Palm Springs White Party 2001 - Author: Tim Jones - Updated: 24th of May, 2001
THERE is a spirit of 60s Woodstock on the American Gay Scene, this manifests itself during USA public holidays as the Gay Circuit Party. Jeffrey Sanker rules as Caesar Supreme over such events, and is probably the most successful (and richest) promoter in North America!. Either side of Easter this year I found myself working in Chicago and San Francisco, which gave me the ideal opportunity to visit Palm Springs, in Southern California, to experience such an event.
The Palm Springs White Party is probably the largest Circuit Event in the USA, second only to Miami's White Party in November (another time during which where you can find Sanker promoting dance events). Attracting in excess of 5,000 of Americas "A" set gays, plus the wannabe's, it is a major boost to the local economy. Not that Palm Springs needs it, being only 2 hours from LA by car it is the rich playground for the Los Angeles elite.
For my $425 VIP Platinum Pass, Sanker presented an amazing music, dance and sensory extravaganza, where the combined power of the pink Yankee dollar provides the best hotels, DJs, and drag shows. Set in the most amazing desert back drop and hidden from preying eyes and legal entities.
My weekend started when I arrived at 9pm from Chicago. My friends from Pittsburgh, who had holidayed there for the prior week, met me. They were bronzed, preened and Gucci Pouchied to death. Obviously using the week to absorb all the cultural delights of California! So with a quick kiss and hello it was off to the hotel to shower, change, and go to the first event, a Welcome Party for the early birds into town.
All the parties were held in the ballrooms of the 3 main host hotels, The Hilton, La Mirage and Wyndham. These form the center of all the White Party activities.
The welcome event was held at La Mirage, where the underground ballroom had been transformed into an under sea grotto… At first it felt rather like attending a wedding party, no matter how much smoke was pumped into the room, you could never get away from the fact it was a hotel ballroom. Still I made the most of it and found my self bumping and grinding with two big guys from Dallas Texas. The party went on till 2:30am, when everything abruptly stopped and closed… finding ourselves at a loose end, my new friends and I were invited to La Grande Vista, a Gay Hotel in the vicinity, for a chill out.
Little did I know that La Grande Vista was the Palm Springs equivalent to London's Chariot's! Although it proved to be much more up market - a large complex of suite style rooms, 2 swimming pools, and the largest Hot Tub I have ever seen, strategically placed within view of a large Steam Room. The management had thought of everything conveniently placing perspex lockers next to the steam room, into which you could safely leave your accessories. It was here that my new friends had no sooner confessed to not having participated in 3 ways or "free love", than they joined in the decadence of the hot tub! Needless to say all had a good time….
The next day started with a "T Dance" around the pool of the Marquis Hotel, the center of which was a huge round swimming pool. My American friends assure me that this is an English tradition, which has now become commonplace in the USA. The T Dances were probably some of the most enjoyable events one could participate in without indulging in mind-altering substances. We'd get there around 3pm, have some food and spend the afternoon swimming, cruising and dancing…. With the cloudless sky and temperature in the mid 80s it was heaven.
Friday night was the first big party, The Military Ball. We arrived late about midnight and it was in full swing. As the name suggested there were guys in all manner of uniform, from the usual camouflage fatigues to full US Navy Whites… The room in which the party was was as hot as hell. Either the air conditioning was not on or it couldn't cope with 2,000 muscle boys dancing! DJ Abel, who seemed to have a strong Brazilian following, played a good set of funky house, and you could have thought you were in DTPM!. We managed to stay the distance to the end at 4am, then made our way back to the main hotel, where an "after party" was staged. It seemed that the after parties were as popular as the main event, and were put on in an area the size of Heavens dance floor. DJ Rauhofer played a good set ranging from progressive house to Trance…. Yes Trance has hit the USA.
The most enjoyable part of the after parties was that most of the Yanks had lost their attitude, either through too much K, or the fact that many of the groups had broken up, only leaving the hard core clubbers to continue. Rather like Trade in London where I have spent many an hour talking total bollocks to a stranger at 9 in the morning!.
