White Party Palm Springs turns 30 in 2019. I spoke with founder Jeffrey Sanker and attendees to find out what makes White Party so great.
The first White Party
The first ever White Party was held in 1989. Back then, it was a lot different to the 30,000+ attendees, huge headline acts, world-class DJs and fireworks extravaganza it has grown into today.
The very first White Party had about 300 attendees. Most of them were gay guys from LA. or friends of the promoter Jeffrey Sanker.
The first party took up just half of the Marquis Hotel (now the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs) for a pool party and several dance parties helmed by a single DJ.
Jeffrey was obviously onto something though, as over the years, the party not only continued, but has flourished. Which in and of itself is an amazing achievement. How many party or events-based businesses aimed at the relatively niche gay community that started in the 1980s are still around today? Not many, so huge props to White Party for surviving for so long.
But business considerations aside, think of how much we, as a gay community, have experienced and changed over that time too. From HIV/AIDS, to marriage equality, to the emergence of new technologies and the ubiquitousness of social apps and hook up culture. These huge changes can’t be underestimated.
Yet somehow through it all, White Party Palm Springs has adapted, grown and become one of, if not the largest and most successful dance gay parties in the world.
How has White Party Palm Springs survived?
I was curious to find out what lay behind this success.
So, I did two things. Firstly, I reached out to White Party founder Jeffrey Sanker and asked him a few questions. You can read the full interview further down.
Then, I contacted a number of recent attendees to get their perspective too. I reached out to these guys on Instagram. I don’t know any of them personally. They were not paid or in any way incentivised to share their opinions.
I asked them for their honest opinions – both good and bad. You can read their responses below the interview with Jeffrey. (I’ve only made a few minor edits to fix up any spelling and grammar mistakes). I’ve also included links to their Instagram accounts if you’d like to follow them.
I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to Jeffrey, as well as the guys who shared their thoughts and opinions. I appreciate everyone’s time and effort. I really do hope that if you’re considering going to White Party Palm Springs, this article provides you with some useful information.
(As regular readers know, the Little Gay Blog doesn’t accept advertising or sponsors. White Party Palm Springs has not paid me for this article to be written. It was my own idea. Translation: this article is not paid or sponsored content.)
White Party Palm Springs founder Jeffrey Sanker
White Party Palm Springs is the brainchild of Jeffrey Sanker, who is pretty much ‘the guy’ when it comes to producing world class gay circuit extravaganzas.
The Miami Herald has dubbed him “the high priest of gay parties.” Genre Magazine lists him as the “circuit master.” Next Magazine describes him as “the sultan of soirees.” And Circuit Noise Magazine simply calls him “the man.”
With every accolade, Jeffrey further solidifies his name as the premier producer of gay nightlife and entertainment.
In 2014 Jeffrey received a star on the famed “Palm Springs Walk of Stars,” aptly placed on the south-east corner on Palm Canyon Drive and the (very gay) Arenas Road!
Jeffrey is the founder of LA-based White Party Entertainment, Inc. In addition to being the creator of White Party Palm Springs, he’s also responsible for such signature events as New Year’s Eve celebrations in Los Angeles, Miami & Rio de Janeiro and the One Mighty Party at Orlando’s Gay Days.
Interview with Jeffrey Sanker
Little Gay Blog – The 2018 White Party has wrapped up. What were some of the most memorable aspects of it – and what has been the feedback you’ve received from attendees about this year’s event?
Jeffrey – Kylie Minogue has been a long time dream of mine to have at White Party and this dream finally came true. It was a very special moment and electrifying show. It really was one for the books.
Guests raved about how much fun this year was and how they felt it was the best White Party ever!
Next year (2019) will be the 30th White Party in Palm Springs. That sort of longevity is rare and an amazing achievement. Why do you think White Party has remained popular for so long?
I really take pride in keeping things fresh and new and bringing in new talent, DJs and state of the art decor, lighting and lasers. This has truly kept things evolving and changing, which means guests get new experiences every year. That keeps them coming back.
Next year will be no different. STAY TUNED!…
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed over the last 30 years, especially in relation to how technology has changed the landscape of going out and partying?
State of the art technology has really taken things in club nightlife to greater heights. We definitely try to incorporate that in our events, from video mapping to laser technology to Cryo to the carnival feels of the T-Dance, with amazing decor to add to the themes we create and bring to life each year.
What advice/tips do you have for people coming to their first White Party, and possibly to Palm Springs for the first time?
Palm Springs is such a beautiful city and a perfect setting for White Party.
The city has so much to offer as far as restaurants and fine shopping experiences. It is the perfect getaway for our guests to come enjoy beautiful California and have an amazing time with fun pool party events and dance parties as well.
I would encourage people to come out and just have a great time without any expectations and make the most of this incredible weekend.
What would you say to guys who look at photos from White Party and don’t think they’d fit in because they may not be as muscly or fit as some of the guys they see?
White Party Palm Springs truly embodies all that California offers. White Party has something for everyone and our guests always leave having such an amazing time.
