SFâ€™s Mariah Hanson Goes Global with Acclaimed Lesbian Weekend
When asked how she made the jump from local San Francisco club promoter to the mastermind who made The Dinah Shore Weekend an international sensation, Mariah Hanson blames the â€śfolly of youth.â€ť The Bay Area native admits it simply never occurred to her she couldnâ€™t plan the worldâ€™s largest lesbian event when tackling the monumental challenge for the first time.
Nearly two decades later, the Dinah Shore Weekend is a star-studded affair with a global reputation. Running April 2-6, the event draws women from around the world to Palm Springs to mix, mingle and celebrate a sense of lesbian pride and unity. Here Hanson explains what makes the weekend so special, credits her revolutionary spirit to her mother and shares her love for the Bay Area.
(Bay Times) Youâ€™ve said â€śthereâ€™s no way a woman could leave The Dinah without being changed forever.â€ť Explain that to me.
You have to remember, Iâ€™ve been doing this event for â€“ I hate to admit it â€“ 17 years. Iâ€™ve really seen not only my event grow, but Iâ€™ve seen the community grow and expand and change. An event of this magnitude is really attracting the broadest range of demographics imaginable, and theyâ€™re coming together for a weekend. Because of the celebratory nature of it, and that sense of lesbian pride, and a joy of life, people get beyond their preconceptions. You see an openness that weekend which might not normally happen as easily in any other circumstance. People leave having these exchanges and experiences I donâ€™t think they would normally do in their lives.
Itâ€™s a bonding experience.
And I do think it changes people because we do, at least for that one weekend, really forget about these notions or ways of thinking which might not forward us. Theyâ€™re left behind and what we do is just have a blast all weekend long. I do think that changes us. Does that make any sense? Even though The Dinah is huge, itâ€™s like a small town. Every single type of personality, look and background is presented on the same stage. I think when people go home, it changes them. I am looking for a world where we celebrate local color but do so in a way which brings everybody together. Then again, I think thatâ€™s me becoming a lot more like my activist mother in my old age.
Your mother is an activist?
Oh, God yes! She was a civil rights activist. In fact, sheâ€™s in the 1975 Encyclopedia Britannica. Thereâ€™s a huge civil rights march and get together documented, and sheâ€™s in the front lines shaking her fist. She and my sister are the only two white people in the picture.
Then you come by your revolutionary spirit honestly!
Itâ€™s kind of cool. As you get older, you really appreciate your parents. Certainly I do mine. I come from a really great family. I am really good friends with my mother. I just love anybody who lives by their convictions rather than just their words alone.
Something youâ€™ve done to really boost the profile of The Dinah is add all the celebrities. Last year it was what, 35 internationally-known stars?
Yeah, and this year I have 37 â€“ and counting! Again, I think of this weekend as a platform for people. Being here in Los Angeles, I have more contact with emerging artists as well as established actors, actresses, producers. In my program this year, Iâ€™m including a lot of women who are on their way up, maybe just getting roles, and giving them access to all the networks. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s great about this event. On so many levels, people get to experience things in ways where this is the only place youâ€™ll get it. I get the esteemed honor of being the person who can share that â€“ and I love sharing. I know that sounds goofy, but I do. I love sharing this opportunity with as many people as I can, so we do. It seems to be working. Itâ€™s really synergistic and itâ€™s win-win.
Do you maintain your roots her in San Francisco?
I miss home like nobodyâ€™s business! I own my home in the Bay Area, and Iâ€™m only renting in L.A. I love Los Angeles, but Iâ€™m a San Fran girl. I was grew up there. I just left nine months ago.
I imagine youâ€™re treading the shark-infested waters of L.A. pretty well, though.
Itâ€™s a town that responds really well to what I do for a living. Itâ€™s a great segue for me. Let me tell you, I was definitely one of those San Franciscans who was pro-SF and kind of raised my eye at a little bit at the concept of Los Angeles. Living here, there are actually a lot of incredibly talented people here. While it can also be very cutthroat and dog-eat-dog, youâ€™re also dealing with people who are here pursuing their dreams in a really intelligent, passionate way. Iâ€™m lucky to know a lot of people like that. Maybe itâ€™s because Iâ€™m from San Francisco and resonate a little bit more because Iâ€™m keeping it real. I think we may give L.A. a little bit more of a bad rap than it deserves, but thereâ€™s nothing like the Bay Area. It is and always will be a renaissance town.
For more information, visit: http://www.TheDinah.com