Pumps and Circumstance: San Francisco Imperial Court Celebrates 50 Years

Pumps and Circumstance: San Francisco Imperial Court Celebrates 50 Years

Based on European royalty, the Imperial Court System of San Francisco was created in 1965 to foster gay pride and to unify a community under siege by politicians and the police. Founded by José Julio Sarria (1922-2013), Absolute Empress I, The Widow Norton, the ICSF celebrated its half-centennial earlier this month with all the glitz, glitter, and glamour one would expect from such a royal gathering.

By 1969, Sarria — emboldened by his success in San Francisco — set out to create Imperial Courts and Empires across North America, modeled after the Imperial Court of San Francisco. By 1995, when ICSF celebrated its 30th anniversary, Sarria had helped establish more than 60 Imperial Courts and Empires throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

This year's Golden Jubilee Gala, on February 15 at the San Francisco City Hall rotunda, marked the closing ceremonies of a weeklong itinerary for resplendent royalty from around the country. Monarchs and guests at San Francisco's Galleria Design Center were treated to a kick-off show, the Monarch's Reception, a bay cruise, a visiting monarchs show, a bus tour, and the Woodlawn cemetary pilgrimage to Sarria's gravesite — for which mourning attire was requested, naturally.

Mindful of the need to carry on the royal bloodline, the celebration also included the coronation of the new Emperor and Empress, as reigning titleholders, The Sparkling Sapphire Peacock of Politeness, Empress Misty Blue, and The Teal-Eyed, Silver Spurred, Black Stallion Emperor JP Soto, handed off their crowns and scepters to the new regime: Emperor Kevin Lisle and Empress Khmera Rouge.

Thanks to photographer Rich Stadtmiller for permission to use his images. Read more about Rich at the end of this article.

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Ruffle Armada: Assembled dignitaries at the Galleria Design Center for the coronation event.

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The Audience Is Listening (Mostly): Ladies and gentlemen assembled and waiting for the show to begin at Galleria Design Center.

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Bears, Bearing Flags: Holding staffs high.

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