By Mary Buckheit
Club Skirts’ Presents: The Dinah 2011 - Palm Springs, California
Wednesday, March 30- Sunday, April 3
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: This year will be the 21st go ‘round for Mariah Hanson, owner of Club Skirts and producer of the massive annual lesbian party in Palm Springs known simply as, “The Dinah”. Our own Mary B. -- a seasoned veteran of The Dinah -- gave Mariah a ring to talk about what gay travelers can expect if they dare make the trek out to the heaps of hot ladies lathering up in the desert sun.
WARNING: The Dinah may be a fantasyland but it is not a mirage. Sometimes reality can be a very beautiful thing!
Mary B. for GayTravel.com: Can you believe you’ve been doing this for 21 years? You’re final legal!
Mariah Hanson for Club Skirts’ “The Dinah”: How ‘bout that, right? I can’t believe it has been so long! I’m really excited about this year. I feel like we have booked sexy, new, emerging performers that will absolutely blow people away. Dev and the Cataracs, just to name one on the 2011 lineup; if people aren’t excited about them yet, just tell them to wait a year! They are going to be huge! People will be able to see they caught them at The Dinah at a small venue before they really took off. I love featuring a freshman class. This year, the level of entertainment is as high as it has ever been.
GayTravel.com: I’m pretty excited about the DJ line-up, too. I love that there are so many of my favorite girls in the community on the bill. I’m happy to see my pals from around the nation being showcased so that women who may not have the luxury to hear them in the cities we frequent can get a listen. DJ Amara, Lisa Pittman, Saratonin, Dirty Kurty -- these girls work so hard in our clubs all year long and they deserve the exposure.
Mariah Hanson: The DJ line-up is great, isn’t it? And don’t forget Rikki Rocket all the way from Canada. You get to check her out! I’m really happy to have them all down. I get that this event is a stage and my customers and performers set foot to make the magic. Something happens when all these girls come together. There is this critical mass. It’s so amazing and I am super excited. It’s gonna be a killer Dinah.
GayTravel.com: How do you describe The Dinah and what it is you do to people on the regular?
Mariah Hanson: The Dinah is the most exciting international event for lesbians in the world. When you are producing an event at that level, your entertainment and talent has to be at the level that speaks to “the largest lesbian event in the world.” In the planning stages, I have in mind that there is an expectation involved, and that is, that there is nothing like it. My commitment is to make sure -- every single year -- that there is nothing like The Dinah experience anywhere else on Earth.
GayTravel.com: Some travelers -- maybe Dinah virgins or international pilgrims -- may be confused by other similar parties going on the same weekend in Palm Springs but differ from The Dinah; Girl Bar’s events, for example.
Mariah Hanson: I don’t like to talk about what those guys are doing or compare what we do with what they do. I don’t think we’re in the same league and I don’t mean that to be snotty, it’s just that, we split up [as a promotions team] six years ago and it just doesn’t even seem relevant to me. They are aiming at a different crowd. There can only be one lesbian party that’s the biggest and the wildest and that’s The Dinah by Club Skirts.
GayTravel.com: Do you feel pressure to book big names every year?
Mariah Hanson: Yeah! You guys are tough on me!
GayTravel.com: We have to be!
Mariah Hanson: The first question everybody asks is, “Who d’ya book?” And after you book Katy Perry and Lady Gaga on a double bill it’s like, what can I tell you that will beat that. But I think we did just as well last year [Salt-N-Peppa] and I think this year our emerging artists will still wow you. I can’t wait until people really get how big these acts are.
GayTravel.com: Will 2009 and Lady Gaga go down as the crowning point for all the years you’ve produced The Dinah?
Mariah Hanson: Lady Gaga is not the apex of The Dinah. Every year is something different. Actually, last year, to me, Salt-N-Peppa was the best concert we have ever produced. You were there, it was amazing. And Ke$ha – she is a cutting edge hit-maker. That’s a good example of the kind of artist I want to put up there year after year. Someone who guarantees an exciting performance that you’re not going to get anywhere else but The Dinah.
GayTravel.com: At some point, do you wonder if women would still turn out in droves just to enjoy the perfect sunshine in Palm Springs and the beautiful girls guaranteed to be at the pool no matter who the headliners were?
