circuit aprties

The White Party’s Stupid Attempt To Brand Itself As Responsible Political Event

The annual White Party in Palm Springs, where promoter Jeffrey Sanker invites 20,000 scantily clad twinks, muscle queens, and daddies for a long weekend of PNP, easy sex, and sun, isn’t just one big dance orgy. It’s a boon for local businesses and a way to promote serious issues like gay marriage and workplace discrimination! Oh this is just ridiculous.

The White Party is, plainly, a place where thousands of gay men flock to from all over the world for a long weekend’s worth of oonce-oonce music and no-strings sex. I’m sure there are some attendees who do not partake in the more illegal aspects of the event, but let’s not pretend Sanker’s play den — which runs this Thursday thru Sunday — is actually an activist circuit party. It is not.

But that’s how Sanker is pitching it to The Desert Sun. And I don’t blame him! It’s about branding, baby, and the more people (particularly those who don’t attend) believe his White Party is a progressive gay community event that’s helping in our equal rights battle, the more he can get away with (i.e. noise complaints, drug reports, lewd sex acts).

A decade after former Palm Springs Mayor Will Kleindienst described it as a haven for drug abuse and public sex, the White Party is being heralded for its positive national impact. The annual party for gay men, which begins Thursday and continues through the weekend in Palm Springs, is an economic boon to the city. It typically draws 20,000 to 25,000 people and this year ticket sales are up 25 percent over last year’s record crowd. But promoter Jeffrey Sanker says the White Party is more than just a party now. He’s branding it as an event that introduces up-and-coming artists to the gay community and enlists their support for issues such as gay marriage.

Sanker has long raised funds at the White Party for gay-related charities such as the Desert AIDS Project. This Friday, he’s inviting party goers to have their pictures taken with Charo for $40 a pop to benefit the No On Proposition 8 (NOH8) campaign. That will show Charo’s support of the gay community while hyping her recent dance single, “España Cañí.” “She wants to embrace her gay fans,” Sanker said, “and let them take this song (from the) grass roots and make it grow.”

And there Sanker has identified what the White Party really is, besides a four-day sun-and-fun fest: a way for music acts to reach new gay fans. Because as we all know, once you get the gays, you get the girls. We’ve seen everyone from Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez (attendees) to Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton (performers) have made appearances to re-up with their gay fan base. And for new acts, well, it’s a chance for exposure.

David Stern, publisher of the Los Angeles gay magazine Frontiers, compares it to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival as an event for breaking new musical artists. “A recent example would be Lady Gaga, who (Sanker) got to perform at the White Party just before she exploded into the phenomena she is today,” said Stern. “Jeffrey had a great insight as to how talented she is and where she was heading. I remember when he suggested to Frontiers that we interview her, he joked with me to grab the interview while we could because she was going to explode. How right he was.”

Dyana Kass, marketing director of Interscope Records, says the White Party also is becoming more of a multifaceted event like Coachella. “I think it definitely has those kind of legs,” she said. “It’s beyond a dance. It’s more of a festival — not obviously as far as Coachella, but there are all different events and installations and happenings, so it starts to take on more of that festival type of feel.”

But to say the White Party is now a stop on the political activist circuit is a crock. We don’t pretend these drug-fueled Atlantis Cruises are family-oriented get-togethers, do we?

Other members of the gay community aren’t ready to brand an event that has often been called a bacchanal affair to raise political awareness. The managing editor of the gay publication The Advocate, refused to comment on the White Party’s role in getting celebrities to support gay issues, and activist groups didn’t immediately respond to emails or phone calls.

Even Stern calls it a stretch to say the White Party can brand celebrities as being supportive of gay causes. “To me, being supportive of gay causes means getting involved, speaking out, taking a stand and using your celebrity to help that cause,” he said. “It’s much more far-reaching than just performing at a party. Although again, using Lady Gaga as an example, look how much she has stepped up and spoken out for our community.”

