Interview with Mariah Hanson

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Once a year, over ten thousand girl-loving girls descend on Palm Springs, California to attend the biggest lesbian event known to womankind: the Dinah Shore Weekend. "Weekend" is a bit of a misnomer, as the event spans five full days and features a non-stop schedule of pool parties, comedy shows, music acts and lesbian debauchery that rivals any Spring Break captured by MTV.

Originally a staid golf tourney hosted by the 40s singer, Dinah Shore, (a conservative who hated having her name associated with the lesbians) the annual event gradually moved away from ladies sweating on the back nine to girls sweating on the dance floor. Each year, the Dinah Shore Weekend attracts a larger crowd, bigger acts and smaller bikinis. No longer an event known mostly to Southern California women, the Dinah Shore Weekend is now a pool party pilgrimage for lesbians from all over the country, and the world.

AfterEllen.com talked to Mariah Hanson, owner of Club Skirts and its trademarked event, "The Dinah." Celebrating her 20th anniversary this year (March 31-April 4) with acts like Salt ‘N Pepa (reuniting with DJ Spinderella for an exclusive performance), Ke$ha and Rosie O’Donnell, Hanson dished about her party-throwing philosophy, how the community has changed, and why she booked Katy Perry in 2009, to the dismay of many AfterEllen.com readers.

AfterEllen: Congratulations on The Dinah’s 20th anniversary. How has the event changed over the years?
Mariah Hanson:
I think it’s changed in ways that reflects the way the community is changing. Twenty years ago, the Dinah Shore Weekend was not as diverse as it is today. It was very Southern California, and now it’s a very international event. That’s really amazing — to walk through a party and see every conceivable type of lesbian, together, enjoying each other’s company. I think that’s part of the Dinah magic. There’s something about that free-for-all, that liberating experience, that commonality, that helps people get beyond borders. And I love it. I’m really proud how The Dinah has evolved.

AE: How has the demographic changed?
MH:
It’s a younger demographic. But we’re trying to create a weekend that’s accessible to everybody. So, you could do the entire weekend, which you could argue is expensive, but you could also just do a couple of parties. Even if you only go to one pool party, you can still experience The Dinah. And that’s why the demographic has lowered — it’s easier for a 25-year-old to go than it used to be. 

AE: Your shows have changed, too. Each year, it seems the artists are bigger and more mainstream.
MH:
I get a lot of flak for booking mainstream artists.

AE: Flak from whom?
MH:
Well, from some of your readers. The readers ripped me up [last year] for [booking] Katy Perry because she isn’t gay. It’s really interesting booking talent for the weekend. I try to be diverse about our talent. I also had the Indigo Girls [in 2009] because I think it’s important — they really represent lesbian-identified musicians who’ve crossed over into the mainstream. And we had Lady Gaga, who identifies as bisexual. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are triple-platinum artists.

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