by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle & The Olympic and Rainier Empire held its annual Coronation at Seattle's Renaissance Hotel on February 16. Michael David D was appointed Emperor Rainier XXXIX, and Sahara Dior D. was crowned Empress Olympia XLII.
The evening began with Empress Nicole the Great de San Diego, head of the International Court System, taking the stage to the Golden Girls theme song, 'Thank You for Being a Friend.' The empress then gave her annual State of the Empire address, a tradition she began when she was appointed to lead the Court after its founder, Empress I José Sarria, retired.
'Bravo to all the citizens of Washington for upholding [Referendum 74],' said Empress Nicole.
MURRAY, KNITTEL HONORED
The Empress then presented an award on behalf of the entire International Court System to Washington State Sen. Ed Murray for his work on same-sex marriage.
'We would not have won Referendum 74,' said Murray, proudly accepting the award, 'if organizations like yours hadn't existed.'
Murray also received an award from the Court of Washington, and Shaun Knittel of Social Outreach Seattle was awarded the 2012 Anthony J. Schmidt Citizen of the Year Award.
Empress Nicole proclaimed 2013 to be 'the year of the seniors and elders.'
'Our community needs to treat our seniors with more respect and also recognize them for being the trailblazers that they are. It is our Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender seniors who are the most isolated,' said Empress Nicole, in an interview with SGN before the Coronation.
POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE
With much fanfare, glittering crowns, and exquisite evening wear, the Coronation proceeded. Various Court members who had won titles in past years - the court refers to them as the College of Monarchs - made speeches and performed songs. As is customary during these performances, many of the other college members came up to the stage to tip their fellow monarchs, leaving well over half the seats empty.
Between performances, emcees Eunice Kennady-Smith (Empress XVI of Spokane) and Maria Peters Lake (Rose Empress XXXVI of Portland), and guest speakers shared their stories. From ballot-measure battles to police raids, the speakers crafted a narrative that became essentially a general overview of the Pacific Northwest's LGBT history. Very quickly, one begins to realize that they're not talking about Court history per se, nor are they trying to play up the Court's significance - the fact simply becomes evident that many of those who were involved in those fights from the '70s to the '90s were either in or worked with the Court. It's because the Court, being one of the oldest LGBT organizations in the nation, has been there from the beginning of the modern Gay rights movement.
'In those dark ages, in the early years of the 1980s, there were no corporate sponsors. People thought you could get [AIDS] in the air. The Court was opening food banks. We were responding by building communities - there were no centers, there were only the tavern guilds, the Mattachine, and the Imperial Court. We raised the money - we still do,' Empress Nicole told SGN before coronation.
'We could talk about the charity and the hoo-hah, but it's the friendship and the family, not just for two years, but for 20 years,' said Joan-E, Empress XXVIII of Vancouver, Canada, of the significance of the International Court System.
The Court awarded scholarships to two local students: Julian Gaspay, an undergraduate at the University of Washington, and Joshua Trotter, who studies cosmetology at Gene Juarez Academy.
'Seattle has something happening with its young people,' said James II, Rainier IX (1983), citing a recent surge of youth participation in the last Gay Seattle pageant. Michael David D, who took the Rainier XXXIX title, is just 25.
Special guest performers included Lady Chablis alongside her cast from Lashes at R Place, who performed a number from the film Burlesque. Robbie Turner also took the stage in a beautiful white Victorian outfit, coming off spontaneous and as professional as always. During his performance, he pulled Rose Emperor XXXIX Gina Valdez Kennady-Smith up onstage with him, directing the Emperor's choreography on the fly.
Just before the crowning ceremony, Emperor Rainier XXXVIII Rick Peters Lake and Empress Olympia XLI Beverly Peters Lake took their final walks, bringing up to the stage former titleholders and embracing each one as they prepared to join them in the College of Monarchs. In matching evening wear, the two gracefully stepped down and gave up their badges of office.
Coronation 2013 ended with Sahara Dior D. being crowned Empress Olympia XLII and Michael David D being crowned Emperor Rainier XXXIX. A toast was made to their coming reign.
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