Sanker says getting an artist to support a cause anywhere builds support for that cause. “Right now, Lady Gaga has 7 million people that she tweets to,” he said. “Her word carries a lot of power and she was very pro-active on the whole ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” Lady Gaga returned to the White Party in 2009 to perform a full concert at the Palm Springs Convention Center. She moved Sanker deeply with a toast after it ended. “We have it on tape,” he said. “She poured a glass of champagne and said thank you to all of her fans for making her who she was. And she said, ‘I will never forget you.’”

Of course she won’t — we’re her core fan base. But having musical artists perform for the gays is a far cry from running a advocacy event.

None of this is to say the White Party isn’t good fun. It is! If you’re into this sort of thing. But can’t we just let the White Party be what the White Party is, without forcing some homosexual agenda down our throats? See you by the pool.

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  • Spike

    Poor Queerty, apparently their request for comp tickets to the WPPS got lost in the mail AGAIN.

    Just a little angry and bitter Queerty?

  • Joe B.

    @Spike: Well you seem like a cunt, is that what you’re going for?

  • Mike in Asheville

    Let’s see: Criticize the White Party for being all about self-absorbed twinks, muscle boys and daddies there for easy sex and drugs VS adding social issues into the mix.

    In your view, Queerty, the White Party can’t win.

    Sorry Joe B., but Spike is right.

  • Shannon

    PLEASE…….this event if gay white men who THINK they are cute and “A-list” to get together….stand in a clique….put everyone else….DO DRUGS LIKE NO ONES BUSINESS…OVERDOSE…..HAVE ORGIES…CATCH HIV…..AND WANT TO YOU THINK TEY ARE SOOOO”SEXY…

  • craig texas

    We went to the WP once years ago – never seen so much out of contol drug usage, sex orgy invites, drug emergencies, and nelly West Coast girls eager to find their next trick. I am CERTAIN that this weekeneds greatest contribution to our community has been the huge number of HIV seroconversions that occur this very weekened.

    Sanker should be commended for pulling in Lady Gaga – good insight..but sorry dude you are not our Ellen. You re just a pretentious LA party promoter.

  • Spike

    @Joe B.:

    Bless your heart Joe B., do you feel better now?

    BTW, Queerty, Christina Aguilera appeared at WPPS? When? Or were you so cracked out that you recognize the difference between a live performance (Gaga, JLo) and Christina’s video taped message?

  • Joe

    I’ve been watching this community infect and reinfect itself for 30 years. I’m a little tired of caring what happens to the witless. If you go and have safe fun, that’s awesome. As for the others, well, Darwin will clear this all up eventually.

  • Donny Hay

    FUN FACT:: The main people behind the scene running, promoting and planning the White Party have been clean and sober for over 4 years.

  • David

    I love the WP. It’s so much fun. Have fun boys!

  • Steve

    Follow the money to find the truth.

    The White Party in Miami is a fundraiser for Care Resource, which provides comprehensive health and support services to HIV patients, with focus on the LGBT Community.

    Where does the money from the White Party in Palm Springs go? Reading the web site, I couldn’t find any mention of where the proceeds are donated. Most fund-raiser events put that information in prominent places.

    It appears that the proceeds of the Palm Springs party go to Jeffry Sanker.

  • Mike

    @Steve: You’re right. The White Parties in Miami and Palm Springs are not related and it seems just the name “White Party” has been co-opted in the name of money and profit in Palm Springs, which I find disheartening and disingenuous.

  • Zack

    I really don’t see why people get down on the party’s. If people want to go there to do drugs, have sex with multiple people and dance, good for them. If I was younger and in shape, I’d do the same thing.

  • Ian

    Circuit parties exist merely for the narcissistic and/or those thinking they need the perfect body for their own self-esteem gym bunnies to be total drug snorting whores who attend various orgies and get STD’s and also a number of HIV sero-conversions. Yeah, that’s SO socially responsible.

    No wonder more and more young gay people are increasingly having the good sense to avoid the “mecca’s” of old in San Francisco, Miami, & NYC that exist to use young gays for sexual gratification then throw them away like dirty kleenex’s. And don’t say that the richer gays don’t prey on the younger like that, I used to work with runaway’s so I know the score.

