White Party Palm Springs 2002
Created and produced by Jeffery Sanker the White Party in sunny Palm Springs California celebrates the arrival of spring and encompasses seven themed events over the four-day Easter period. Originally started in 1998 as a weekend getaway for men in the California area, the White Party has grown to be a major event in the global gay circuit party calendar.
With the USA economy hard hit post September 11th and fears still rife about air travel in the USA, numbers were down from the usual 25,000 visitors expected on recent years. Ticket prices were inline with the previous year, but at $450 for a VIP weekend pass and the main party costing $100 you have to question if it is real value for money. The VIP ticket had been advertised as giving free water and soft drinks, but we heard that the water tended to run out within the first few hours of the parties!
Events kicked off with a small welcome party for the brave early birds at a local Palm Springs gay club, with DJ Joe Gauthreax playing a usual mix of USA house. Friday afternoon a poolside event at the Wyndham hotel was a pleasant way to catch the sun and meet with new and old friends, but was disappointing in that the event could have held twice as many people as had come along.
That night was one of the major parties and usually a highlight– The Military Ball, as suggests the theme was military wear, although respect for the current "USA at war" status seem to tone most people down. No major flashy uniforms were being worn and the more usual club wear of camouflage pants seemed to be the norm. DJ’s David Knapp and Ra played to a crowd of 2,000 beside the pool and inside the Wyndham hotels main ballroom. With spectacular stage shows taking place through the evening. All in all what could have been a great night proved a disappointing evening. The music was very experimental and didn’t have the highs to lift you – it is always difficult to provide an interesting mix over seven events, but this just didn’t boded well for the weekend ahead. A number of people stated that with the numbers being down and the poor atmosphere they we intrepid about the weekends future events.
Saturday saw the major afternoon pool party, with a tried and tested formula of DJ Kimberley S – excellent mix of party anthems and great happy house saw over 1,500 people dance and frolic in the 100 degree heat. Buffed and bronzed LA boys were now in town and the atmosphere was getting into the swing we had anticipated. Finishing at 5pm it gave us time to head back to our lodgings to shower, eat and change into our white outfits for the main event. The White Party at the spacious Palm Springs convention centre. Opening at 10pm the event was busy from the onset, but with only 7,000 advanced tickets sold the promoters were concerned about filling such a cavernous space. Although noticeably quieter than in recent years a great party atmosphere filled the hall. DJ Manny Lehman, a main stay of Sanker events, put in a refreshing mix of tribal and Latin beats that were a marked improvement on his recent performances. Highlight of the evening was Jennifer Lopez singing 4 live songs with a huge entourage of excellent dancers. By 3am the party was beginning to wane, with many people leaving or moving on the Climax After-Hours party featuring New York DJ Victor Caldrone. Possibly a hotter ticket than the main event this took place in the ballroom of the Wyndham hotel. Many LA residents had obviously finished work that night and taken the 2-hour drive to Palm Springs for this event. The crowd was a hot mix of muscle boys and young studs – Victors signature music of dark and heavy beats made of an electric sexy atmosphere, which left us bumping and grinding with the LA porno stars and gasping for more!
By the time Sunday morning had broken we left a trail of spent out party boys moving off to recharge and recover for the most fun events of the weekend. The Sunset T Dance which takes place in Marquis park, and is not unlike a smaller version of London’s old Summer Rites – equipped with a 15,000 square foot dance floor and a full size Ferris wheel, over 4,000 people danced to the sounds of DJ Brett Henrichsen’s handbag house. Circuit Diva Debra Cox was welcomed on stage and sang a medley of famous anthems that had the crowd in raptures. Closing at 9pm with a spectacular firework display choreographed to music, this was on of the most pleasurable events of the week. It could have all ended there and we would have been content, but no, there was the Closing Party back at the Wyndham poolside and Ballroom to cap it off. DJ Phil B played an excellent set of trance and heavy house that kept the place rocking right through till 5am, with Tracey Young dishing out the funky beats by the poolside till 2am. This party had a full variety of young buffed studs and hairy muscle boys! A veritable smorgasbord of hot flesh, and we managed to sample more than one dish that night.
So another successful weekend for Jeffery Sanker – although rumour has it that he will not clear the $400,000 profit from 2002 that he has in past years. Next years White Party has now been confirmed - but was in the balance, with the new Palm Springs Mayor having a major push to stop the drug related problems that seem to follow such events. The police presence was clearly up on previous years, and news come to us of a number of drug search raids on gay hotels – and even stories of foreign visitors being harassed by the local enforcement agencies. Be warned that when visiting the USA on a standard green visa waiver form you forfeit all normal civil rights, and can be detained and imprisoned for up to 48 hours with no reason given – as was the case of a close friend of ours. Luckily he had local friends who came to the rescue with a legal attorney – saving the day when his so called London mates fled the scene.
If you want a little piece of sunshine and fun at Easter, this party and trip is well worth the visit, and by shopping around on the net you can get some excellent deals in the local gay hotels. We highly recommend the Triangle Inn for its comfort and hospitality.