June 2006

White Hot Spotlight
Sanker Adds L.A.-based DJ and Pop Music Video Room To White Party

Entrepreneur Jeffrey Sanker is shaking things up a bit for this year’s White Party. For this season’s festivities, titled “White Party Spring Break 2006,” he’s adding a Pop Music Video Room as one of the attractions. On Friday, April 14th, in the ballroom at the Wyndham Hotel, the new addition titled “TigerHeat” will be unveiled for the first time. Although TigerHeat is a regular event for those who pack themselves into L.A.’s famed Arena every Thursday night, it will be something new for a White Party experience. It’s a definite twist from the usual circuit music, whether it be trance or all-out anthems, and Sanker feels that the L.A.-based DJ Ray Rhodes, with the pop audio-video show he’s famous for, is perfect for a different kind of spin, especially for the seventeen year-old staple. For those who remember back to the first White Party in 1990, it began as a small event in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, when Sanker was looking to get people out of the doldrums of the “dark, dingy nightclubs.” When reflecting back, Sanker said, “At that time, I think the people were ready for something bright and fresh.” He also feels that TigerHeat will be a fun alternative to those who are seeking something a bit different than the usual fare. When I caught up with Sanker and asked him about the new addition, he said, “Ray Rhodes and TigerHeat always attract a fresh, young and hot crowd, and we are thrilled to welcome them as part of our line-up for White Party Spring Break 2006. White Party is the ultimate spring break getaway, and Ray and the TigerHeat boys will be bringing things to a boil inside the Rascal/Tiger Heat room on Friday night at INFERNO at The Wyndham Hotel.”

When I asked him about how he got this whole thing started seventeen years ago, he said, “I remember I came out to the desert for the Dinah Shore weekend and I saw a bunch of lesbians dance around a ballroom and I thought, “Well, I think gay boys can do this better.” No one has been disappointed, especially the always optimistic man-in-charge. Sanker recalls “When the White Party Palm Springs began, it was with one truck, four speakers and a few lights.” It’s now grown to over 30,000 attendees seeking out‘n’out fun in and out of the sun. Even the City of Palm Springs now rates White Party as its number one annual tourist revenue generator, surpassing even their largest trade conventions, film festivals and golf tournaments. For many attendees, it’s the official beginning of spring, or as it’s now referred to as “Spring Break.” Not bad for a man with a dream. Even better that it’s a gay man who had this dream, which has surpassed his original vision beyond his wildest imagination. Yes, Jeffrey Sanker was looking for a way to brighten the lives of gay men almost two decades ago. To say he’s succeeded would be a gross understatement. The gay community is grateful for his vision, but mostly for his tireless determination to celebrate our community in a positive light. Jeffrey concludes, “For me, to see people enjoy themselves, meeting people from all over the world that they’ll be friendly with the rest of their lives is a very meaningful experience.”

DJ Ray Rhodes

DJ Ray Rhodes, well known for his weekly "TigerHeat" video dance club sets at L.A’s. Arena on Thursday nights, as well as the DJ/music producer for KBIG 104.3's top-rated "Disco Saturday Night," has been added to White Party Weekend.  He will spin at the first ever all pop music video room on Friday, April 14th, in the ballroom at The Wyndham Hotel from 1AM-4AM. Rhodes is one of a select group of DJ's to be included in this year's White Party Weekend.

When I asked Rhodes what the party-goers can expect, he said, “We pride ourselves on delivering the hottest and newest music from America and the U.K., and we basically fill our format on the past ten years of pop hits. If it’s not a hit, we’re not gonna play it! It’s an amazing feeling when you’re on the dancefloor and you know every song.” Typically, the White Party usually fills the air with circuit music, I curiously asked him if this was because he disliked the typical music fare. He said, “No, I’m not trying to put down that music, it’s great, but mine is a totally different feeling.” And what demographic was he looking for? He explained, “I think the whole point of this year’s White Party, which is called ‘Spring Break,’ is that Jeffrey’s trying to build more of a youth following. The circuit party world has been around for so long and the people who are in love with that are getting older and it’s time to bring in the new younger crop of people who don’t really know about the White Party and don’t really know what goes on. It’s amazing how many people I’ve spoken with that come to me at TigerHeat, which is about two-thousand people every Thursday night at Arena, and they all say they’ve heard of the White Party, they know where it is, but they’ve never been. So this is sort of our chance to bring our two worlds together.”

While I agree, a new crop of fresh blood can be interesting, not to mention opening up a new world to younger gay men, I wondered how this collaboration between Jeffrey Sanker and Rhodes came about. Ray explainjed, “Jeffrey comes to TigerHeat on Thursdays and looks out and sees two-thousand people he doesn’t know, and I go to his events and see thousands of people I don’t know, and we thought it would be great to combine forces. We both have been throwing this idea around for a couple of years. I work for Clear Channel Entertainment which owns Kiss FM in L.A., and Clear Channel also has sponsored the White Party for the past two years, so, we’ve all kind of been in the same family. Kiss FM and K-Big actually broadcast live last year from the White Party. We just finally decided this was the year we were going to do it.” As intrigued as I was listening to Rhodes tell me of his and Jeffrey’s ideas, I wondered how secure they felt with adding something completely new and out of the norm from past events. Rhodes conceded, “This is definitely an experiment, we hope for the best. We’re going to be pushing this at the TigerHeat crowd leading up to the White Party and we’ll see what happens. This is definitely a very exciting event for me because I wanted to show Jeffrey how great it can be.” I also wondered if Rhodes was concerned about competition, and he said, “No. Eddie X will be spinning in the main room and in the side room, you’re gonna have us. It’ll be really fun to see how people can go to both rooms. You may hear the Victor Calderone and the Tracey Young mix of “Hung Up” in the main room, and when you walk into our room you’re gonna see the music video of “Hung Up” in the original album form on the big screen.” 

Ticketing each individual event could get pricey, but Rhodes assured me, “The rooms will be connected, you won’t need a separate ticket, if you have a ticket to the Friday night INFERNO party, it will admit you to both rooms. There should be a lot of cross fabric between the two rooms.”

And the reasoning behind the change, Ray tells me, was that “Jeffrey wants to bring the ‘fun’ back to the party. Over the years, it’s definitely had its place and it’s been a great time, but it’s gotten a bit dark. He wants to add something different. This is for people who want to scream their heads off and have a great time. That’s what this room is about.”

This article first appeared in the BottomLine Magazine in Palm Springs, CA.

© 2006 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.