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Dinah weekend brings in the sponsors

Dinah Shore Weekend, referred to as “lesbian spring break” in the NYT piece by Melena Ryzik, has seen its attendee numbers blossom with the popularity of the TV series The L Word, which depicted the party filled, lady-loving atmosphere in its first season.

The event, held in Palm Springs, California this past weekend, has morphed from a low-key lesbian social gathering to a highly sought venue for sponsors — apparently corporate America found out lesbians, not just gay men are a market to cater to. [Insert “duh” here.] — and a release for the next generation of out lesbians.

The name comes from the Kraft Nabisco Championship (formerly the Dinah Shore Golf Championship), the first stop on the Ladies Professional Golfers Association tour, which happens concurrently a few miles away.

In the years B.E. (Before Ellen DeGeneres), the Dinah was the province of mostly polo-shirted women seeking a low-key weekend getaway. Now, in the years A.L. (After “The L Word”), it has been transformed into a fashionable bacchanal, nearly a week long, with celebrity guests like Carmen Electra and Joan Jett, large pool parties and dozens of corporate sponsors, who vie for the attention of a community that is suddenly much more visible, and visibly wealthy. It’s Girls Gone Wild for Girls (and Marketing).

“It’s greater than a party,” said Mariah Hanson, a promoter behind the festivities who works under the name Club Skirts. “It’s a really powerful weekend that’s making a statement that we’re having a good time, and we’re going to be together. And there are a lot of major corporations here, and the more corporations embrace this market, the more it shifts everything. It gets us closer to civil rights.”

…Many guests at the Dinah are not aware that this series of comedy shows, jazz brunches and cocktail parties coincides with a golf tournament. Instead they focus on the other facets the week is famous for: having a carefree good time and building community.

Over 10,000 attendees streamed into Palm Springs, coming all the way from Australia, France and Switzerland, as well as Stateside middle America.

More after the flip.

“It’s a lesbian rite of passage,” agreed Julie Bolcer, the news director of Go!, a national lesbian magazine, who came to the party. “This year I find that the amount of attention that is being paid, the sponsorships that are behind it, it’s almost palpable. If one were going to go to the Dinah, this is the year to do it.”

…For her part, though, Ilene Chaiken, the creator of “The L Word,” was modest about the impact of her program “I think it’s grandiose to think that we created this,” she said. “I think `The L Word’ reflects the culture.”

Ms. Chaiken herself is as ready as anyone to tap into that culture: she is attending the Dinah for the first time this year, mainly to promote a new lesbian social networking Web site, www.ourchart.com, which began as a plotline on the program as one character’s chart of hookups and is now part of the show’s marketing repertoire.

I’ve never been to the Dinah, so I personally have no clue what the atmosphere is like, but you get a good idea; reading the article. It was kind of disturbing to read about the boozing and focus on drinking, both as the social glue for the parties and the sponsors eyeing the market, but perhaps that’s because one, I rarely imbibe, and two, I’m not much of a night owl; late night parties and such aren’t my thing. Guess I’m just o-l-d.

It would be fun to cover the event, however, just to see the shifting landscape — it’s clear that the Dinah is courting and attracting the younger, newly out crowd and while attempting to hold onto the base of lesbians with disposable income that have attended over the years when it was a much smaller event.

Hat tip, Spot4me.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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