    As gays slowly become more and more incorporated into the social fabric of society expect to see these disgusting and socially irresponsible circuit parties slowly shrink and become out of favor.

  • Michael

    Sounds like an effort to shield a bit more of the cash from Uncle Sam. As an attendee, I’d be careful attempting to deduct this on your 1040 as a “non-reimbursed employee business expense”.

  • alan brickman

    the fund raising for these events is tokeep a bunch of self-absorbed queens from having to hold real jobs…happens at gay pride too…

  • Steve

    @Ian: It is perfectly ok to have a large fund raising event annually. And it is perfectly ok for that event to look a lot like a party. Even if the purpose is not charitable, there is nothing wrong with having a party.

    The problem is not the party. The problem is that some behaviors happen at these events that would not be acceptable in any other context. And, those behaviors really should not be acceptable in these contexts. Unsafe sex on the dance floor, or in a back room, is just not accepted behavior any more.

    Unfortunately, each young man has to learn for himself. The public education campaigns that the gay community did years ago, to inform everyone how to avoid disease, benefited the people who were in the communities at that time. But, each new crop of young men also needs that education, and needs to internalize it. The public health education campaigns need to be ongoing. It isn’t a once-and-done kind of thing.

    Maybe we just need to have chaperons at these things, to keep it safe and sane.

  • Sam

    You can go to the White Party, stay sober, have safer sex or no sex at all, and just have fun.

    IMO it is someone’s personal choice to use drugs and PNP, engage in dangerous/reckless sexual behaviour or bareback/swallow.

    @Ian-I agree with you about Circut parties and the whole PNP thing.

    I also agree with you about gay ghettos like SF/NYC, Fire Island, Palm Springs, Provincetown/P-town, and Miami with old rich gay men who just want to do the Hump and Dump with younger men.

    Then you have guys who are Poz and who don’t have safer sex at all and they don’t care who they infect or reinfect and they are in denial about how you can get other strains of HIV or get reinfected, and not to mention the other nasty STDs that are not good for someone with a compromised immune system.

  • Cam

    So people spend $1,000 on the right pants to go to the White Party to donate $40.00 to charity. Maybe they could have just mailed the charity the pants.

  • prohomo

    Well said,IAN, STEVE, and SAM.

  • Tim

    I dont see it as any different than HRC & Glaad’s stupid attempt to brand its dinner parties as responsible political events.

    Either way, if you dont like these kind of parties, dont go.

  • Daez

    The problem with promoting sex orgies as gay cultural events is that it gives even more fuel to the other side. This isn’t the image that we need to give Fundies to use when they decry our culture.

  • JusticeontheRocks

    @Tim: The difference is its easier to get blow at the White Party, easier to get a blow job at the HRC dinner.

  • KennyKena

    Queerty needs to remove “Free of an agenda” from it’s title. This “news article” is nothing but hateful, one sided, ignorant, stereotype filled BS. Everyone makes choices for themselves, good and bad. Let people have their fun, spend their money on what they choose and if you don’t like or enjoy a certain scene, then avoid it. This article serves no purpose other than to judge, badger and spread misconceptions. We get enough of that from the likes of Mike Savage, Fred Phelps and Rush Limbaugh. We don’t need it from our own “community.” The writer should be ashamed of himself.

  • Jonathan

    @KennyKena: But what about personal responsibility and the messages we send our young people who look to older gay men for guidance?

  • KennyKena

    @Jonathan: I believe individuals are responsible for their own actions. To blame Sanker or the events for the actions of those attending is irresponsible. So, if you want to send a message to young people, send one of personal responsibility and maybe they will understand that what they do has consequences instead of blaming someone else for their “mistakes.”

  • Spike


    Good point, Queerty’s ‘Free of an Agenda’ is as boguse as Fox New’s ‘Fair & Balanced’ . . .

    And when they go after the Black Party, White Party, Atlantis Cruises with judgement and condemnation, they are no different then the God Hates Fags church.

    Queerty’s agenda is clear anti-fun, anti-hot sex, anti-freedom of choice and pro any and everything that is Davey Wavey.

