Jeffrey Sanker, founder of White Party Palm Springs, dies at 65

Jeffrey Sanker Dead

Jeffrey Sanker, center, poses with party goers at the White Party Palm Springs 2019. Photo: Iggy Lopez.

Jeffrey Sanker, who created the nation’s largest circuit party and was criticized last year for hosting a New Year’s Eve party near Puerto Vallarta during the height of COVID-19, has died following a battle with liver cancer, according to media reports.

The 65-year-old party promoter, who moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and lived in West Hollywood, died at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Friday with family members at his bedside, according to reports.

Publicist Jack Ketsoyan told The Desert Sun in Palm Springs that Sanker’s family would release a statement Monday.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Sanker got his party feet in the West Hollywood scene by producing parties at Studio One and The Factory.

Sanker, who owned White Party Entertainment, founded White Party Palm Springs more than 30 years ago. The circuit party in the desert takes place in the spring, usually close to Easter, and attracts thousands of gay men from various regions of the United States and around the globe. The multi-day event includes pool parties, themed parties, and after hours fanny bumpers.

Last year’s White Party Palm Springs was canceled due to COVID-19, and this year’s gathering is scheduled for Halloween.

Sanker faced intense criticism in December when he produced a New Year’s Eve party in Puerto Vallarta. A few days before the event, as the city faced a lockdown with hospitals near capacity, government officials in the state of Jalisco canceled all end of the year celebrations. 

Despite pleas from locals, Sanker moved his party to neighboring Nuevo Vallarta, which didn’t have the same restrictions on gatherings. The incident went viral on social media. Instagram users called out Sanker, saying he was promoting a “super-spreader event.”

Sanker asked ticket holders to stay quiet and not release the location of the event or post any videos, though the resort address and footage were shared on social media, and the firestorm against Sanker escalated.

Numerous media outlets attempted to reach Sanker before and after the party, but he refused to give any interviews.

Sanker started promoting parties in New York City in the early 1980s while working at Studio 54 and Palladium.

He also threw parties in Miami and Las Vegas.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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