Shedonism might be a made-up word, but the culture and events that revolve around it are a grand reality. Since launching in 2005 the “sinful women’s weekend and hotel takeover” has turned Las Vegas into a lesbian destination, at least for a few days. This year’s main event takes place September 17-21 at SLS (ShedonismVegas.com), and features such talent as DJs Alie Layus, Angie Vee and C.L.A. We chatted with Shedonism’s founder and “executioner” Lisa Pittman about the event’s history and future.
“Hedonism” is in the dictionary, but “shedonism” is not. What is it exactly?
I was driving in my car in Las Vegas and putting a bunch of words together. I remember thinking, “I want [this event] to be something that people will remember—something that’ll encompass the Vegas experience and make it liberating for the LGBT community.” I wanted to bring something they’ve never seen before—not in Vegas, at least. The concept of Shedonism is to have the Las Vegas experience and make it enjoyable for women, but for the lesbian travelers specifically. Vegas is an amazing place but it’s geared toward the mainstream, even though everybody has a great time. [As] women, you go out, and you don’t really have that great of a time because guys are holding onto you, or you might not be interested in talent, or other factors. Basically, my whole concept is to carve a niche in the city I love—the city I’m from—and give that to the gay and lesbian community so they can experience Vegas—their best Vegas.
What’s is the role of the “executioner”?
I make it all happen. The [Shedonism] concept happened a long time ago. I took it to other cities. [I remember] in the early 2000s, I was trying to hold an event at Hard Rock Hotel, and I was laughed at. They said, “Listen, we’re at 90 percent occupancy all year long. We’re not gonna put our current clients in jeopardy if these aren’t A-list clients.” Ever since that day, I told myself, “This is gonna happen. It might take awhile, but it’s gonna happen.” Las Vegas continued to grow, which created more available spaces for me to take my business. Then the recession hit, which, in reality, opened up so many doors. Businesses became hungry for anything and everything, including gays. So the [gay] events entered the Strip—the Cosmopolitan, SLS and eventually the Hard Rock after a decade. Now it’s widespread. Gays are trending!
How has Shedonism changed since 2005?
It’s definitely gotten bigger. Shedonism changes every year, and that’s part of the beauty of it. You can go to a party that’s the same thing every year. Like in Miami, you’ll stay in the same hotel and dance on the same beach. But this is Las Vegas. The concept changes with the city, and there’s always potential for new venues, new hotels and great spaces.
What else have you been up to?
I do Marquee in the Cosmopolitan, Sayers Club in SLS and other weekly Vegas residencies. I also travel. I’ve played national Pride events and festivals. Shedonism is a different animal than when it was born, because of all the things going on in my [DJ] career. I want it to be the biggest party for all lesbians in the biggest party city.
Are you trying to focus on your career as a gay DJ or mainstream DJ?
I’ve never identified as a gay DJ. Studio 54 was my first residency. Then I went to Tao, the Palms and then Marquee. Now I stay with Tao Group. I do gay events here and there, but I was always a mainstream DJ.
What differences do you see between the two?
The crowds are different in terms of energy. The room changes with the kinds of energy the crowds bring—a roomful of guys or a roomful of industry people is vastly different from a roomful of girls or an 18-and-up crowd. Industry crowds and guys aren’t so energetic. Lesbian clubs, in particular, are different. It’s all women in the room, and the energy is different. But it differs from place to place, venue to venue and city to city.
What were some of your favorite Shedonism moments from years past?
I love when it’s over! I swear to God— it’s like delivering a baby. There’s preparation, and when you finally have the “baby,” you feel a sense of relief. But really, with everything in life, you face a series of successes and failures, and you remember every part and detail. You take those, move on and create bigger and better events with the goal being “don’t make the same mistake twice.” There are so many moving parts in Shedonism, with all of its people, events, entertainers and crowds.
What can we expect this year?
This might just be one of the best years. It’s being held at a brand-new, beautiful hotel on the Strip with a ton of amenities. That’s never happened before, and I think girls are really gonna like it. With gay bars, there’s an evolution—they always come from successful bars that have failed, then they eventually become gay bars. They’re kinda like the little sisters or brothers of other bars in that they’re a niche market. Shedonism used to be that way, but it’s not like that anymore; we’re no longer having [the parties] in hand-me-down spaces, like the gay community is accustomed to. We’re having it at the best venue, and getting the best people in the business. It’s a whole different level.
What about in the future?
The goal of Shedonism is to take over a main hotel in Las Vegas—every single room. We want that many people to know our name and our event. It’ll be its own gay city—its own world—for the weekend.
Where would you like to see it happen?
I’m a big fan of Hard Rock Hotel. It’s got its own scene that embodies what our event is. We’re rebels—we don’t necessarily fit into society as a whole. We’re fighting for our space and our place just to have a great time. I’d like to eventually have it at the Delano, Mandalay Bay or MGM, but it’ll always be annual—never more than once a year. Right now we’re just building and going with the flow. I’m just here to develop it and letting the rest happen.