After a slump in the 70s, after its heyday as a celebrity landing pad, Palm Springs revived itself as a homo travel destination. In fact, it's home to the biggest lesbian gathering in the world, the Dinah Shore Weekend. Every year, as an annual pilgrimage, tens of thousands of lesbians from all over the world descend upon Palm Springs for a long weekend of debauchery.
On the Greyhound to Palm Springs, I meet a bunch of lesbians heading to the party also. “It’s like being on Mars,” says Lauren, 27, a “soft butch” from San Diego, “Everyone – and I mean everyone – who comes to Palm Springs, who isn’t retired, is gay.”
Ironically, this all started with a golf tournament. Dinah Shore was actually a Southern-born straight, conservative television star from the 50s who once dated Burt Reynolds and apparently had affairs with Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Stewart. Born in Tennessee, she lived in Palm Springs and was a proud supporter of ladies’ golf. In the late 70s the annual LPGA golf tournament and the golf course on which its held just outside of Palm Springs were named in her honour. Sometime in the 80s, lesbians began coming to Palm Springs to watch the golf, and every year they just kept coming. Eventually, lesbian party promoters began throwing all-girl parties, and pretty soon the Dinah Shore Weekend was more famous as a lesbian fuck-fest than a golf tournament. (Still today, Dinah Shore Weekend is held on the same weekend as the LPGA tournament, but the organizers have tried to distance themselves from its Sapphic associations, changing its name to the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Pussies.)
When I tell straight people I’m going to spend four days hanging out in the desert with 20,000 lesbians, it sounds like something out of Girls Gone Wild or a porn fantasy. Like most lesbians, ever since I came out at 22, I had always heard stories of the Dinah, which made it sound like a lesbian Mecca. The reality, I discovered, is somewhat different. Apart from the jelly wrestling, the wet t-shirt competitions, the sex toy demonstrations, and the meet-and-greets with porn stars, I still spent a lot of time watching middle-aged butch dykes from the Midwest wearing t-shirts saying “I Heart Crotch” dirty-dancing together to “I Kissed A Girl.”
“Dinah Shore gives us a chance to be ourselves, and let our hair down without being hassled by homophobes and straight guys,” explains T.J., who grew up in Georgia before moving to San Francisco after college. But funny enough, it seems that when you leave lesbians in a place with no guys around they start to behave a lot like men. Back in one of the hotel rooms, I hang out with T.J and her friends, mostly lawyers from San Francisco and Boston, while we drink beer and watch a girl-on-girl porn film I got from India Summer, a married bisexual porn star who is here at Dinah Shore publicizing her films.
Later that night, I met Belle, a "femme" from San Francisco on the dance floor. As we shared a cigarette, she said, “Dinah Shore is not about gay pride. It’s like Spring Break for lesbians.” In other words, it’s four days of getting wasted, getting high, and getting laid. “I wouldn’t come here if I wasn’t single,” she says, “Last time, I came here with a girlfriend, and we just fought the whole time.” Just at that moment, a girl comes to drag her back onto the dancefloor. I wonder what the now deceased Dinah Shore would think about all of this. Belle looks at me blankly. “Who is Dinah Shore anyway?”