03/17/2014 03:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Top 10: The Best Gay Dance Parties of All Time


Photo via: Jeffrey Sanker

It is time for a history lesson, but the topic is party... literally! This past weekend was the Winter Party in Miami and White Party-Palm Springs will be celebrating their 25th anniversary April 25-28th. Right now, there is a lot of buzz on Facebook and Twitter about these parties. All the posts and tweets made me wonder: How did all of these gay dance parties start? I called upon some "celebration historians" to bring you this brief chronicle of the gay dance party and the top ten list below.

I learned that Fire Island and New York had the first big gay dance parties. The Morning Party (Tea Dance) on Fire Island, and the gay pride events were big in NYC in the late 1970's. These parties are remembered as the best and most extravagant. The hot clubs in New York were the Flamingo, 12th Floor, and the Saint. The Copa was big in Ft. Lauderdale and Studio One in Los Angeles.

The gay dance parties in the 70s are described as being grand, extravagant, with big décor, and everyone showing up in costumes. Most of these parties had a dark room (back rooms for sex). These parties were known for incredible ideas, creative themes, sets, and the trendiest of crowds. For example, a Maneuvers-Military Party on the NYC pier had over 10,000 people in attendance and they watched as a helicopter repelled boys down on the pier. Now that is how you make an entrance!

In the 80s, I was told the parties really toned down because of the AIDS epidemic. There were less of the dark rooms and casual sex. Everyone was rightfully scared of AIDS. This disease definitely took a toll on the demeanor of everyone's spirit. But you can't keep a good gay down and they rallied together to create gay dance party foundations and fundraisers. (Miami's White Party and Hotlanta) These parties have raised millions of dollars for AIDS charities and more!

Onto the 90s and the birth of the circuit party. People from the 70s and 80s didn't seem to be a big fan of these parties. (They called them fly-ins) Regardless, these parties were very popular, and the continued into the 00s era. It seems the spirit of the 70s came back and everyone was ready to get out of the club an into an event space. These circuit parties were thrown in post offices, train stations, airplane hangers, a zoo, beaches, DisneyLand, theme parks, and more! There was a party every weekend in one of the major cities. (Red Party-Columbus, Motorball-Detroit, FireBall-Chicago, Zoo Party-San Diego, and the list goes on and on.)

Which brings us to the current times and the growth of a dance party becoming an actual festival. Music festivals feature more DJ's, live performances, headliners, as well as up and coming artists. Another sign of the times is less segregation in these gay music festivals. More and more gay boys go to other parties such as Coachella, Matinee events, and EDC. Also, it is not uncommon to have your straight friends want to join you at a gay music festival. It really has become more about the music, the venue, the performances, and the overall experience.

Currently the largest gay dance weekend in North America is the White Party-Palm Springs. After conducting my research I put together a list of my top ten gay dance parties of all time. This is highly subjective, so please feel free to comment and or tweet me. (@hammerbrad) I would love to hear about your favorite parties and anything you feel I left out!

Top 10: The Best Gay Gay Dance Parties of All Time

1. The White Party-Palm Springs:


Photo via: Jeffrey Sanker

What makes this event continue to lead the rest is a combination of several things. #1: The weather. #2: The support of the city of Palm Springs and the 35 percent gay population, which is largely due to this event. #3: The best live performances. #4: There is only one "cook in the kitchen," which means no committees and no associate promoters. This party is just one man's vision and that is what sets this event apart from all the other ones.

2. Black & Blue-Montreal:


Photo via: Bob Hendriks, BBCM Foundation

The production value is probably the best you'll ever see at any dance party event outside of a nightclub. The fact that this event falls over Columbus Day Weekend (US) and Canadian Thanksgiving has contributed to the staggering number of attendees. About half of the attendees are straight, which is a sign of the future and most parties being a mixed crowd.

3. The Saint at Large (NYC) - BLACK PARTY:


Photo via: Thompson & Robert Doyle

This event is based on the world of S&M/taboo and all the dark and adventurous avenues of sex. This party is untouchable because it is powered by the Saint at Large venue and the mentality of the old school days of New York clubbing. It is reminiscent of when there were NO rules. This event lives up to its wild reputation every year.

4. The Winter Party-Miami:


Photo via:

This event has great event spaces, such as the Muscle Beach Party. The gorgeous men that attend this party will keep it going strong. This party also has the advantage of great weather and a gay friendly host city.

5. Gay Days at Disney World-Orlando:


Photo: GayDays Magic Kingdom by Jeri Clcat

This weekend has something for EVERYONE to experience each year. The weekend is for gays, straights, circuit boys, lesbians, and even gay families with KIDS. As more and more gay people get married and have kids, this weekend will continue to grow and succeed, for as long as Disney World is still in operation! (With will be forever... right?)

6. White Party-Miami:


Photo via: Thompson & Robert Doyle

This party has it all! Three remarkable things that cannot be denied: Great weather, exceptional venues, and the money going to one of the oldest AIDS charities.

7. The Pines Party/The Morning Party (FIRE ISLAND):


Photo via:

Probably the first gay dance party ever held on the beach. The island is where the Tea Dance was born. Rich in history and legacy, this party never fails to impress.

8. Fireball-Chicago:


Photo via: Circuit Mom (pictured)

This was the party series that set the Midwest ablaze for over a decade. This party was known for amazing venues such as a working steel mill, the lobby of the historic Uptown Theater, Union Station, and The Museum of Science and Industry.

9. Southern Decadence-New Orleans:


Photo via: KAMENITZ

This is the biggest gay event in New Orleans and surrounding areas. The street party runs around-the-clock, and the Southern Decadence circuit party dance events take place at night.

10. Purple Party-Dallas:


Photo via: Bryan Frazier/Purple Foundation

Another really impressive foundation party that has donated over a half a million dollars to donate to local AIDS charities. This party has put Dallas on the gay party list of cities to visit for almost 15 years.