And lastly, how long do you think White Party will be around for? Will there be a WP40 and WP50 down the track?
White Party is something that is very near and dear to me and I plan on delivering the best parties I can for as long as I can. I am one to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on and that is not changing any time soon.
Thanks so much for your time Jeffrey!
What do White Party attendees have to say?
I also wanted to find out what White Party partygoers – those guys who have actually been to the weekend – thought about it. What did they love most, what memories have they created – and would they go back again?
Here’s what the guys had to say!
My number 1 favourite thing about White Party is the fact that it’s become a big Californian tradition of partying in white in Palm Springs.
I definitely want to go back because it’s a lot of fun with all my friends. We are all treated really well.
What I love most about White Party is seeing all my friends from all over the world. A party is the best moment to reconnect.
I will definitely be going back. The weather – and the Sunday party – were amazing.
I have been in a relationship for 6 years, 3 years of that being open. WPPS18 is our first white Party (technically since we only went Friday last year) I would say my most favorite part of white Party was the experience, just being surrounded by people that doesn’t judge you and are all there to have fun (most of them) was amazing. You could be whatever or whoever you want to be without the fear of not being accepted.
I also love dressing up! Haha.
Would I go back? Absolutely! I have met so many great people. Surprised to see old friends and made new ones too.
Gosh… I’d say the best thing about White Party Palm Springs is being out in the desert (T-Dance with the views is amazing)…But more than anything else, I’d say that being around such a huge crowd where everyone is happy and free and proud to be gay!
I would definitely go back because it’s easy for me to get there. I live in L.A. and it’s only a 2 hour drive.
(Although, I do think it’s become overpriced in the last couple years and they need to cap it before they lose more attendees. It didn’t seem to be as crowded as it was in previous years).
My number one favourite thing about the party is hands-down, the T-Dance. Also, all the people that you get to meet from all over.
I would definitely go back. Why? Because for a weekend, you can escape from reality.
My favourite part of White Party is spending time out in the sun and fresh air for T-Dance and going to the pools. It’s a nice change from all the dark circuit parties.
I’ll definitely go back to White Party. Each year is another chance to meet new people, work on a better costume/outfit than last year and make more memories.
I love that there are so many guys of different ages, shapes, countries, and walks of lives together in one place. There is no judgment. Everyone wears what they want in the same room and doesn’t have to feel bad. Everyone just wants to have fun.
I would go back. This was actually my second year. I loved my first year, so my best friend and I came back and this year was so amazing. It was fun going to the parties and running into friends I know from different cities, as well as those I made last year.
I also made lots of new friends this year that I have continued to keep in touch with.
Plus the T-Dance concert is amazing. Belinda Carlisle last year and Kylie Minogue this year are worth it alone.
T-Dance and the closing party are the best. The Djs played great, great music. There was a friendly crowd. I love meeting new friends and seeing old ones.
This is my third White Party. In my opinion, for me it just seems like it’s not getting better every year. It kinda plateaued and became predictable this year. I maybe might not be coming next year.
The T-Dance is always by far my favourite part of White Party.
The only thing that is hindering me from going back again is the ticket prices. They were way more for the entire event. I understand they had to book A-list talent for the T-Dance, but the production value was, in my opinion, very weak this year.
My number 1 favourite thing about White Party is the different walks of life that you get to see and be around.
Yes, Prides help encompass everyone as well. But White Party, to me, is almost a global event where people from all of the US and different countries come and live their truest sense of self.
I think it is very inclusive of whoever wants to come. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, trans, questioning, or whatever. People just come to celebrate themselves in a safe and accepting space.
I love the different events, meeting new people from all over the world and feeling like we are a part of something that is celebrating who we are as individuals. Yes, I like to have a few drinks and have fun. But since I was with my close group of friends, it made it even more amazing.
There is an event or something to do for everyone and for my first ever White Party – it was one of the best times I’ve ever had!
My favourite part was the T Dance, set in the outdoors, watching the sun set across the mountains. And Kylie, of course! I would go back to visit friends.
DJ Sr. Edu
Its really hard to choose just one thing that I love about White Party, but If I have to, I’d choose the people. The audience is one of the best I’ve ever found.
In White Party, they can easily share their feelings and positivism with you and make you enjoy the party even when you are not part of the crowd.
I also love to find friends, fellow DJs, producers and lovely people that make this party unique!
How is playing at White Party different than other events? There is something that makes White Party really exclusive and special.
The idea of the party being held in a hotel is great! This makes it so comfortable and it gives us a friendly and close atmosphere which is the most important thing for me when Im in a festival: being comfy.
When I’m in White Party I can feel at home – and that’s just the best!
My favourite part of white party weekend is the Sunday T-Dance.
I would definitely go back.
This (2018) was maybe my 5th or 6th year going. I think there is so much fun to get together. And dance to great music. Especially in the outdoor space by the ferris wheel.
I usually travel with a few friends to go to the party. But I always seem to run in to so many other friends – even make a few new ones a long the way!