By Belinda Carroll, PQ Monthly
I hate to break it to you, but sometimes lezzies break up. We have the relationship bonding power of super glue and yet, at some point, we have to admit that it’s over. When that happened to Pauline Miriam ten years ago, but she did more than move on after a breakup, she created a movement.
Enter Hot Flash/Inferno dances. The dances are held once a month in Portland, currently at Jones Bar (there have been several locations over the years) and cater to an over-35 crowd — unless you’re a young buck who likes her meat a little more seasoned. They currently have dances in four cities and they are the highlight of many a queer-tastic month.
I stepped foot into my first Hot Flash a few years ago — I met Miriam and Joyce Schiltz, and Miriam looked familiar to me. Where did I know her from? It hit me. Back when I was a wee gayby of 19 I had a stint as a BDSM bottom. (Try to hold back your shock.) Miriam was then the head mistress of Bad Girls, a BDSM social club. I knelt at her feet back then, and I didn’t know that was to be the harbinger of our relationship. She’s a force.
I met my girlfriend Aly through Hot Flash about a year and a half ago. One of Miriam’s known talents is as a matchmaker; she has an uncanny ability to look at you and steer you toward who you’ll probably be interested in. Many women have walked into Hot Flash single and come out coupled, including Miriam, who met her partner, Schiltz, at a dance.
So last month, when Miriam announced that she was turning over Hot Flash/Inferno to new owners, DJ Wildfire (Jenn Davis) and Armida Hanlon, I wondered how Hot Flash/Inferno would change and what was next for Miriam and Schiltz. Is there life after Hot Flash?
PQ: When did you decide to retire from Hot Flash/Inferno?
Pauline Miriam: Our decision was made in September 2013 and we had several people who were interested in purchasing and continuing our parties. In October 2013, we chose DJ Wildfire (Jenn Davis) and her wife, Armida Hanlon, to continue the important work that we have begun. Since I build long lasting groups/organizations/parties, I am sure that our new owners will take the dances to new heights.
PQ: What’s next for you two?
PM: The first thing we are doing is resting. We believe we have good reason to take a little break after 10 years! We’ll be taking off to the desert (Arizona) to regroup and meditate on our next venture. We’ll be back in Portland in mid-April when there is half a chance of sunshine again. At that point, I’ll decide on my next venture. Current considerations for new ventures include:
One is working in academia to illuminate the history of the second wave of feminism and the beginnings of the lesbian liberation movement; we would organize groups of women to speak in universities. For example, I was a participant in the Lavender Menace and my collective, Dyketactics, was one of the most powerful collectives on the East Coast in the late 70s and early 80s.
Twenty years ago, two (female-to-male) transsexuals adopted me when they left their biological families. I am considering beginning a foundation with the intent of placing LGBTQ-youth with LGBTQ families who are interested in raising LGBTQ teenagers.
I would also like to do speaking tours on Successfully Using the Law of Attraction for Worriers and Pessimists. I would utilize the history of Hot Flash dances as the focus of these speaking tours. I’ll be checking into Hot Flash Dances and assisting our new owners as they continue the herstory of these parties.
Or, I may just decide to knit a blanket.
PQ: Do you have a favorite memory from your years of running the dances?
PM: It is impossible to pick out one favorite memory from running the dances. There is so much good to be reduced to a single memory. I am most thankful, of course, that I met Joyce at one of my parties six years ago.
I am most thankful for the women whose lives have been saved after finding their way out of isolation and into Inferno. No joke, Belinda, not only has Inferno enriched the lives of happy women who have come to meet friends and lovers but even more important is the suicide prevention work that we’ve very silently done in the lesbian community.
I also will remember all of the fundraising efforts that Inferno has supported. (A small sampling of charities have included funding for Uganda relief efforts, Haitian relief efforts, Sexual Minority Youth Connection (SMYRC), Pride Northwest.)
It’s not about me or Joyce, Belinda. I’ve always said, “We do it because we love you.” I have never lied. Giving back has been my greatest joy.
PQ: Anything else you’d like to say to the community?
PM: What started out as a personal need for connection to the lesbian community blossomed exponentially into a household word and a must-do event on the calendars of women in seven states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania). In the past ten years, Hot Flash Dances has enriched the lives of over 17,000 women from Seattle to San Diego, from Portland to Phoenix and beyond.
As I retire my status as founder, I leave Hot Flash into the very capable hands of Jenn Davis and Armida Hanlon, a wonderful couple who are committed to bringing joy to the women we serve. In tremendous gratitude and appreciation for the best 10 years of my life, thanks for the past decade of Hot Flash Dances!
I also had a chance to briefly catch up with DJ Wildfire, Jenn Davis, about taking over the Hot Flash Dances. She’s been a regular for over seven years and has long been a fan favorite.
PQ: What do you feel will change once you take over?
JD: Not a lot. I really love that it’s a safe space for women, so that will stay the same. We decided to give up Phoenix, so we will have Portland, San Diego, and Seattle. We will also have occasional dances for men and women called Wildfire. That’s how the San Diego dance is run, but as long as it’s Hot Flash it will be dedicated to women. There may be things that change along the way, but you can still expect a Hot Flash experience.
January will mark Hot Flash’s tenth anniversary as well as the kickoff for the new ownership. Hot Flash is always the fourth Saturday of the month so it’ll Jan. 25, perhaps at Jones Bar, but we are looking at different venues, so look out for the announcement.