question: Doesn’t it seem counter-productive for these businesses and cliques who normally compete during the year to be placed in a situation where they are actually throwing objects at each other’s heads? Not so. A German friend of mine once told me that, nowadays, Europeans channel all of their aggression into the game of soccer, and that is why Europeans don’t start wars. This concept appears to be working in NYC’s lesbian scene as well, as there have been no reports of civil unrest in lesbian clubland. And we have Angelique to thank.
Diva 2010 kicked off on July 22 with Thursday night disco bowling and a Friday afternoon pool party at the Berkeley Hotel. Then, comedians Michele Balan of Last Comic Standing Season 4 and Poppi Kramer entertained a crowd of women before a night cap at The Beach Bar.
The next morning it was time to hit the beach. By 10AM, the heat was already oppressive. Because I like to put a positive spin on any situation, I’ll just say that it was hotter than Olivia Wilde double fisting flamethrowers in Hell, because if you add the image of Olivia Wilde shooting fire, Hell just got a whole lot nicer. Despite the brutal conditions, 24 teams of 12, plus around 3,000 spectators, attended the tournament, because not even 100 degree weather and the threat of heatstroke will keep lesbians away from competitive sports.