Mariah Hanson: I think people would still go to Club Skirts in Palm Springs without the level of entertainment we offer -- I think they go to Club Skirts and The Dinah because we’re throwing the best party in the world and they like to be a room filled with thousands of other women. The thing is, if you can offer more and make it that much more spectacular than why wouldn’t you?
GayTravel.com: Have you felt the effects of the recession?
Mariah Hanson: You know, Mary B., I really haven’t. I’m very lucky. In 2009, when the recession started, we had one of our biggest years. My commitment is to offering an event that has such incredible value that customers can’t say no to it. If you’re going to take one vacation a year, it might as well be The Dinah because look at what I’m offering you. I could be making more money, but I’m always putting it back into the event because I understand that I am producing the largest lesbian event in the world, and if you are producing that, if that’s what you’re saying and that’s what your customers are expecting, that is what you have to produce. You can’t just call it that; it has to be that. You have to assemble the elements that you can’t get anywhere else. I want to wow these girls every year and I want them to leave saying, “Oh my God, that was the best five days of my life.”
GayTravel.com: How do you make good on that promise?
Mariah Hanson: It has something to do with the magic that gets created when you’re dealing with a room full of women -- a room full of gay women -- who are just ecstatic and having the time of their life. The weekend brings people together from all over the world; different kinds of women that maybe aren’t used to partying together. All those kind of isms just seem to fade away at The Dinah and that’s a really special. The broadest variety of gay women together in one place -- obviously it takes on a life of its own and it’s truly bigger than the sum of its parts. The space is infected by the energy and the artists feed off it. The Dinah become this show that is very different from what they are able to do to a crowd at other concert venues. For me as a producer, it’s really exciting to be able to set the stage for that.
GayTravel.com: Any artist on the bill you’re especially looking forward to?
Mariah Hanson: I mean, Natasha Bedingfield is really the leading, seasoned artist that will be on the stage this year. She is super fun and she’s coming with all of her friends – one of her best friend is Chelsea Handler -- I really hope she shows up!
GayTravel: Chelsea Handler was just on my flight to Sydney Mardi Gras a few days ago! By the grace of God and the beautiful people at V Australia I landed in first class for the 14-hour flight with Chelsea, and Chuy, Heather McDonald, Brad Wollack, Chris Franjola, Jiffy, and all of her writers and producers including, my very funny friend, Fortune Feimster -- who will be performing at The Dinah on Thursday night with Paula Poundstone and Suzanne Westenhoefer! Small world! I love it.
Mariah Hanson: Yes, yes! I love Fortune, one of our comedians. That’s great. I can’t wait for the comedy.
GayTravel: Anything else we should know?
Mariah Hanson: I’m promising a surprise ending that everybody will love, I just can’t tell you who it is yet. But you won’t want to miss Dreya Weber, the choreographer and aerial artist Dreya Weber who basically taught Pink everything she knows. She will perform before Natasha. Then Angela Robinson, the director of “D.E.B.S.” AND “Girl Trash” is bringing a bunch of A-listers like Clementine Ford, Gabrielle Christian and Mandy Musgrave from “South of Nowhere”, Michelle Lombardo,who is like, an insanely beautiful actress, Malaya Drew from “The L Word”, Crystal Chappell, who played the lesbian character in “Guiding Light” will be there -- I can’t wait! So much energy! Natasha Bedingfield challenged Chely Wright to a lube wrestling match. I mean, even our talent is getting crazy excited about it. That’s what I mean when I say that you just won’t feel anything like this anywhere else but at The Dinah. I’ll see you there in ten days!
Tickets to The Dinah 2011 presented by Mariah Hanson and Club Skirts are on sale online at the official website http://thedinah.com/# through Monday, March 28 and subsequently available onsite at the door onsite (for an higher price). Club Skirts official host hotel is the luxury Riviera located at 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr. Their secondary host hotel is the Hilton Hotel and Spa at 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Confirmed entertainment includes featured headliner, Natasha Bedingfield, Nashville star, Chely Wright and budding, Dev & The Cataracs (voice of "Like a G6").
Mary Buckheit is a freelance writer based in San Diego. A long-time columnist for ESPN Music; her essays have also appeared in Boston Spirit Magazine, FlawLes Magazine, AfterEllen.com, and San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. Check out her YouTube channel @MaryBside.