Are you going to the White Party? There are quite a few ways to ask and interpret this question. Some would lean towards “I wouldn’t be caught dead there” while others might say, “Of course I’m Going”. Regardless of your love it or hate it relationship with the monster of a circuit party, you have certainly heard about it if Weho is one of your stomping grounds… and I honor your opinion.
I attended my first White Party in the spring of 1999 (Eighteen years ago (I was seven-years-old)). I have a faint memory of purchasing some over-priced mesh, white sweatpants, a white t-shirt, white tennis shoes, and an assortment of drugs that would ensure my good time.
My friend Scott had purchased baseball caps for a handful of his friends that read “XKG”. If you were, a partier, you wouldn’t need an interpreter to explain that the letters meant I was doing Ecstasy, Special K, and GHB (in that order). If I am dating myself with my old-hat substance use; the Ecstasy pill (when good) was a soothing roll of dynamic happiness that felt awesome like the peak of a good yawn, then a few bumps (sniffed powder) of Special K (Ketamine- a drug used to tranquilize large animals) would ease the downward roll of the ecstasy and lift me into another dimension, and a water-bottle-cap of GHB was added to the drug cocktail when I was ready to mellow out, cuddle, and possibly get date-raped.
I didn’t wear the “XKG” hat. But the rest of the outfit, dosed with some substances, awesome music, visual ambience, live performers, and half-naked men… I was in Heaven. I didn’t think it could get any better, but I was proved wrong when Erin Hamilton took to the Splash Pool Party stage and performed her peaking dance-club single remake of “Dream Weaver”. I remember asking nearby strangers if that was really Erin, and they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I am sure they would have understood the question if I too had taken the GHB.
Looking back at photos I have in my photo album, I am reminded of the alleged awesome white outfit, the laughs, music, sex (with a friend I promised myself I would never have sex with and I thought he was a woman in that moment), and old friends that I used to hang with. Of the recognizable seven friends, three of them are dead. Scott shot up Special K and drowned in a pool. Troy was so sweet and overdosed on GHB. Ron… well, I don’t know how Ron passed, but I am sure it was drug related. I am grateful to be alive and thank my Higher Power daily for the gift of sobriety that I have nurtured for twelve years.
Clearly, this is not everyone’s path. The White Party is not evil. In fact, it is a brilliant, elaborately executed Rainbow (sounds better than LGBTQ) party. I was fortunate enough to attend this year with an all-access media pass and I was able to witness up close and personal how well organized the event actually is.
Behind the scenes, you have the PR Team (thank you Phil & Kyle), and the king himself, Jeffrey Sanker who flag shipped this party 28-years ago. These guys have re-invented the White Party annually and kept it interesting for nearly three decades and reeled in 30,000 attendees this year.
I have worked in and promoted clubs for many years and it is not easy maintaining a club-night or yearly event. I attempted to speak with Jeffrey Sanker at the party to ask him his secret… and he held up the “hold on for a moment finger” that lasted fifteen minutes, so I moved on. Note to self, do not try to strike up a conversation with someone who sees you as a stranger while they are entertaining a party of 30,000. Jeffrey… I’ll be following up with you soon.
I drove in on Thursday evening (5/4/17) and returned to my Weho home on Tuesday. A week later, I am still recovering. I lost some of my voice in Palm Springs and still feel the vibration of pounding, thumping house music in my head.
The White Party boasts about incorporating eight parties over the four-day duration. I was only able to attend four and I think that’s a pretty valiant effort. There were so many jaw-dropping, show-stopping moments that I think I am better off suggesting you check it out… maybe see it as a Las Vegas show…your bucket list?
One of my not-sober friends approached me and asked me, “Why are you here?”, indicating that this was no place for a person in recovery from drug addiction. I replied, “Why are you here? To have Fun? Right?” I don’t think either of us was satisfied with my answer. I made him feel like an asshole. And I asked myself “What the hell am I doing in this potentially harmful, triggering environment. I carried on with taking pictures and getting video footage of what I found to be quite fantastic.
I have to say that my friend did have a point. This environment has the potential to take some people down. And rather than ignoring this fact, The White Party has taken action to provide risk reduction. I was delightfully shocked when I saw the recovery meetings listed on the White Party’s website. Not only did they offer meetings at the host hotel, but they incorporated ImpulseLA into all of the events. I felt a sense of relief every time I came upon the ImpulseLA sponsored room. ImpulseLA describes themselves on Twitter as “Just a group of young guys educating our peers about sexual health”. Yes, they had onsite testing, brochures, etc., but they also provided a safe place for people who were sober… or needing a break. I am grateful for these guys.
There was incredible line-up of DJs who’s names I can’t remember … so I won’t name them, but they were brilliant. The laser light shows were orgasmic to watch, and the performances that I was able to witness were pretty phenomenal. The first performers to catch everyone’s eyes were The White Party’s Go-Go Dancer Men. Had you asked me at the time of the party, I would have described them as good looking men in underwear, socks, and tennis shoes doing their own interpretative dance to the DJ’s tunes. After reviewing my video, I am resenting myself for not getting a closer look. These guys were physically, insanely, beautiful. And I hate them. And I am single… in case they are reading this. “Hi, guys.”
I am by no means a judge when it comes to drag. But when I see talent, it is clear as day. When Shangela pranced down the runway lip-syncing to a dance remix of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (Melanie Amaro’s version) I was like “yaaaas”… and I don’t even say, “yes” like that.
The highlight of the actual White Party on Saturday night was a late night performance by Maya Simantov of the song “Everybody Needs a Man”. I looked at the crowd through sober eyes and realized that this performance was probably someone out there’s “Erin Hamilton, “Dreamweaver” moment.
My favorite party of the four I attended has to be the Sunday T-Dance, which happens to be the finale of the eight parties. The weather was perfect, the DJ’s once again killed it, the immense Ferris wheel made the party feel expensive. The night concluded with this year’s Queen of the White Party, Kyle Richards, addressing Jeffrey and the partiers with some gratitude. She then shared a heartfelt introduction of the 80’s Icon, Belinda Carlisle, who then glided onto the stage singing “Mad About You.”
I have always been a GoGos and Belinda fan, but I have to say the moment that she took down the house was when she made a shout-out to her gay son in the audience. It was nice to see Belinda as a mother who supported her gay son and shouted it with pride. I have suffered from a degree of self-hate and internalized homophobia for liking some of the things I do and to hear a mother acknowledging her son in the crowd of “Shenanigans” made this a sweet experience. The T-Dance literally concluded with a bang of fireworks that lit up Palm Springs and once again made the event feel expensive… and I liked that because I had a media pass.
Will you be going to the White Party 2018? I hope so… and I hope to see you there, having fun, dancing, and celebrating your rainbow life.