Booking talent is probably the most entertaining aspect of my job.
It wasn't always easy. Prior to 2006, when I called upon the big guns, CAA, WME, ICM, Paradigm, my calls were rarely, if ever, returned. I was representing a lesbian festival, by God, and with a small budget. Who could be bothered? Not the agencies.
In 2006, my event's mission statement changed. I wanted to build upon my event. The Dinah was considered the largest lesbian dance party in the world, but I dreamt of it also becoming a respectable lesbian music festival. I envisioned cutting edge talent, multiple performances, and thousands of screaming lesbians. But if the agencies weren't taking my calls, how was I going to accomplish that? I was in a bit of a dilemma.
I quickly realized I couldn't do this one on my own. So with the help of a highly placed friend at Universal Music, who reached out to the management team of The Pussycat Dolls (PCD) and pitched my event, I embarked on a new and exciting direction for The Dinah.
The Pussycat Dolls were a new group with a catchy single on the airwaves. PCD, featuring the talented Nicole Scherzinger and Jessica Sutta, and their single, "Don't Cha," was climbing up the billboard charts. I imagined this hot group of performers, all of them straight, singing this soon to be number one billboard hot 100 hit to some 4,000 screaming lesbians. And I couldn't help but smile.
After some back and forth negotiations, and a lot of hesitation on my part as it was a costly investment, the manager send me an advanced copy of Stikwitu, to push me over the edge. I listened to this soulful, romantic ballad, laced with the promise of true love and my suspicion that this group was going to be huge was confirmed.
I had never before allocated such a big budget to talent. I had no idea if raising the talent bar made a difference to my customers. After all, it was already a highly successful event. If it's not broken, why fix it? And then again, why not!
But I envisioned an event that was respected, not just in our community, but also in the music industry, as a prominent festival that delivered world-class entertainment. So I signed on the dotted line, dipped into my line of credit, crossed my trembling fingers and hoped I was right.
Lucky for me, the Pussycat Doll's manager thought playing the largest lesbian event in the world was a novel idea, so novel that they actually detoured from their tour with the Black Eyes Peas and missed their Arizona show, to play The Dinah. How exciting for our community that we lesbians were starting to be recognized as mover and shakers in the music industry.
From the time I booked The Pussycat Dolls, to the time they played my event, almost five months had passed and they now had not one, but four top ten hits. "Stikwitu" was number one in the world. Their debut CD had quickly gone double platinum. They were taking the world and The Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, by storm. My guests couldn't believe I had booked a number #1 Hot 100 recording group with 4 hits and really, neither could I.
With excitement and awe, I watched their tour bus drive into the parking area of The Riviera Resort and Spa, my host hotel for the event. No one had ever left a tour to play The Dinah, much less arrived in a tour bus. The excitement was palpable.
The performance was amazing. My night went from a raging dance party to a concert in a matter of seconds. Cell phones were flashing, the PCD were mesmerizing, and I had scored my first big hit with an emerging artist. The introduction of The Pussycat Dolls changed the trajectory of my event and since that fateful performance, the event and its entertainment stature, has grown tremendously. Agents take my calls. In fact, agents call me now. Things have changed.
And had it ended there it still would have been one of the greatest successes of my career. But as life would have it, this story came full circle years later. I was sitting back stage with Jeff Haddad, one of the managers for The Pussycat Dolls in 2011. I had booked his artist Luciana, so we were pleasantly reunited again. Jeff's one of those likeable and easygoing personalities rare in this ego driven industry. I adored him. While in the Green room, waiting for Luciana to perform, Jeff told me a story that helped me to fully understand just how important The Dinah, and the lesbian audience, was to emerging artists.
Jeff explained that when The Pussycat Dolls were starting out, they couldn't get booked to perform on late night TV. And they had tried. The exposure late night offers an artist can launch a career. It's the dream of any emerging artist and the goal of their management team. But the Pussycat Dolls Management, even with four top 10 hits on the charts, couldn't make it happen... until The Dinah.
Jeff went on to say that once PCD had played The Dinah, Ellen DeGeneres noticed them and asked them on her talk show. From Ellen, Jay Leno followed suit and invited them on his show. The rest is history. The Pussycat Dolls are considered the 80th most successful group of the 2,000's, in part due apparently to a little lesbian event and music festival whose producer couldn't get the agencies attention before The Dolls. The Dolls changed the importance of The Dinah in the eyes of the agencies, and in turn, their appearance at The Dinah apparently got them a slot on a national talk show (the Ellen show).
For me, the lesson learned is how important it is when it comes to our dreams, to follow our instinct, even when the stakes are high. I am a firm believer that our internal compass always points North. When we listen to that inner voice, despite the odds, despite the risks, despite the costs, and act when our intuition tells us our direction is right, we can't go wrong. Booking PCD was the greatest financial risk I had taken in my career at that time. Believe me, I was scared. But like they say, when your left foot undeniably follows your right foot, it's only the first step that's the hardest.
Follow Mariah Hanson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dinahshore