    Been there done that regarding the WPPS, but see no reason to hate on the boys that will be there this weekend, partying, rolling, having sex, being with their friends, meeting new friends, having sex with new friends, and just having fun.

  • Cedric

    This is sort of a bunch of bullshit. Queerty, and a whole lot of the commenters, who are you to say what’s acceptable and what’s not? Just because some people refuse to fit into your homonormative concept of what it means to be gay doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right do just that.

    We can’t possibly succeed in our fight for rights if we keep telling members of our community that they’re disgusting, that they’re the wrong kind of gay.

  • DavyJones

    I don’t see the article, condemning the WPPS, no saying they’re disgusting; rather it’s saying that this Party is about ‘fun’ not ‘Gay Rights Advocacy’. Which is true.

  • B

    No. 18 · Cam wrote, “So people spend $1,000 on the right pants to go to the White Party to donate $40.00 to charity. Maybe they could have just mailed the charity the pants.”

    Look at the pictures of this party. There’s no way you have to spend $1000 on clothes given the minimal amount actually worn – unless you have something to hide.

    My guess – the vitriol directed by some commentators (in general, not directed at Cam) regarding this party is on the average directly proportional to their body-mass index and inversely proportional to their sex drives.

  • Habit Rouge

    Why is it always assumed that people who are anti-circuit parties are always overweight horn dogs?

    The gay male community (i don’t know about lesbians)is seriously divided and it’s usually because there’s one side that is unabashedly hedonistic, it’s all fun and games, sex, circuit parties etc, and the other is about getting down to business and really trying to incorporate us into the mainstream so that for once and for all being gay is the same as being Jewish or some other minority.

    I recently read “And The Band Played On,” the saddest thing is that history is repeating itself. We don’t have bath houses like we used to, they’ve just been replaced by circuit parties.

  • no thanks

    @Habit Rouge:

    Amen. But don’t try to convince the old trolls on this comment board. They’d fight to the death for their right to bare back without consequence (legal or otherwise) rather than admit that we continue to kill each other and affirm a bankrupt culture of the past.

  • Black Pegasus

    I agree with Queerty’s point of view on the White Party. It’s just a big bash for a bunch of self-absorbed vapid queens who only seek out surface and superficial interactions.. Most of them will be visiting the local clinic for some antibiotics a week after the party. Fuck those uppity whores. lol

  • B

    No. 30 · Habit Rouge wrote, “Why is it always assumed that people who are anti-circuit parties are always overweight horn dogs?”

    I think it is more the assumption that people who are vehemently opposed to circuit parties have some issues of their own.

    While I’ve never been to a circuit party, I’m not going to criticize people by making gross exaggerations such as that in No. 32 where “Black Pegasus claims that most of those going will need some antibiotics a week after the party.

    If you check the rates per 100,000 people in 2009 for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are 14.7, 409.2, and 99.1 respectively. Given those rates, it is hard to see how you could infect over 50% of a population in a few days (and the biggie in this list, the chlamydia rate, is 3 times higher for women than for men).

  • tony x

    Didn’t the White Party Start as an HIV fundraiser? Yes we all know what goes on now. But isnt it better to try and have a positive impact agian.

    Only one of his parties I went to was the NYE 2000 party in Miami Beach. 10,000 People.

    An few were drinking – except water.

  • B

    You guys might want to read which included a survey of people going to the White Party.

    It seems that what is actually going on is a bit different than what some are assuming.

    The survey’s motivation was described by the following statement: “In about 1997, the straight and gay press and some gay journalists in the United States began writing stories vilifying circuit parties, claiming they were virtual cesspools of reckless drug users having lots of risky sexual behaviours. There was virtually no data supporting these claims, so with the approval of the University of California a study was designed which proposed four simple questions: 1. Does a problem exist? 2. What is the nature of the problem? 3. Can risky groups or risky situations be identified? 4. Can innovative interventions be developed?”

