Entrepreneur Diane Lusk of Ladies 2000 recalls her first exposure to the club scene for gay women: it was several decades ago at “some hole in the wall,” a moment in time that actually induced her to bite her finger and say to herself, “This isn’t me.”
Yet, it was that uncomfortable experience for a 27-year old Diane that planted the seed to create a social alternative for women to enjoy the company of other women in public venues. In fact, she and her business partner Betty, have dedicated a significant part of their lives to producing eclectic women’s parties, whose clientele, while diverse, fits comfortably into the “upwardly mobile gay women” category.
That endeavor, Ladies 2000, is a result of the 25 years of experience she and Betty have invested in making their business one of the premier hosts of parties for women. It has been recognized by Planet Out as one of the “10 Best Parties” in the United States.
The group, which generally hosts around 14 parties per year, covers a circuit that has reached seven different states, bringing together women in such diverse locales as Ft. Lauderdale, the Poconos, Washington D.C. , the Winery in Delaware, the Monkey House at the Philadelphia Zoo, mur.mur at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, and the legendary disco palace the Limelight in Manhattan.
Diane and Betty trace the genesis of their parties to May 18, 1980 when they gave their first gathering at Rainbows, a club in Center City, Philadelphia.
“We had 12 friends who each invited 10-12 of their friends. It was networking, essentially,” she said. The success of that effort motivated them to try hosting parties on the road, leading eventually to “Ladies for the 80s,” a successful precursor to the current Ladies 2000 business.
Having hosted over 70 parties over the years, including a “40s N Up” themed get-together for older women, Diane said that one of her proudest events was an event held at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. “The rotunda was mammoth,” she recalls. “There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women,” she says. And at one point, mindful of remembering “way back when,” she reflects on the satisfaction she felt and remembers saying to herself, “We did this.”
The successful recipe of the Ladies 2000 Parties venture is one that has relied on a measure of good fortune and tradition. Parties generally are on Sundays, beginning usually at 2 p.m. and ending around 8 or 9 p.m. “Usually, if there is a federal holiday, you will find a party in the region,” she says. And after an enduring legacy, the question of continuity arises, which is a matter already on the minds of the owners of Ladies 2000 Parties. She and Betty are quietly making preparations to transition to new leadership for the social gatherings. There is currently a staff of six with a plan to incorporate allowing the younger staff members to “run the parties.” She intends to remain involved and also serve as an advisor. “I want to help them learn the power of deal-making.”
Diane got her start working as a bartender in Atlantic City over the summers. A manager recognized that she possessed “a way with people” and encouraged her to begin her own enterprise. “I guess he saw something in me.” She has also maintained a separate professional life, the combination of which, she says, has led to “a phenomenal life.”
A significant part of that life includes community involvement in issues that are important to her. One matter of particular concern is gay and homeless youth. She tells of how the school district in her Rehoboth, DE, community decided to ban the book “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily M. Danforth from a national suggested reading list for students. The book, a young adult novel, explores the coming out experiences of a teenager in Montana and the discovery of her sexuality. Protests charging the Board of Education as homophobic ensued. Eventually, the board, as Diane cites, “in their infinite wisdom” removed the entire reading list and now makes no guided recommendations. Ladies 2000 Parties has invited the author to its spring Women’s Fest on April 10 for a book signing.
Circumspect in their views, Diane and Betty noted that over the years, the businesses have had few issues with drugs, promiscuity, and other issues that can plague circuit parties, especially some that cater to young gay males. When commenting about the younger generation of women, she observed, “They seem to be more bold,” and then added, “and definitely more tats.”
One memorable moment she recalls is fielding a call from a man who asked her, “Are there CDs at the parties?” She replied, “No, we use vinyl.” He quickly corrected her by explaining he meant “crossdressers.” (To that, she replied yes.)
Feeling that she and Betty have been successful in “setting the bar high for women,” Diane states that one consistency in the groups’ planning has been to never host a New Year’s Eve party but mentions that there is always a New Year’s Day event.
“We don’t push our luck.”
Find out more and join them for a New Year party by visiting Ladies2000.com.