Phoenix's gay burlesque troupe's starring at a mega-lesbian-fest beside the ladies' pro golf championship. Could fortune and fame be next?

The venue seems perfectly suited to what the Gogos say they're all about. Dinah Shore Weekend is a party held in conjunction with (although it's not officially connected to) the Kraft Nabisco LPGA Championship, formerly known as the Dinah Shore Tournament. The LPGA is notoriously squeamish about admitting any connection between lesbians and women's golf, despite the fact that the Dinah Shore Weekend (in the same town and at the same time as the golf classic) is the largest gathering of lesbians in the country.

Mariah Hanson, co-producer of Dinah Shore and owner of the Cherry Bar in San Francisco, saw Lezbosagogo perform at her club in January and was impressed enough to offer them the gig in Palm Springs.

Although unfamiliar with the group when Pulliam first approached her, Hanson had taken a risk and wound up thrilled with their show. "It turned out to be a phenomenal performance, very sexy, innovative, fresh. It wasn't in bad taste, and had some humor as well." The crowd couldn't get enough of them, she says. "I think there's always an element of sexual eroticism in lesbian dance performances. However, [Lezbosagogo] brought their own unique style."

Kevin Scanlon
From crackhead to dedicated burlesque promoter: Angela Pulliam.
Kevin Scanlon
From crackhead to dedicated burlesque promoter: Angela Pulliam.

They were exactly the kind of act she was looking for to perform at the Dinah Shore Weekend, which Hanson has been co-producing for 14 years. "What works best is when sexy is combined with playfulness. They're very good, they make it fun and people are not afraid to approach them, engage them or get involved."

Other entertainment Hanson is planning for the event includes comedians, erotic belly dancing, pool parties and live music featuring bands from L.A. and San Francisco. Lezbosagogo will be as well-known or viable as any act there. Hanson says attendance at the golf tournament and Dinah Shore Weekend combined will range from 15,000 to 25,000.

Though a large number of the LPGA attendees will also attend Dinah Shore, Hanson says both the tournament and the lesbian venue want the two events to remain separate. "The Dinah Shore Weekend party presence is not appreciated by the LPGA."

Hanson complains that pro golf is "the last bastion of homophobia in sports. It all comes down to money." The last thing the LPGA wants to spotlight is that a legion of lesbians will be on the links at the championship event.

Hanson recalls the reaction when Sports Illustrated ran a seven-page package in 1997 on the Dinah Shore Tournament; three pages on winner Betsy King and four pages on the Dinah Shore Weekend. The author called the scene a "lesbian spring break," describing "hordes of them, gaggles of them, giggling and groping and making out with abandon." Golf club manufacturer and LPGA sponsor Titleist was incensed, calling the article "an inexcusable triple bogie," and pulling $1 million in advertising from the magazine. The message to LPGA players and their lesbian fans, Hanson says, was clear. "If you're a lesbian golfer sponsored by Titleist, or Nabisco, or any large corporation, you're better off not coming out." (It was rumored in Hollywood that songbird Shore, once married to actor George Montgomery and the girlfriend of Burt Reynolds, was herself bisexual. But if she was, she never came out, either.)

Breaking past homophobia and stereotypes is something Lezbosagogo is also concerned with. They have no corporate sponsors to censor their act so they confront misconceptions about gay women on a regular basis. "People think of lesbians, and the first image that comes to mind is Pat [from Saturday Night Live]," says India. "That's just not true. Lesbians can be beautiful, too, and people need to see that celebrated."

Being a gay woman, she says, encompasses more than wife-beaters, jeans and work boots, and that diversity should be reflected in entertainment as well. "I've never really liked the entertainment at gay bars," says India. "Lesbian bars usually are all karaoke or acoustic guitar and granola eaters. It's like the Dark Ages compared to the entertainment in straight bars." Skylar agrees, adding, "I think people are ready for some style, something more polished."

But the Gogos do not limit their performances to gay clubs. "Gay, straight, male or female, everybody loves lesbians!" Pulliam says. She means lipstick lesbians, of course, and she's forgetting, for a moment, the LPGA.

She recalls a show the Gogos performed in Rosarito, Mexico, last Fourth of July.

The crowd was made up of tourists and college students mostly, and the members were uncertain just how they would come off. Nerves were further rattled by what Pulliam describes as "some political nonsense going on between the bars there. The Federales became involved and were about to pull the show." Typically, some money exchanged hands and the Gogos performed for 800 people in a 650-capacity venue. It was intense.

The energy in the room was so great, in fact, that "the stage felt like it was going to collapse," recalls Skylar. After their performance, Pulliam says one of the Federales approached them with a camera and asked for a picture with the girls. "They loved us," Pulliam says. "How could they not?"

The Gogos also do private parties locally. Their clients include two prominent local attorneys whom Pulliam declines to name, as well as local music promoters and friends. Sometimes clients want a full-blown show, sometimes they just ask the girls to hang out poolside and interact with the guests. Pulliam says she charges about $5,000 for a club gig, and each girl makes between $50 and $300 a show, plus travel and expenses.

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