Powerhouse Nightlife Producer Jeffrey Sanker Dead at 62

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday May 30, 2021
Originally published on May 29, 2021

Jeffrey Sanker, who took LGBTQ nightlife and the circuit party to stratospheric levels, died on Friday, May 28 at age 62, from liver cancer.

"Jeffrey was a long-time friend. He was an iconic figure in gay history with his creation of the White Party," wrote former West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran in a text to the Los Angeles Blade. "For many gay men, he created a space for them to find their tribe and sexuality. While he had his critics — he loved his gay community and left a lasting mark. So many of us found a place to belong because of his vision."

Sanker moved to Los Angeles in the late 80s, and over the years built an empire out of his signature events, known for voluminous crowds, alluring go-go boys, and some of the world's most prominent entertainers and DJs from Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez to Junior Vasquez, Victor Calderone and more.

Over the decades, White Party Palm Springs had become one of Sanker's signature events. In more recent years, the entrepreneur had invested resources in Puerto Vallarta. EDGE spoke with Sanker in the summer of 2020 about the future of nightlife amid the pandemic.

"We called them fly-ins," said Sanker of the early years in Palm Springs. In its heyday (before social media and the Internet), word-of-mouth and a dedicated customer base helped catapult Sanker's Coachella Valley weekender into legend status.

At its peak, White Party Palm Springs booked upwards of 9,000 hotel rooms. Sanker said the city estimated more than $1 million in tax revenue per weekend from hotel rooms alone but that the three decades of parties also helped elevate the region's real estate market. As his clientele matured, so did their spending power, with many long-time attendees buying second homes or eventually moving to the desert oasis.

Never to be discouraged, Sanker pivoted to produce White Party Live, quickly gathering DJs and talent for a live Facebook stream to raise funds for DJs as well as charitable donations for UNICEF. In 2014, Carmen Electra presented Sanker with a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

Sanker, never one to rest on his laurels, was eager to expand his international footprint, having invested in Puerto Vallarta's nightlife scene as the owner of Industry nightclub. He described the fun-loving city as "the last frontier of the gay bar," with an international clientele drawn to investment opportunities as well as the nightlife and beaches.

Several charities benefited from Sanker's events over the years, including The Trevor Project, Desert AIDS Foundation and Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH).

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.