Published Thursday, 02-Apr-2009 in issue 1110
What’s more fun than the hottest boy’s party on the West Coast? The hottest boy’s party celebrating its 20th anniversary!
After a season of winter getaways and other cold-weather festivities, White Party in Palm Springs is a hot transition to spring and summertime circuit parties in 2009. The brain child of Jeffrey Sanker, White Party pulls in masses of shirtless, buffed and bronzed gay men from all over the world for a weekend of A-list parties and revelry.
The man behind the scenes
Dubbed the “high priest of gay parties” by the Miami Herald and the “sultan of soirées” by Next magazine, Jeffrey Sanker is the name behind the global gay community’s premiere nightlife scene.
The founder of Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Sanker Entertainment, Inc, Sanker is the creator of White Party: Palm Springs, multiple New Year’s Eve celebrations in Los Angeles, and One Mighty Party at Orlando’s Gay Days. The former has evolved into the most widely recognized gay celebration on the planet and attracts more than 30,000 attendees from all over the world. He is surely a force to be reckoned with!
The Gay & Lesbian Times scored an opportunity with the man behind the party, who gave readers a sneak peek into all the fun and debauchery to be had in Palm Springs this year as Palm Springs and gay men from across the country celebrate two decades of White Party!
GLT: This year is White Party’s 20th Anniversary – what do you have in store for us?
Jeffrey Sanker: This year’s White Party theme is Superheroes. It’s a Spring Break party to beat all spring breaks, as White Party 2009 celebrates two decades of fun in the Palm Springs sun by day and the most outrageous dance parties at night with twenty thousand of the hottest guys from across the United States and around the globe! There’s no better place to celebrate than the great city of Palm Springs, where literally overnight the town is over run by the boys and the community throws its doors wide open to make it the most welcoming and inviting experience a gay man could have!
GLT: How did White Party originally start?
JS: The event originally started as a weekend getaway event for a lot of my L.A. friends. I’d seen similar types of events being done for the lesbian community. For the first few years it was very intimate. We only took up part of a hotel and a very small pool area. There were just events on Friday and Saturday, and there was just one DJ for the whole weekend. After that, it got bigger and bigger every year. We added more events, such as the Sunday T-Dance and Afterhours. We changed to a larger hotel and moved the main event into the Palm Springs Convention center. Now it’s become a real spring-break tradition for so many– and we even have guys flying in from all over the world every year to attend White Party.
GLT: How has it matured and grown over the past 20 years?
JS: White Party is 20 times larger than it was when we started. Guys who came to Palm Springs for the first time for White Party fell in love with the warm desert community and, oftentimes, with each other. Many have since moved there and bought businesses or homes there. They feel welcome in Palm Springs, so they keep coming back and have wound up buying homes there and even retiring there.
GLT: What do you have in store for us in the future? What’s next?
JS: I definitely want to keep it fun and young. There’ll be more dancing and more DJs. It is important to keep reinventing yourself and [having] new themes, new DJs, and favorite DJs, new décor, and new talent year after year. Superstar entertainment has become a hallmark of our events. Over the years, such legends as Jennifer Lopez, Toni Braxton, Kelis, Anastacia, Natalie Cole, Marky Mark, Grace Jones, RuPaul, Deborah Cox, Boy George and even Wicked’s Edina Menzel have all performed live.
GLT: How do you successfully keep reinventing White Party? How do you mix it up and keep the crowd coming back year after year?
JS: Throughout the year I do a lot of traveling to other events and other countries. Last year I had a chance to experience the arena party at Gay Pride Madrid for the very first time, and some of the ideas from that extravaganza people will see in the production at White Party 2009 in the Palm Springs Convention Center this year. I get a lot of inspiration from things that happen during the year. I try to bring back what’s hot in fashion, music and culture from around the globe and integrate it into the White Party theme.
GLT: What is your most memorable moment from White Party over the years?
JS: My most memorable moment was the surprise performance at 1 a.m. by Jennifer Lopez at the White Party in 2001 – she was an absolute delight to work with and so appreciative of her gay fans.
GLT: Do you think the economy will affect this year’s turnout? Has the economy been a problem with planning this year’s event?
JS: The economy has affected everyone, but we’ve found that people still do like to go out. They like to get away and escape for a little bit. This year’s ticket sales are going well, and I expect attendance to be strong. I’ve tried to tailor the weekend to provide something for everyone, price-wise, from single-ticket events to the total VIP weekend experience. We’ve done a special layaway plan this year to help make tickets more affordable and we’ve seen very good response to that. The hotels have also worked with us, to reduce pricing and the minimum nights required to stay.
GLT: Who is your target market for White Party? Has that market changed at all over the years? Has it changed this past year at all due to the economy?
JS: There are two distinct segments: the 20-something crowd that makes up the majority of the attendees and the older “veterans” that come back year after year. Plus, there is a new crop of what we like to call “White Party Virgins” entering that demo. Today more than ever, the boys are connected to each other all over the country via Facebook, MySpace and other social media. For the older crowd, they’ve gone to all the parties year after year, so now we’re offering the extra things like VIP packages, upscale hotel accommodations, bottle service and a lot of other amenities to make it more of a vacation than simply a party weekend.