    While there seems to be a lot of drug use, 10% or so used no drugs at all. A lot (obviously not all of the drug users described themselves as “savvy”, with their behavior described as follows: “They get a good night’s sleep, eat lightly and well, hydrate, titrate, space out what they take, and they take days off in between certain drugs. Come Monday and Tuesday they either stay at the hotel to kind of ‘chill out’ and relax or they go home, but do not go back to work for a day or two. At the other extreme, there are people who will put their hand out and take almost anything. Often these people are newer to the club scene.”

    A lot of people show up in groups: “Almost half of the people at these parties were in partnered relationships and 51% were single. ‘Single’ is a bit of a misnomer as people going to these large circuit parties generally travel with groups of friends and there are a lot of rituals in preparing for it: going to the gym together; buying drugs; working on party outfits; and basically partying, dancing and being in hotels as a group of friends.”

    There can be a lot sexual activity but if it is by and large between people who came in a group and have been having sex with each other before they arrived, you are not going to see a major spike in STD transmissions during the party.

    Then there was the reasons for going to the party: “During the question portion of the survey a Likert scale was developed and people were asked to endorse these reasons, from ‘least I agree’ to ‘most I agree’. The reasons were numerous: to have sex; be wild and reckless; to escape from AIDS messages; to have fun; to do drugs; or just to dance. The item that was endorsed the first by far was ‘to be with friends’.”

  • peter

    If the White Party has gotten that big, it is certainly large enough to accommodate both good times and a little activism.

    The other day I finally got around to watching “Bent”, which documented how the Nazis shut down Berlin’s vibrant gay scene overnight. I think few gays appreciate just how tentative and fragile these little islets of tolerance on which we party are: et in Arcadia ego.

  • Rodrigo

    @Peter Excellent point. Think about how the cops suddenly marched into and raided gay bars in Texas and Georgia less than 2 years ago. The community should be more aware that tolerance is fragile, as you said.

    As for the White Party, be nice girls! Don’t let your ass hang out in public now.

  • ragou

    @B: Interesting study, though in the section covering drug usage it reports: “66 individuals (9%) used nothing and 142 individuals (10%) used 1 substance.” 66 is not even half of 142, let alone 9/10ths of it; shady math indeed unless I’m considering the statistics improperly. Irregardless, 81% of the attendies (with a considerable sample size of ~1200 persons) taking 2 or more recreational drugs during one or more of the 3-day durations is to me an incredibly alarming number, considering how drugs supposedly lower one’s inhibitions toward such behaviors as performing safer sex.

  • peter

    Rodrigo, I wouldn’t go that far, lol! I mean, we all need a place where we can let our ass hang out from time to time: the White Party serves that purpose, too. There’s nothing wrong with getting laid; there’s nothing wrong with having casual sex and even multiple partners. We shouldn’t let the fact that straight people do stuff like this all the time yet we’re the ones who get tagged as ‘promiscuous’ turn us into a bunch of prudes! But do it responsibly, horny, not high, and above all safely. There’s no reason why gays can’t be at once sexual and politically/socially aware — especially if they are not high as kites!

  • Arturo

    I went to this event with the presumption that it would be this drug-fueled mecca full of hot-bodied narcisstic gays and their daddies. Boy did I drink the Kool Aid! I had a blast.

    It never felt anything like that. From the onset I stepped foot into the Pool Party I felt welcome. Granted I’m not a hot body (I hate being skinny, to be honest) or even gave myself the time of day to shave, it was fun being in the crowd among beautiful people.

    I agree that Mr. Sanker shouldn’t have described his White Party as a charitable event – in fact, it’s hard to assume where the money goes to (after all, he makes profit, and some of his profit goes to charity, and so will the other companies that sponsor the event).

    But I completely disagree that you use the party as a scapegoat for what already happens in our own community, especially online. That stuff – the unsafe sex, drug use, and exercising to keep our bodies fit (excuse us while we try to maintain a good physique/health) – will happen no matter where we’re at, but to point the finger at this event for such things is completely irresponsible. We’re old enough to know what kind of risks we’re putting ourselves into. Blame those irresponsible for their own behavior. Let them get high. Let them have sex. Let them RUN FREE!

    You’re putting too much negative energy on people that you can’t even see that you’re sucking the fun out of your life.

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