I attended my first White Party in the spring of 1999 – just barely out of high school, LOL. I have a faint memory of purchasing some overpriced mesh, white sweatpants, a white t-shirt, white tennis shoes, and an assortment of drugs that would ensure a good time, back then.
My friend Scott had purchased baseball caps for a handful of his friends that read “XKG.” If you were a partier you wouldn’t need an interpreter to explain that the letters meant.
I didn’t wear the “XKG” hat, but while wearing the rest of the outfit, dosed with some substances, pulsating music, visual effects, live performers, and half-naked men – I was in Heaven. I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did when Erin Hamilton took to the Splash Pool Party stage and performed her “peaking” dance-club single remake of “Dream Weaver.”
Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party is a brilliant, elaborately executed Rainbow (sounds better than LGBTQ) party. I was fortunate enough to attend this year with an all-access media pass, and I was able to witness up close and personal how well-organized this spectacular event truly is.
Behind the scenes, you have the PR Team Lobeline Communications, and the king himself, Jeffrey Sanker, proclaimed by the Huffington Post as the “Godfather of Gay Parties” who flag-shipped this party 28 years ago. Sanker has re-invented the White Party annually, keeping it relevant and exciting for nearly three decades, reeling in 30,000 attendees this year. And it gets better ever year.
I have worked in and promoted clubs for many years, and it is not easy maintaining a club night or yearly event. I attempted to speak with Jeffrey Sanker at the party to ask him his secret… and he held up the “hold on for a moment finger” that lasted fifteen minutes, so I moved on. Note to self, do not try to strike up a conversation with someone who is entertaining a party of 30,000. Jeffrey… I’ll be following up with you soon.
The White Party boasts an almost round the clock event schedule of eight parties from Friday to Monday night with jaw-dropping and show-stopping events. I made it to four of the almost back-to-back cadre of events which was a pretty valiant effort.
One of my “not-sober” friends approached me and asked, “Why are you here?” – Indicating that this was no place for me, a person in recovery from drug addiction. I replied rhetorically: “Why are you here? To have fun, right?” I don’t think either of us was satisfied with my answer and it made him feel like an asshole. At that moment, I began to wonder what the hell I was doing in this potentially harmful, triggering environment? I carried on with taking pictures and getting video footage of what I found to be beyond fantastic.
I have to say that my friend did have a point. This environment has the potential to take some people down, but rather than ignoring this fact; the White Party has taken action to provide risk reduction. I was delighted and surprised to find recovery meetings listed on the White Party’s website. Not only did they offer meetings at the host hotel, but they incorporated ImpulseLA into all of the events. I felt a sense of relief and strength every time I came upon the ImpulseLA sponsored lounges. ImpulseLA describes themselves on Twitter as “Just a group of young guys educating our peers about sexual health.” Yes, they had onsite testing, brochures, etc., but they also provided a safe place for people who were sober or needing a break. I am grateful for these guys.
The incredible line-up of DJ’s who kept the music pulsating throughout this marathon bacchanal, included Bret Law, Toy Armada, Grind, Dan Slater, Suri, Aron, Tom Stephan, Wayne G. Abel, Ralph Rosario, Binomio and Danny Verde. The laser light shows were orgasmic and created a euphoric canopy over the dancefloors. The first performers to catch everyone’s eyes were The White Party’s Go-Go Dancer Men. After reviewing my video, I am resenting myself for not getting a closer look. These guys were god-like, insanely, beautiful and I hate them, but I am single… in case they are reading this. Hi, guys!
I am by no means a judge when it comes to drag, but when I see talent, it is clear as day. When Shangela strutted down the runway at the Pool Party, lip-syncing to a dance remix of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (Melanie Amaro’s version) I was like “yaaaas”… and I don’t even say “yes” like that.
The highlight for me, of the actual White Party on Saturday night was a late night performance by Maya Simantov of the song “Everybody Needs a Man.” I looked at the crowd through sober eyes and realized that this performance was probably an Erin Hamilton, “Dreamweaver” moment for someone out there.
My favorite of the four events I attended was the Sunday T-Dance, which happens to be the finale of the eight parties. The Dj’s once again killed it as a sea of shirtless men in the thousands danced, heating up the cool desert air. The giant, luminous Ferris wheel added to the extravagance of the soiree. This year’s Queen of the White Party, Kyle Richards offered Jeffrey and the revelers her blessings and gratitude before introducing Grammy nominated Belinda Carlisle, who glided onto the stage singing “Mad About You.”
I have always been a Go-Gos and Belinda fan, but I have to say the moment that she took down the house was when she made a shout-out to her gay son in the audience. ” I’m the mom of a gay son and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Carlisle.
The T-Dance concluded with a dazzling display of fireworks, lighting up the night skies of Palm Springs and provided an exuberant finale to another magical White Party. It gets better every year!
Will you be going to the White Party 2018? I hope so… and I hope to see you there, having fun, dancing, and celebrating your rainbow life.