CARRIE LYELL TICKS THE WORLD’S BIGGEST GIRL PARTY OFF HER BUCKET LIST AND FALLS FOR PALM SPRINGS
Home to the world’s biggest girl party – and much more
Dinah Shore has been on my lesbian bucket list ever since that episode of The L Word aired back in 2004. So when the opportunity to go to Palm Springs for the biggest girl party in the world came knocking, I was packing my bags faster than you can say “Who killed Jenny?”
I wasn’t the only one with Dinah Shore on my bucket list. My friend Ania, a self- confessed L Word superfan, has wanted to go for years, so when I mentioned my trip over a couple of drinks, she decided then and there that she’d be coming too.
So, with reluctant approval from our wives, we set out planning an epic adventure that Ilene Chaiken would be proud of, but with a little less Jenny Schecter…
Our Dinah experience began with the opening party at Zelda’s nightclub. I feel like I’m newly out again, walking into a gay club for the first time like a baby lesbian to the slaughter. We arrive late, far too sober, and the party is already in full swing. Before I can even get a drink from the bar, a woman has bent me over and is pretending to penetrate me with what looks like a rainbow lightsabre, while a go-go dancer thrusts her bum in my face. In the Dinah episode of The L Word, the dearly departed J Schecter said she’d “never seen such debauchery in my whole life” and as I take myself off to the bathroom to recover, I find myself agreeing with her.
We wake up the next morning with foggy memories of the night before, but there’s no time to wallow in our hangovers – we’ve got a pool party to get to. So, filled with a mixture of carbohydrates and micheladas, we head over to the Hilton, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Women of all ages, gender presentations, colours, shapes and sizes, letting go of their inhibitions and having fun in a diverse paradise. Any self- consciousness I felt about my body quickly evaporated as we drank, danced and frolicked in the pool. Wet and wild, yes – what happens at the Dinah stays at the Dinah – but it was also safe, inclusive and life-affirming.
The weekend continued in much the same fashion, and while I worried I wouldn’t have the stamina to keep partying, the energy all around us was infectious, and I found myself dancing until the wee small hours and laughing until my sides hurt with our new friends. Mariah Hanson, founder of the Dinah, told me that women leave feeling “profoundly moved, deeply touched and completely transformed and empowered”, and while I was sceptical beforehand, she’s definitely right. The Dinah was a truly magical and unforgettable experience and one that every queer woman should enjoy at least once in her life.
But if lesbian Spring Break isn’t your bag, there’s plenty to see and do in Palm Springs for the girl who likes girls.
No wonder, when the city has the highest concentration of same-sex couples in the US, and estimates put the LGBT population at one third. Red Jeep Tours’ ( red-jeep.com) Bob Gross, who took us on a fascinating expedition through the geological cuts and canyons of the San Andreas Fault, was more generous than that, claiming that as many as half of the residents of Palm Springs are “friends of Dorothy”, and as well as entertaining us with stories of the plants, animals, geology and history of the California desert, he also gave us a fascinating insight into the LGBT history of Palm Springs. All while making sure we made it out of the desert in one piece, despite a nail-biting encounter with a rattlesnake and one of the worst windstorms in recent history, which brought down trees and powerlines across the region. Thanks, Bob!
We spent a lot of time eating ourselves silly at restaurants, many of them gay- owned, including Zin American Bistro, Rio Azul, the Draughtsman (I can’t stop thinking about you, poutine) and Pho 533 ( 533vietfusion.com). A real highlight of our trip, owners Chad and Brian made sure we had no room for dessert, filling us with delights including Vietnamese-style nachos, chicken lemongrass meatballs, tiger shrimp wontons and more. A particular highlight were the spicy tuna rolls and the vegan mushroom soba rolls, hand rolled to order from the spring roll bar menu, and the “Ba Mahn Ga” fried chicken, soaked overnight in garlic brine and fried in cornmeal with Asian seasonings. Delicious.
One of my highlights was feeding giraffes (fun fact: their tongues are 17 inches long) at the remarkable Living Desert Zoo and Gardens ( livingdesert. org) and learning about how plants and animals have adapted to the arid climate of the desert. I did have the worst hayfever ever, but it was worth it.
And another high point of our trip (literally) was the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ( pstramway.com), the world’s largest rotating tramcar, taking visitors on a breathtaking journey up Chino Canyon to Mount Jacinto. At 8,516 feet high, it’s not one for the faint-hearted. I’ve never been particularly bothered by heights before, but I was clinging onto Ania for dear life as the tramcar swung past each post on the 10 minute ascent. Thankfully, the views from the mountain station more than made up for the weak knees and white knuckles, and once I’d recovered from the sheer terror, we took advantage of some of the 50 miles of hiking trails. Top tip: bring something warm to wear, as the temperature at the top can be 30- 40 degrees cooler than in the desert below. Ania was definitely regretting only bringing flip flops, but there’s something pretty special about having desert sand and mountain snow between your toes in the same day.
So there you have it. I’ve ticked Dinah Shore off my bucket list, and fallen in love with everything Palm Springs has to offer, including the people. My wife still hasn’t forgiven me for going without her but at least she hasn’t left me for a carpenter called Candace. Yet.
The Dinah is a magical experience that every queer woman should enjoy once in her life