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Mariah Hanson Blows It Out at Dinah Shore 2009

Mariah Hanson Blows It Out at Dinah Shore 2009

In the world of lesbians, spring means one thing: DINAH.  Mariah Hanson has been leading this quest from inception. As owner of Club Skirts, Hanson is gearing up for another packed year of comedy, entertainment and poolside fun. Hanson talks Dinah celesbians including Elizabeth Keener, Michelle Paradise, Michelle Clunie, Cat Davis, Patricia Melone,Dalila Ali Rajah and Nikki Caster from Cherry Bomb, Jill Bennett & Cathy De Buono.

In the world of lesbians, spring means one thing: DINAH. Girls across the country are doing extra gym time and gathering their tribe for the annual girl event in the desert. Mariah Hanson has been leading this quest from inception. As owner of Club Skirts, Hanson is gearing up for another packed year of comedy, entertainment and poolside fun.

I was curious about Hanson’s journey to the top of the lesbian entertainment world. A San Francisco native, who has been producing events since she was 24, Hanson admitted she was an entrepreneur from a very early age. She recalls two very telling jobs she had a kid: papergirl and soap seller (via her bike). Yep, she had the itch very young to find products (and services) that people wanted. And over the past twenty years, she has built an empire in the lesbian entertainment community, which culminates annually at Dinah Shore.

This year she has A-list talent, national alcohol and airline sponsors and thousands of eager attendees. She has sold out the Riviera and is working on the Hilton. But Hanson isn’t resting yet. Instead, she’s stepping it up a notch by adding a comedy show and inviting activist groups GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Equality California, for which she is a board member, to raise awareness among our community about marriage and equality rights. 

A month out from the big event, Hanson seems collected and in good spirits. She’s done this drill so many times, however each year has it’s unique challenges and highlights. Here’s a recap of our conversation.

 

How did Club Skirts start?

I was in SF pursuing my masters in English lit. I began throwing parties on the side, as a stress relief, and they were hugely successful. In fact, 1100 came to my first big party and I realized I was onto something.

 

Considering the economy, what was your approach to planning the event this year?

My commitment was to give attendees tremendous value for their money. Women look forward to the Dinah as a carefree and fun weekend, so we went with the themes of our lead talent Kissed a Girl (Katy Pery) and Just Dance (Lady Gaga). We added a comedy show with Margaret Cho and made individual tickets really reasonable so people who are budgeting can still afford to see some entertainment and have a great weekend. And the girls are responding -- I’m expecting my best year yet. 

Who are your media partners?

Logo TV is returning this year to sponsor Friday night’s events (comedy show, Katy Perry) and Saturday’s pool party (Indigo Girls and Uh Huh Her). Here TV takes Saturday night (Lady Gaga) and Sunday’s pool party at the Riviera. Showtime is also donating L Word merchandise for giveway. Level 2 and Miller Beer are providing our alcohol and Southwest Airlines and Sweet Tours are stepping in as travel sponsors.

 

How do you market your event?

Word of mouth is huge for us. I’ve also partnered with top lesbian clubs across the country who are throwing advance Dinah parties in cities such as New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle, Atlanta and Miami. Their customers have the chance to win free passes to Dinah and we get the word out en masse. It’s a win-win.

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What are this year’s highlights for Club Skirts?

We have an amazing line up that includes: Indigo Girls, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Uh Huh Her and Margaret Cho (for comedy). These singers have are breaking from their tours to play this gig, which says a lot about the appeal of this crowd to the performers. For example, last year Pat Benetar played 30 minutes past her committed schedule because she was having such a great time onstage. Our audience appreciates the talent and they feel it.

We are also hosting the Peeler Wear fashion show from designer Maryam Dalan again this year. Celebs on the catwalk will include Elizabeth Keener, Michelle Paradise, Michelle Clunie, Cat Davis, Patricia Melone, Dalila Ali Rajah and Nikki Caster from Cherry Bomb, Jill Bennett & Cathy De Buono.

So you’ve done SF, LA and Palm Springs. What’s next?

I’m interested in partnering with people in other markets, but I don’t step on toes. This community can be cannibalistic, however there’s enough to go around. I follow an unwritten code of ethics, operating under that respectful approach and teaching younger promoters.

 

What do you do the rest of the year?

I’m actually working year round to make this event happen. I do throw parties here and there, but mostly my focus is on making the Dinah the best event of all time.

What other new elements have you cooked up for Dinah this year?

We’re hosting Dinah Idol, where regional bands send in a video and people vote on our website (www.thedinah.com). The top five bands chosen will be flown in to perform for thousands at the pool party on Saturday. They will also be invited to play on a Sweet Cruise.

There will also be a reality show element, as filming during the weekend will go toward a documentary. Trainer Briana Stockton is working out 8 women prior to Dinah to get them ready. She will also be leading a daily boot camp on site.

And as if that’s not enough, Hanson is also taking the opportunity to raise awareness for marriage equality and equal rights through planned joint efforts with Equality California, for which she is a board member, and GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

After nearly two decades of throwing the largest event for gay women in the world, Mariah Hanson has it down. She’s tying up the loose ends and preparing for the onslaught of desert divas. You can see the full Club Skirts schedule. 

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Jenn Kennedy