When the late entertainer Dinah Shore founded a ladies’ golf championship in 1972, no one could have predicted it would inspire the world’s largest lesbian party. Shore was neither gay nor a particularly beloved figure among lesbians, and while women’s golf has had lesbian players over the years, the sport was not always accepting.
So, considering this climate, why did The Dinah catch on? Well, for one thing, lesbians love watching women’s golf, and for another, Palm Springs is super gay-friendly. Most importantly, The Dinah offered women a type of event they’d never seen before, and one that they were desperately craving.
The woman who transformed The Dinah into the experience it is today is Mariah Hanson, who began producing it 24 years ago with her company Club Skirts.
In Hanson’s first year The Dinah attracted about 1,200 people. That number would probably have satisfied most, but Hanson had bigger plans, and as a result, she had increased attendance to an estimated 10,000-15,000 by 2010. She also has helped it become an internationally-flavored gathering, with attendees coming in from across the globe, and has used it to raise funds for organizations like GLAAD, HRC and the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
This year The Dinah runs from April 2-6. Even if you’ve never been there before, you probably have some sense of what it’s all about, since it was featured on The L Word and the reality series The Real L Word. And while both shows gave enticing peeks at The Dinah experience, they couldn’t come close to telling the whole story.
Of course, The Dinah is known for its larger-than-life party atmosphere, but you may not realize how many parties there actually are here—eight in five days! Highlights include The Dinah Opening Party at Zeldaz Nightclub on Thursday; The Dinah White Party at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Friday (with special VIP Party and red carpet); and the largest lesbian pool party on the planet, the Hilton’s Wet and Wild Pool Party on Sunday, with go-go dancers, celebrity appearances and outdoor beer gardens.
Many of the parties feature performances from some of the top names in music. In fact, over the past few years, The Dinah has become a showcase for artists on their way to superstardom. The Dinah’s first big musical breakthrough came in 2006, when Hanson asked the Pussycat Dolls to play. “It was really serendipitous,” she told gaylesbiantimes.com in 2007. “At the time I booked them they had one hit and by the time they performed they had three or four. Things turned out far beyond what I ever could have anticipated.” As Hanson recalls, The Dolls even left a Black Eyed Peas tour to play the show.
Things only got hotter from there: In 2009, The Dinah’s musical lineup featured mega-stars Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. The following year, Ke$ha and Salt ‘N Pepa played, and in 2011, Dev and the Cataracs were featured, as well as Natasha Bedingfield. In 2012, The Dinah played host to one of the biggest musical legends of them all, the “every woman” herself, Chaka Khan.
“We’re on top of the curve,” Hanson told GO last year. “We’re making those decisions that help launch artists. Our track record is pretty good, and I think that’s just incredible for lesbian visibility. It’s something I’m proud of.”
This year Hanson continues that top-of-the-line tradition with one of her most exciting lineups ever. The first performance is by disco artist Evelyn “Champagne” King, best known for her hits “Shame” and “I Don’t Know If It’s Right.” She’ll be singing at the Hilton’s Thank God It’s Dinah Friday Pool Party.
That night there’s The Dinah White Party at the Palm Springs Convention Center with Australian-born, Los Angeles-based hip-hop up-and-comer Iggy Azalea, who has been mentored by T.I. and is an MTV Artist to Watch, as well as a member of XXL Magazine’s Freshman Class. The female rapper/MC has attracted lots of notice due to her edgy videos for the songs “Two Times” and “Pu$$y,” and has even garnered a record deal with renowned label Island Def Jam.
On Saturday it’s time for headliners Tegan & Sara, who will be playing the very last stop on their current tour at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The lesbian twins have been getting attention for their music since they were teens, but last year their career really skyrocketed: Their seventh album Heartthrob, topped the Billboard 200. Not only that, but the single “Closer” made the top 20 on the pop charts, was featured on Glee and has enjoyed heavy play on both the radio and in VH1’s Top 20 Countdown. “Shudder to Think,” their latest, was featured on the soundtrack for Dallas Buyers Club.
