By Emelina Minero
Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party Palm Springs, commonly known as WPPS, is the largest gay dance music festival in the world, bringing over 30,000 men to Palm Springs, CA. As the largest gay music festival in the world, WPPS brings world-class, grammy winning DJs and amazing talent each year, with past years including Lady Gaga, Carmen Electra, Jennifer Lopez, Icona Pop, Kelis, Ke$ha, Deborah Cox, Boy George, Mary J. Blige, Robyn, Estelle and more.
WPPS is a mix of dancing, performances, pool parties and a carnival on Sunday. Sunday’s T-Dance party brings out attendees in all types of attire. You can expect men dressed in underwear, a bunny suite, shorts and a t-shirt and burning man extravagance. This year’s T-Dance will have two Ferris wheels, and the night will culminate with the biggest fireworks display in White Party history.
Sanker has been called “the high priest of gay parties” by The Miami Herald and “the sultan of soirees” by Next Magazine, and with 2014 marking the 25th anniversary of WPPS, Sanker is going all out.
In celebration of the 25th Anniversary, Sanker has created the White Party Palm Springs Icon Awards. These awards recognize a select group of people whose unique and varied achievements have stood out to best embody the spirit of White Party.
“We are thrilled to present our special Icon Awards to individuals who have exemplified White Party’s defining principles of unity & celebration, commitment to excellence and leading edge creativity,” said Sanker. “I look forward to presenting those attending recipients their awards on the White Carpet at this year’s Saturday main event.”
Exciting for us, the award recipient list is long. Cher, Kathy Griffin, Lady Gaga, Lance Bass, Carmen Electra, Elton John, director and activist Bryan Singer, NoH8 Campaign’s Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, reality star Lisa Vanderpump and BRAVO TV personality Andy Cohen are some of the people on the award recipient list.
If this sounds overwhelming, instead of exciting, you can still have a great time at WPPS. The size of this party and the lean bodied men in the promotional photos could make some men feel like they may not fit in, but that’s far from the truth. We scoured the web for people’s experiences at WPPS, and found Adam’s, a writer for homorazzi.com.
As someone who gets intimidated by larger events, Adam always felt welcome and like he fit in. And as a skinny man, he didn’t feel like he needed to hit the gym before arriving to Palm Springs. “Even if you don’t look like the buff gods in most of the publicity stills from this party,…anything goes at WPPS from lean, to built to bear, and all can have a great time,” said Adam.
Adam also commented on the racial diversity at WPPS. “Despite the monochromatic name, this is possibly the most racially diverse group I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Adam.
The takeaway from Adam’s experience was to expect diversity, and not to judge a book by his cover. Some men assume WPPS is filled with a lot of body-obsessed circuit boys and men who just want to hook up, and that is some of the population at WPPS, but that’s not the only population at WPPS. Also, when at WPPS, don’t judge a guy by his physique, whether its ripped or flabby. Once you start talking to the people at WPPS, you’ll realize that their human experience is richer than the labels you put on them: bear, circuit boy, twink, etc.
“I met some amazing guys…the majority, if not nearly all that I met, are extremely professional and educated men who like to play as hard as they work. It’s a great group,” said Adam.
Your experience at WPPS will be whatever you want to make it. For a behind-the-scenes look at WPPS, we recommend you read Adam’s recap of WPPS 2013 on homorazzi.com. For a rundown on the events this year and what to expect from them, check out “White Party Palm Springs 25th Anniversary, Apr 25-28 2014 Announcement” on homorazzi.com. Adam lays out all of the events and gives his opinion on each.
To help you get the full experience of what WPPS is like, we chatted with the founder, Jeffrey Sanker. Sanker talked to us about his passion for event planning, what inspired him to create WPPS and shared his advice for first timers.
What about event planning for the gay community impassions you?
I get to create events where people come together, dance, celebrate and have fun. For me, it’s all about the “wow” factor. I love being creative and doing things that have never been done before.
What inspired you to create WPPS?
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 tradition for so many, including more and more international travelers each year. Now White Party Palm Springs is the largest gay dance music festival in the world!
In what ways can we expect WPPS to be bigger this year for the 25th anniversary?
Everything will be bigger and better. Events have been re-imagined and re-designed. For example, The Saturday night main event will feature the most innovative and elaborate video displays ever experienced
How did it feel to be added to the Palm Springs WALK OF STARS?
I feel very humbled. It is such an honor to be recognized by the Palm Springs community in such a beautiful way and to have my name alongside such legends as Bob Hope, George Hamilton and even a few former U.S. Presidents! My parents were absolutely thrilled and flew out to attend the ceremony!
What has your relationship been like with Palm Springs?
There’s no place on earth like Palm Springs. I love the warm weather, the beautiful mountains and the desert is truly a magical place. The people of Palm Springs welcome us back every year, which makes it all the more special. I have a wonderful relationship with the City Council and everyone at City Hall and each year we work together to make White Party a win-win for all involved.
What advice do you have for first timers going to WPPS?
Pace yourself. Drink Lots of Water. Wear Sunscreen. Make new friends and life-long memories. Oh, and bring sunglasses!
Outside of WPPS, what restaurants, places or excursions do you suggest for people who are traveling to Palm Springs for the first time?
There is so much to do in Palm Springs I don’t know where to begin. I think BEFORE guests begin their WPPS weekend adventure, a great place to start is by going up the tram to the top of the mountain. It’s spectacular and you can almost see to Arizona, and my favorite time of day is when the sun sets and the lights of the city come on. And a visit to Sherman’s Deli, two blocks from the Renaissance host hotel is a must – all the boys are on the patio deck and it’s a virtual parade of people on the sidewalk! That’s where you will find me – so be sure to say, “Hi!”
What has been your most rewarding experience since creating WPPS?
What is most rewarding is when attendees tell me that after coming to White Party they have memories for a lifetime, or that they met their longtime partner at White Party. I love hearing that. It really touches me and affirms why I love what I do. And today everyone is so connected to a wide ranging group of friends via all the social networks and Facebook, but often times they never meet each other except in cyberspace – and White Party finally gives them a chance to all gather as a group in one place face to face.
WPPS is April 25-28, 2014, and you can get your tickets now. If you’ve never gone before, the 25th anniversary is the time to go (jeffreysanker.com).