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Pumps and Circumstance: San Francisco Imperial Court Celebrates 50 Years

Pumps and Circumstance: San Francisco Imperial Court Celebrates 50 Years


The Imperial Council of San Francisco, the 2nd largest LGBT group in the U.S., marks 50 years of glitter, grandiosity, and community service.

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 Jose 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.

Ruffle_brigadex633_0_0Ruffle Armada: Assembled dignitaries at the Galleria Design Center for the coronation event.

Assembled_crowdx633_0_0The Audience Is Listening (Mostly): Ladies and gentlemen assembled and waiting for the show to begin at Galleria Design Center.

Flag_bearersx633_0_0Bears, Bearing Flags: Holding staffs high.

Big_number01x633_0_0A Big Number: Lights, camera, dancing!

Big_number02x633_0_0Another Big Number: She owned the stage.

Big_number04x633_0_0Yet Another Big Number: The crowd went wild.

Big_number03x633_0_0A Really Huge Number: Sing out, sister!

Gossip_girlsx633_0_0Gossip Girls: If you don't have something nice to say, sit by me.

Kissx633_0_0Royal Greetings: Air kisses only, please.

Crown_loweringx633_0_0Coronation time: Grins and gravitas.

Newly_crownedx633_0_0 Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new rulers, Emperor Kevin Lisle and Empress Khmera Rouge.

Front_stepsx633_0All That Glitters: The assembled crowd on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall on February 15 for the ICSF Golden Jubilee Gala.

Glamorous-attendeex633_0_0Ready to Rumble: The cocktail crowd is ready to celebrate.

City_hall_ladiesx633_0_0Golden Girls: A lovely evening out with the gals.

Golden_girlsx633_0_0More Golden Girls: Glowing in the peachy atmosphere of the ballroom.

Lovesonlygoldx633_0_0It Is A Golden Anniversary, After All: From headresses to ballgowns, gold was the theme for many.

Manicurex633_0_0Drag Is in the Details: Putting the 'man' in manicure.

Vertical_rainbowx633_0_0Wow Factor: Gowns of many colors.

Peacockx633_0_0Peacock Alley: Getting the blues in the night.

Marchingbandx633_0_0The Boys and the Girls in the Band: The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band

Opera_buffetx633_0_0Opera Buffet: Careful, that lip liner took hours.

Stadtmillerx200_0About the photographer: Rich Stadtmiller is the force behind Containing over 1,700 galleries comprising more than a quarter-million images spanning more than a decade and representing tens of thousands of individuals, is arguably the Bay Area's most extensive online LGBT event image archive, and the world's largest collective family album.

His work has been recognized by the Alameda County Leather Corps, Imperial and Ducal Courts, the California Senate, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the Pantheon of Leather. Rich has been the official photographer for Leather Levi weekend, S.F. Leather Pride Contingent, Mr. S.F. Leather, Ms. S.F. Leather, International Ms. Leather, International LeatherSir/boy, International Bear Rendezvous, and Bare Chest Calendar events.

In addition to the RichTrove Archive, Rich's credited images have appeared in A Bear's Life Magazine, The Leather Journal, SF Bay Times, Gloss Magazine, Bay Area Reporter and BARTAB magazine. Rich organized and financially backed the Hayward Pride Street Festival in 2005 and 2006, and was an early supporter of Leather Levi Weekend.

Rich is an honorary member of the Alameda County Leather Corps and a Prince of the Realm in the San Francisco Imperial Court.

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