Another band playing Saturday is Hunter Valentine at the Hilton’s Cabana Girl Pool Party. If you were a fan of The Real L Word’s last season, you’ll remember this Brooklyn-based group featuring singer/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey. The band, who recalls the musical style of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, has recently toured with Cyndi Lauper in support of their latest album, Collide and Conquer. Their sexy look and raw talent have made them media darlings.
The Dinah’s largest weekend party is Saturday night’s Beach Ball at the Convention Center, and the special guest for that one is none other than Eve, who collaborated so memorably with Gwen Stefani on the powerhouse hit “Let Me Blow Your Mind.” She’s recently released Lip Lock, her first album in 11 years.
Next up is Mary Lambert, playing the Hilton at the Wet and Wild Pool Party on Sunday. Lambert also enjoyed amazing career highs this year as a vocalist and songwriter on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ touching pro-gay single “Same Love,” which features a portion of Lambert’s beautiful lesbian love song “She Keeps Me Warm.” The Grammy-nominated “Same Love” sold over a million copies just in America, hit number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its video won an MTV Video Music Award for “Best Video with a Social Message.”
And, finally, GO is proud to present The Dinah Closing Party on Sunday night at Zeldaz Nightclub. This amazing event features a performance by the legendary Thea Austin, known for her work with ’90s dance group Snap!, who gave us all “The Power.”
In addition to being a great place to hear music, The Dinah is also a great place to get your laugh on. Dinah Comedy Night happens Thursday at the Palm Springs Convention Center with New York favorite Erin Foley, Fortune Feimster of E’s Chelsea Lately, and British funny lady Gina Yashere, who The Hollywood Reporter recently called “one of the top 10 rising talents” in the world of comedy. Other Dinah events include battles featuring some of the West Coast’s top DJs, a celebrity poker tournament, a film festival and an autograph signing with cast members from The Real L Word.
And speaking of Showtime alums, Mariah has just announced that your very favorite L Word cast members, Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig will be appearing at this year’s Dinah!
And when you need a break from all that partying, consider exploring the beautiful desert locale. Palm Springs boasts so many fun places to go, like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs Air Museum and the Moorten Botanical Gardens. The Dinah gives you an additional incentive to check things out with the Palm Springs Dinah VIP Program. It provides discounts on various points of interest, dining, shopping and more. (Check out visitgaypalmsprings.com for more info on Palm Springs’ queer attractions.)
Now that you know what to do, you just have to figure out where to stay. One good choice is The Hilton Hotel and Spa (400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, 760-320-6868, hilton.com), which in addition to serving as the location for three of The Dinah’s pool parties is also the venue for the film festival. The hotel is super-convenient in other ways too, as it’s only one mile from Palm Springs International Airport and near popular attractions.
Foodies may want to consider the brand-new Saguaro Palm Springs (1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, 877-808-2439, thesaguaro.com). Saguaro boasts El Jefe and Tinto, two top restaurants featuring food from Iron Chef winner Jose Garces. The Saguaro is also minutes away from the Hilton and the Palm Springs Convention Center. Rooms begin at only $155.
Other Dinah hotels include the Hyatt, the Courtyard Marriott and the Monroe. (For more info, go to thedinah.com.) When considering transportation options, Enterprise will be taking 15% off their best prices for Dinah attendees this year. Orbitz is offering a Dinah deal as well.
If you’re traveling without a partner or friend, you can post your roommate request on The Dinah’s Facebook page. And don’t feel awkward about going there solo—The Dinah prides itself on being single-friendly, and events provide ample opportunity to find that special someone. Go to The Dinah’s website to check out the blog, which features stories from women who met their girlfriends there.
It’s clear that Hanson has thought of every last little detail, ensuring guests an experience to remember for a lifetime. As Hanson puts it, “For one weekend thousands of women unite in the common bond of life-affirming celebration. Women from all over the globe can’t help but leave a weekend like that changed for the better.”