Pageantry par excellence
On the Town
Special report from Imperial Coronation 2008
by Donna Sachet
Imperial Coronation Weekend began last Thursday with the In-Town Show and Awards at Encore in the Polk neighborhood. Emcees Keith and Gladys Bumps kept things rolling as the drinks flowed, the entertainment proceeded, and tongues wagged with speculation over the results of the previous Saturday's voting for Emperor and Empress. Friday began with a reception at Marlena's honoring the monarchs celebrating anniversaries of their reigns, followed by the Out-of-Town Show at the host hotel, Holiday Inn Golden Gateway. This was the first chance for many to catch up with old friends, and a great opportunity to sample the broad range of talent within the International Court System. Afterwards, the bars in the Castro certainly knew that there were thirsty visitors in town.
Saturday afternoon, Emperor Steven Rascher hosted the Portland Party at the New Metro with a campy Emperor and Empress of Alcatraz contest and a boisterous crowd of visitors and locals. The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon and San Francisco have long enjoyed a special relationship, and this event raised money and reignited old friendships. Then it was on to the main event, Imperial Coronation 2008, Starstruck: Be Jeweled and Be Dazzled, at the Gift Center Pavilion. This is a night for titles, ornamentation, and pageantry, and our table was no exception, including Emperor I Marcus Hernandez, Empresses XXIX Anita Martini and XXXI Cockatielia, International Mr. Leather 1992 Lenny Broberg, Mr. San Francisco Leather 1995 Gary Virginia and 2004 Julian Marshburn, Ms. SF Leather Queen Cougar, Mr. Gay Montana Michael Loftis, and Eric Forbes. The stage was decorated simply, reflecting the Erte theme, as Carly Ozard and Emperor T.J. Istvan beautifully sang the national anthems, Reverend Lyle Beckman of Night Ministry delivered an invocation, and court title-holders launched the show with a lively musical production number. Interspersed throughout the evening were other entertainers, including each of the candidates for office, several command performers, most notably Miss Trannyshack 2008 Pollo del Mar, and a group from the Court of Hawaii showcasing traditional hula dancing. Some 30 visiting courts from across the country and Canada were represented, and paraded in all their finery across the stage, most dazzling with regal presentations, but some puzzling with casual disregard for the event. City recognition came from San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros, and state recognition from California Assemblyman Mark Leno.
One of the most moving Coronation traditions is acknowledgement of anniversaries of the past reigns. A brief historical tribute was read for those monarchs who have died: Empress III Shirley, who reigned 40 years ago, and Emperor VI Jim Ostlund and Empress XIII Char, who reigned 30 years ago. Emperor I Marcus Hernandez, swathed in a tremendous leather cape, addressed the crowd touchingly on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of his reign. 20-year anniversary celebrant Emperor XVI Steven Rascher limped on stage with a walker and gave the audience a taste of his sense of humor in a tribute to his deceased Empress XXIII Lily Street. Celebrating 10 years, Emperor Fred Lewis and Empress Alexis Miranda lit up the stage with brightly costumed dancers, pulsating Latin rhythm, and a headdress that put Las Vegas to shame.
The absence of Empress VIII Maxine was a big disappointment. She was scheduled t
As the evening wound down, several significant awards were presented: the Emperor III Bob Cramer Humanitarian Award to Empress Suzie Wong, posthumously; the Empress Pat Montclaire Award of Excellence to Faberge; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from Queen Mother of the Americas, Nicole the Great, to Richard Bumpus and Horst Eichner. Then Emperor Michael Dumont and Empress Chika, having completed a productive year, delivered moving farewells in their last moments as the Reigning Monarchs.
The moment of truth had arrived. In one of the most competitive races and with the highest voter turnout in recent history, all five candidates are to be commended on their efforts, and we welcome the new faces and energy they have brought to the Imperial Court. Well before Midnight, the glass elevator descended from the top floor delivering the newly elected Emperor and Empress of San Francisco, John Weber and Cher A Little. The room erupted in applause and flashbulbs as the crowning ceremony completed the evening, bringing another regal Imperial Coronation to a close.
Sadly, Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton, Empress I, and the Founder of the International Court System, was not present for Imperial Coronation for the first time in recent memory, having suffered a medical emergency the night before. We found her in great spirits at Marlena's on Friday, but the strain of travel, crushing admirers, and constant activity often takes its toll. The prognosis is for a speedy recovery, and we certainly wish her the best.
Although last Saturday's Academy Awards show was relatively lackluster, the Academy of Friends delivered the best party in years with Shaken, Not Stirred, their 28th Annual Gala at Fort Mason. Founded in 1980 by Kile Ozier as a small, private Oscar Night party, this posh evening was attended by thousands of elegantly dressed San Franciscans and visitors, and benefited 12 Bay Area HIV/AIDS agencies. In addition to the hunky models covered with gold body paint to resemble the Oscar statuettes, the evening included decorated rooms inspired by James Bond movies, a lush, split-level VIP room, extensive silent auction, and free-flowing refreshments. For those really interested in the cinematic awards, huge screens throughout the venue broadcast the Hollywood ceremony and featured a video welcome from Gala Co-Chairs Nanette Duffy and David Miranda, special volunteer awards presented to Neil Figurelli and Jay Luque, and ongoing live commentary by KPIX-5's dapper Liam Mayclem. High-energy aerialists took the crowd's breath away, and featured entertainer Taylor Dayne whipped up a frenzy of dancing. All in all, the Academy of Friends Gala is one big-ticket event that consistently delivers an incredible evening well worth the investment.