Saturday was the big day, and I was assured that the Tea Dance would be at it's best, all trace of attitude and pretense had been purged from everyone. The mix of men, who were in their own small hometowns, the pick of the crop, now found that they had met their match and should drop all pretense of being Queen Bee and enjoy themselves….
This afternoon party really kicked. The pool was packed all day with more beef than a UK funeral pyre… at one point DJ Kimberly played "In the Pool" a current circuit anthem, where upon a hundred guys splashed water at each other creating the largest human fountain ever!..
That evening we prepared for the main event, The White Party at Palm Springs Conference Center… imagine Earls Court exhibition center, over run with 5,000 of the most beautiful men of all body types, wearing very little except tight white shorts, and body glitter. Then you start to understand the magnitude of the event.
I entered with my 6 friends and immediately got split up, without a hope in hell of finding them again. Luckily we had planned to meet under the central glitter ball. (Yes there has been one at every event I have ever attended, from New York to Sydney Australia!). Unfortunately pretty well everyone else had the same idea! For an hour I battled my way through a never ending sea of hot flesh, and no end of body grinding situations, eventually I fell into my Texan friend's arms… Thank God for big men!
The shows were amazing, the stage was over 100 ft wide, and Kitty Meow and the Miami Ballet School did a number of routines that were visually stunning, including major pyrotechnics that shocked us out of our K holes!…. The light show was fabulous, and the sound system must have been borrowed from Spinal Taps road show. At one point I sat on a long cabinet, only to discover it was a bass boom box, which kicked in and almost blew my balls off!
My only complaint - the music sucked! DJ Manny Lehman played a mix of circuit tunes and tribal rhythms that for me never quite hit the mark. The most fun I had was hanging out in the VIP area and talking to the most gorgeous man I had ever met, then winding up their venomous boyfriends… take my word for it LA Queens are fucked up in more ways than one!
On from this event we made our way back to the Marquis Hotel, where Jeffrey Sanker had flown in Junior Vasquez from Twilo in New York. This was the treat of the weekend, this man is a magician on the decks…. If you ever get a chance to see him play in Twilo NYC do it!!… He transformed the night into one of the best dance events of my life. Everyone at the party was enjoying themselves and the atmosphere electric… At 11:00am I remember being so tired I couldn't dance anymore, but being held on the dance floor by the amazing tapestry of music Junior played.
By Sunday we were walking around in a drug induced haze…. The parties were really taking their toll! Sunday afternoon was the "Shag A Delic T Dance", with DJ Phil B from San Francisco. Phil plays a good range of handbag music, which would be at home in Love Muscle. (Only he plays and puts it together well!!). This dance was held in a local park, with a back drop of a fun fair plus a huge covered dance floor… As the sun set the music got better, ending with a huge firework display. From here it was on to the closing party.
For this event the whole of the Marquis's pool area and dance floor that had been used for the after parties were opened up. Outside by the pool DJ Ra played funky chunk house, while inside DJ Henrichsen played a range of progressive House and Trance, which reminded me of Gatecrasher! Once again there was sensory overload with beautiful men and bodies. By now the post party blues were creeping in as we realized it was the end of the events - grown men we crying and hugging each other as the party came to a close. Mind you I did think it was a bit insensitive of the DJ to play a trance mix of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby at the end… refrains of "all the lonely people" are not what you want when your totally depleted of all your seretonin!
From here the final few made their way to the surprise Grand Finale Party. This surprised me in that the DJ, Paulo from LA, played the toughest tribal music mixes I had ever heard!! It was fantastic, so much so that I stayed to the end to talk with him. And what a cutie! As with most of our American cousins he knew how to promote himself, giving out demos of his last hours set.
All in all I had a ball!!. If I go again I will probably restrict the number of events I actually go to, and just pick the key parties… I have no doubt that Americas head shrinks are doing a fantastic trade this past week. I know the group I went with ended up fighting and breaking up from their boyfriends on the last night. Well come on! You don't take a MacDonald's to a Ritz buffet do you.