I don’t think Dinah Shore would mind that her name has been removed from the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. Not because it’s become the largest lesbian gathering in the world, but because her game was really tennis, not golf.
The very ladylike Ms. Shore, a popular radio singer in the 1940s and `50s and a beloved television host in the 1970s and `80s, gave the golfers permission to use her name when the tournament debuted in 1972. The tournament at the Mission Hills club outside Palm Springs, Calif., was originally the Colgate Dinah Shore. Ms. Shore lent her name to give the tournament some cred because she liked sports and Colgate was a sponsor for her show Dinah’s Place.
Even Wikipedia calls her a “founder” of the tournament. But in an interview I did for the LA Times a couple years before her death in 1994 she said, in that polite Southern drawl, that the organizers asked to use her name but tennis was really her game.
Another time I did a piece on the tournament for the LA Times, as I managed to do almost every year for awhile there, and I asked an elderly tournament volunteer what made this tournament such a success for the LPGA (it became one of the four majors about a decade after it began).
He didn’t miss a beat when he said, “the lesbians.” His comment caught me off guard.
These days most of the thousands of women who attend Dinah Weekend are less concerned with the golf tournament, some don’t even know it exists.
By the time Shore died, “The Dinah Shore” was known as much for the lesbians swarming in from all over the world as it was for its golf tournament. Now many of the visitors don’t set sandaled foot near a golf course. Typically they converge at the pools, ogle performers (everyone from Katy Perry to Salt-N-Pepa) and party til they pop.
But don’t think for one minute that the town doesn’t throw open its arms for the gay-girls-gone-wild. As I write this Palm Springs and surrounding desert towns are preparing for The Dinah Shore Weekend, as one promoter calls it. In fact, it’s gone beyond a weekend, the festivities start Wednesday. (The LPGA, as far as I know, still tries to distance itself from Dinah.)
I live 15 minutes from downtown Palm Springs and many of the hotels have sold out, the restaurants are stocking up and the shops that line Palm Canyon Boulevard are eagerly awaiting the influx of feminine partygoers.
One of the bigger promoters of the week, Mariah Hanson, simply calls the event The Dinah. I see this as another step away from the original lady for whom the event was actually named.
Ironically, Ms. Hanson has a niece named Dinah, the comedian Dinah Leffert. Perhaps some day people will assume The Dinah was named for her.
Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Check out A Chat with Dinah Leffert, A Film by Jill Abrams:
Blogger Bio: For more than a decade Laurie Schenden has covered the entertainment industry for Curve, the Los Angeles Times and Germany's Spotlight magazine. Her cover stories for Curve magazine have included Sharon Stone, Melissa Etheridge, and the cast of The L Word. She’s also an award winning documentary filmmaker and one of the co-creators of the Laughing Matters film series, seen on Logo.