Dede, I met you last year at the fabulous Hip Chicks Out event in San Diego. I hear you are partnering with HCO founder Silke Reuthlinger to put on some fabulous events at this year’s Final Four in Denver, what do you have going on that weekend?
DF: The SWISH Women’s Slam Dunk Weekend, a series of parties and events celebrates the 2012 Division I Women’s National Basketball Championship better known as the Final Four. More than 30,000 people will visit Denver and spend $20M on food, hotels, events, and local attractions. As the premier providers of women’s social events in Denver, BAD and HCO are teaming up for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion and have events, parties and activities for everyone! Silke and I are very excited about collaborating on this weekend and we have five “not so straight” days of happy hours/dance parties/viewing parties; a fundraising brunch for NCLR, a comedy show and even a pre-game tailgate party. It’s also the 40th Anniversary of Title IX and we will be celebrating this at the Time Out For Equality Brunch with NCLR.
Can you tell us about your Babe’s Around Denver (BAD) First Friday events? What did Lesbians used to do in Denver before First Fridays?
DF: For more than eight years, First Friday has drawn a massive crowd of women. Women with short hair, long hair, faux-hawks and shaved heads, all ages, sizes, ethnicities and sub-culture styles love First Fridays. There are more women in this club every first Friday of the month than most lesbians even knew existed in Denver.
I am still very humbled and surprised by the whole thing. It seems that BAD’s First Friday party is just what Denver was missing. BAD is the largest monthly women’s event in the country, with an average attendance each month of 2,000 and ages varying from 21 to 75-years-old.
Lesbian bars in Denver have never had great success. I realized that women in the LGBT community needed something different. Women don’t go out as much as men—they tend to nest more—and that’s why I’ve been so adamant from the beginning about not doing it weekly, and I think that’s what makes it successful.
Denver is diverse and so are its lesbians. I’m first to admit that women seek diversity in their music. Our resident DJ’s -Trina J, Shannon and Markie spin the best music in every genre. We really switch it up throughout the night so that we’re able to cater to the demographics.
We also welcome all LGBT members and their allies. The T-girls (transgender women) remain some of the biggest supporters of the event. I’m flattered that even gay men in the community come out for First Friday. They tell me things like “I love seeing the lesbians, its my girls night!”
Although BAD provides a night for the lesbian community to get rowdy and dance the night away, giving back to the community is my priority. With quarterly donations to nonprofits like the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ATL Foundation (provides financial assistance to lesbians with health issues) and even political organizations like One Colorado, I feel that the charitable donations make the success of my party the most rewarding part. I wish I could do more. Since I formed Babes Around Denver, I’ve donated to more than 18 different charities.
What was it like being in the Army?
DF: I chose to join the military during college as part of a scholarship program and was fortunate to be accepted. I was commissioned as an officer and was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Army Nurse Corps. At that time, there was no such thing as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. It was more like “Don’t Mention”. Since I was an officer, I was able to maintain some privacy around the issue but I was definitely not out at the time. In hindsight, I think it was also one of the reasons I left the NYC area (I was stationed at Fort Dix NJ at the time) and my goal was to start a new life and “go straight” LOL. After getting transferred to Colorado, I became more active in the LGBT community and left the military soon after. I discovered that I was not a good fit with nursing and wound up in the oil business for 18 years. I did not come out to my family until the mid 80’s and I regret waiting so long. However, I am definitely making up for lost time!
How do you feel about DADT and the recent repeal?
DF: I was thrilled although honestly appalled that it took so long. It felt very personal to me even though I never chose to make the military my life long career. It was insulting to me since I knew my sexuality had nothing to do with my service or my ability to perform my duties.
I like how you manage to cross the age boundaries and get women of all ages at your events. How do you manage that?
DF: First Friday started as a happy hour where women of all ages were welcome. Over the years it evolved into a mega dance party but I always had a policy of inclusivity (all ages/all LGBT and all allies) where everyone would be welcome. By starting the event early and playing country and retro music, we attract an older crowd. By 9PM, there are usually 300-400 women from 35-80 dancing. By 11PM – the 20-35 crowd is partying and we step up the music with Top 40/House/Hip Hop. I would say music has been the biggest challenge and when we moved to Tracks, the largest LGBT club in Denver, we have three rooms and can provide music for most tastes. It’s also a simple philosophy of wanting to connect the community!
What does First Friday and Babe Around Denver have in store for our community in the future?
DF: March is our 9th anniversary and we are still the largest and longest running MONTHLY women’s party in the U.S. We also host Pride, Halloween, New Year’s Eve parties and are excited by bringing more lesbian comedy to Denver.
Lastly, I am still humbled by the support I have received from the LGBT and allied community in Denver and other cities as well as the love and support of my family, friends and partner of 8 years (Stace Williams—who I met at First Friday in October, 2003)
Find out more about Babes Around Denver at babesaroundenver.com