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March/April 2005 | Where the Girls Are!

March/April 2005 | Where the Girls Are!

In Dinah! Three Decades of Sex, Golf, and Rock 'n' Roll, the debut title from Out Traveler Books, Michele Kort digs up the sun-kissed history of the lesbian phenomenon that is Dinah Shore Weekend

I first heard of the Dinah Shore golf tournament in the early 1980s from filmmaker Donna Deitch of Desert Hearts fame. She had spent a Dinah weekend at a rented Palm Springs, Calif., house with the requisite 1950s backyard pool and a gaggle of barely dressed women in lounge chairs. Being a filmmaker, she had brought her video camera, and I remember seeing shots of topless sunbathers and of her wild friend Gioia--a long frizzy blond-haired, six-foot-tall, 250-pound force of life--making out with her girlfriend in a shower. It all looked lewd, decadent...and yes, fun.

A couple of years later, while I was vacationing in Europe, my girlfriend, Wendy, drove to Dinah with a group of our friends. I heard the details on a transatlantic call, and even though I was in the mountains of Switzerland and she was in Southern California, it seemed like I was the one who was missing out on something. The sun, the pool, the cute golfers, the parties, the drinking, the dyke dramas...actually, it seemed like the drinking and the dyke dramas went hand in hand; as soon as a certain amount of alcohol had been consumed, so-and-so was kissing so-and-so instead of her own girlfriend. It sounded lewd, decadent...and I couldn't wait to go. I'm not exactly the lewd decadent type myself, but I do enjoy a good party and a landscape of attractive women. I'm also one of those seemingly rare women who actually appreciates the golf that takes place during Dinah week. Although at least a thousand dykes walk the Mission Hills course during the tournament each year, the golf lovers are considerably outnumbered by 15,000 queer gals who come to Palm Springs for Dinah but have little idea that a sporting event is taking place.

The golf tournament--now a major stop on the women's professional golf tour--was launched in 1972 with popular TV personality Dinah Shore as its public face. The girls started coming not long after. At first it was just a trickle, but by the mid 1980s lesbian club promoters discovered they could corral the women who were already coming--and encourage others to join them--by offering a series of parties and events over the course of the weekend. That party scene has now become enormous, drawing thousands of women each year, filling up three hotels (and countless motels and other rentals), and bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars of business to the Palm Springs community. The Ladies Professional Golf Association, meanwhile, has always done its best to pretend that the lesbian frolic isn't happening; they even changed the name of the tournament to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, supposedly because few people remember Dinah Shore--a legendary entertainer with a career spanning 50 years in radio, recording, film, TV, and cookbook writing.

But a mere name change didn't end the lesbian identification of the Dinah Shore Weekend--which it always and forever will be. (Imagine, instead, planning for the Kraft Nabisco Weekend: "Yum, a golf tournament named for processed cheese and cookies!")

My own images of the Dinah Shore flash between the golf course and the party zones--lush greens and smoky ballrooms. Being a sports fan, I actually recall competitive moments: Remember when Pat Bradley staved off that challenge on the back nine from Val Skinner in 1986? But I'll also never forget my soused ex-girlfriend stuffing dollar bills into the exaggerated cleavage of one of the Dyketones, a female performance group that dressed in male and female drag. At various times, during many weekends spent at Dinah, I loved, I fought, I laughed, I cried--gee, it sounds like the soap opera it often turns out to be, especially when you're young and looking for trouble. But I invariably came away sunburned and satisfied.

I've come to think of the Dinah Shore Golf Tournament--with or without the golf--as our sapphic rite of spring. It's the annual pilgrimage to dykedom's mecca, where we worship the sun goddess and her lovely acolytes, bathe in holy chlorinated water, and honor amazons who wield clubs with power and pizzazz.

Alternately, I think of Dinah as the queer set's own Fort Lauderdale--the famous Florida spring break destination. It's Where the Girls Are, the dyke flip side of the classic 1960 film Where the Boys Are, in which Midwest coeds Merritt, Melanie, Tuggle, and Angie find love and heartbreak on their spring vacation, while Connie Francis wails the soundtrack ballad: "Where the boys [girls!] are / Someone waits for me... / A smilin' face, a warm embrace / Two arms to hold me tenderly..."

Of course, in the queer version of Girls, Merritt and Melanie and Tuggle and Angie find love and heartbreak with each other--not with Ryder, Basil, "TV," or Franklin.

And who can forget that even more obvious movie match, Palm Springs Weekend (1963), in which Troy Donahue pursues Connie Stevens around the desert town during spring break from college? That film even includes a tomboyish girl named Amanda--perhaps someone who would later return for a different sort of Palm Springs weekend.

Without overlaying ancient metaphors or pop culture references on Dinah, it's simply the annual public celebration of who we gay girls are, what we look like, and how we enjoy ourselves. When we were growing up, many of us felt quite alone while uncovering our sexuality. At Dinah--as at other gatherings of our tribe--we can just be one of the gang.

There's one final indelible Dinah moment that, sadly, young dykes will never be able to experience in person: the Dinah Hug. At the last hole of the last round on the last day of each tournament, Dinah Shore herself would stand to the side of the 18th green as the final pairing approached. She'd wait quietly in her white nylon warm-up suit until the final putts dropped, then she'd stride onto the green in all her beaming blond glory, ready to reward the winner with a big ol' Tennessee squeeze. Yes, the money was good, as was the glory, but it was the hug that seemed the greatest reward for the victorious golfer--and the perfect ending for the dyke world's favorite weekend.

The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at if you have any new information.
Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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