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The White Party is the name of a number of circuit parties held annually, catering to the LGBT communities. Its name comes from the requirement that party-goers dress in all or almost all white. White Parties have taken place in Miami, New York City, Chicago, Illinois, Huntsville, Alabama, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Palm Springs, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Feliz, California; and Montreal, Quebec, although the events are independent of each other.
In the gay community, the White Party is what is known as a circuit party, and it is just one of a hundred such events that take place around the country (and hundreds more around the globe) all year-round. There is also the Black Party in New York, the Black & Blue Festival in Montreal, Mardi Gras in Sydney, the White Party and the Winter Party in Miami, or One Mighty Weekend / GayDayS in Orlando.
The Miami White Party is an annual fundraiser party for HIV/AIDS research. The all-white clothing theme was chosen by co-founder Frank Wager because, as he said, "White stands for purity. White is elegant, non-political, non-combative and makes people look just plain beautiful." The very first White Party began 29 years ago as AIDS began decimating the gay population. Frank Wager and Jorge Suarez began planning an event they hoped would raise awareness - and a few dollars - to help fight HIV/AIDS in South Florida.
Frank, Jorge and their friends dropped leaflets outside gay bars all over Miami and Ft Lauderdale, got businesses to donate food and liquor and told everyone about the big “White” party. Sixteen hundred guests, asked to wear white, showed up that Sunday night, Dec. 1, 1985. Each paid $10. Wager, a Salvadoran-born real-estate entrepreneur, hadn't yet been diagnosed with HIV when the first White Party was held, which benefited Health Crisis Network (now known as Care Resource). "But there was a great sense of urgency that we had to do something fast because something really bad was happening to us."
The original menu wasn't elaborate. "It's embarrassing to say that at the first White Party, we had apples and cookies that some committee member donated," Suarez said. Everyone tried to outdo their friends by wearing lavish, often sexy, white outfits.
Frank Wagner died of AIDS in 1994, just 42 years old. "One thing Frank wanted to do was reach out to young people, to get out the message about safe sex," said Barbara Shack, his widow. "And it turned into this fabulous party."
Through the years, White Party has attracted celebrities including Nell Carter (who sang at the first White Party), Madonna, Calvin Klein, Jennifer Lopez, Yoko Ono, Crystal Waters, Expose, Lorna Luft and Cyndi Lauper. In 2013 emerging artist Kerli performed.
The one-night fundraiser has evolved into a week of events that kicks off on November 27 with events in Miami and Miami Beach. Most of the parties are geared to gay men from all over the globe, but there are several events for lesbians and mixed crowds as well.
White Party's early years didn't get much mainstream publicity. "Miami in 1984 was a very different place than it is now," Suarez said. Most gays were still in the closet, and HIV/AIDS carried a great stigma.
In 1995, more events joined the White Party, including "White Dreams" and "Muscle Beach". In 1998, the Health Crisis Network merged with Community Research Initiative, and the White Party Week brought in over $2 million for their efforts. It is now the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world. With DJs, performers and artists attending from all over the world, the electronic dance music has come to be renowned and a central part of the party. White Party CDs have been produced since 1996 with White Party remixes reaching the top of the dance charts.
The number of young people still contracting HIV is what keeps many people involved in White Party. Eric Mendez, a bioengineering student at Miami Dade College, was born in Miami the same year that Suarez and Wager began planning the first White Party. Mendez began volunteering at Care Resource while a ninth-grader at Miami Senior High. Until then, he knew no one his age with HIV. For Mendez, White Party is an optimistic celebration of life, not a remembrance of friends and lovers who died.
"It's more like gay men getting together because it's Thanksgiving," he said.
Care Resource, the producers of White Party Week, is a 501(c)(3) non profit medical agency operating with over 200 employees in Miami-Dade, Miami Beach and Broward County providing medical, counseling, testing, psychosocial, food bank services and more to their clients. White Party Week Miami attracts thousands of participants with a week of dance and fashionable events, mostly for an LGBT demographic. The signature White Party is the crown jewel event and the pinnacle of White Party Week. Historically held at Vizcaya, the renaissance mansion in Coconut Grove, the White Party now travels to different venues throughout South Florida.
In 2013 world-famous international DJ Offer Nissim spun for a crowd of thousands dressed all in white – from artists to circuit boys to electronic dance lovers. Muscle Beach Party and exclusive Women's events compliment the schedule of festivities. White Party Week Miami has been featured in W, Vanity Fair, Glamour, The New York Times, and has been the subject of documentaries on Bravo, The Travel Channel, the BBC with the documentary film "Fabulous" in 1999, Playboy Channel, and in two episodes of Queer as Folk. It is the setting for the 2001 documentary film When Boys Fly.
Palm Springs, California, also hosts an annual White Party. It was the partial setting for the 2001 feature film Circuit. The Palm Springs White Party was also featured in a 2004 episode of the television series The L Word and in a 2006 episode of the reality television series The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. The Palm Springs White Party was described by Frommer's Travel Guide as "one of the biggest and best on the US party circuit ... [with] over 20,000 gay men dressed in white. The Palm Springs White Party Sunday Tea Dance features a Ferris Wheel and a fireworks display." In 2004, The New York Times travel section featured an in-depth look at The White Party in Palm Springs in conjunction with staff members of Noizemag.
The New York City White Party was first held at the legendary private gay disco "Flamingo" on Broadway and Houston, on Presidents' Day weekend. The white theme derived from the snow often to be found that time of year. It was then adopted by the East Village disco "The Saint" during the month of February of each year usually coinciding with the full moon. Dress requirement was always white. After the closing of "The Saint" in 1988, The White Party became the norm for other cities around the country in the current circuit party system to host such events.
Every Easter Sunday in Montreal, a white party (Bal en Blanc) catering to both straight and gay ravers is held. It usually attracts over 16,000 attendees and prominent international DJs such as Armin Van Buuren, Above and Beyond, Offer Nissim, Peter Rauhofer, Deep Dish, Tiësto, David Guetta, and many others.
One of the first parties was held August 8, 1974, hosted by Chicago business owner Chuck Renslow to celebrate his birthday and thank his patrons. It was then held for the next 36 years until 2010. The largest party was held in 1986 at Navy pier with 5000 participants.
A white party was held for Sunee Plaza in Pattaya, Thailand, on November 15, 2009, as part of their Pride event. The party required all the staff in the gay bars to dress in white and will offer discounts to customers who also dress in white. The event featured street performers and many special events happening in the Plaza.
Every winter, a white party is held during the Arosa Gay Ski Week in Arosa, Switzerland, as part of the international gay ski event. The party called "White Snow Ball" hosted by the Jungle Gay Party promoters is the closing party of the festival and takes place at the Kursaal.
- "When Boys Fly" (2001), The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "White Party Spring Break", Frommer's Online Travel Guide. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
- Brown, Janelle (April 30, 2004). "Journeys: On Gay Circuit, The Party Never Ends". New York Times.
- Baim, Tracy; Keehnen, Owen (2011). Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow. CreateSpace. p. 414. ISBN 978-1461119081.
- "– Sunee Plaza . info white report".[dead link]
- "– Arosa Gay Ski Week, official program". Gayskiweek.ch. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- White Party (Florida) official site
- White Party (Palm Springs) official site
- Bal en Blanc (Montreal) official site
- Care Resource
- Party Finder Review & Photos: White Party Week Miami
- Sunee Plaza Info website
- Arosa Gay Ski Week, official program