|Cockatelia sings as her temple dancers perform before the Egyptian set at the Imperial Coronation at the Gift Center. Photo by Rink.
Another year of Imperial grandeur had fled by, so it was time to crown the new Emperor Jason Ladd and Empress Galilea, and to bid fond farewell to Emperor John-Richard and Empress Tiger Lily during Coronation XLI, â€śHot Egyptian Nights,â€ť held at the Gift Center Pavilion on Feb. 25. The breathtaking 30-foot high Egyptian temple was the centerpiece on stage, with impressive columns, carvings of pharaohs and queens, hieroglyphics, and three fur-covered Egyptian thronesâ€”one for each of the retiring monarchs and the Grand Ma Mere and founder of the entire Imperial Court system, Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton.
The first act began with the members of the Emperor John-Richardâ€™s and Empress Tiger Lilyâ€™s courtiers of the Court of Swinging Monkeys and Roaring Tigers (including quite a few of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) dressed in flowing red, purple, and gold robes and wearing ornate golden leafed helmets. Dancing to â€śWalk Like an Egyptianâ€ť by the Bangles, they made way for the monarchs to take their thrones. Next was an Imperial command performance by Olympia XXXIV Asia of Seattle, decked out in red and gold feathers everywhere (including a very long train), fan-dancing and lip-syncing about being â€śbirds of a feather foreverâ€ť in the â€śLand of Fantasy.â€ť This was also a time for the 30-year tribute to Emperor IV Michael Caringi, who was unable to attend that night. Candidate for Empress, Galilea, brought out her retinue of sexy men in scanty panties and women in showgirl attireâ€”all shaking their moneymakers.
The real beauty of her number was the obvious fact that Galilea does represent the whole strata of queer society; from transgenders to leatherfolk to queens of all ages and sizes. Galilea was all fuchsia, pink, and peacock feathers lipping a Spanish version of the Village Peopleâ€™s â€śYMCA.â€ť And can you believe â€śMcArthur Parkâ€ť in Espanol? Not to mention â€śTurn the Beat Aroundâ€ť and â€śFunky Town.â€ť The scene became quite reverential as the 40-year anniversary celebration of Empress of all Empresses, the Widow Norton, brought Jose to the stage. She made her appearance as she appeared in public in 1965 to declare her imperialnessâ€”menâ€™s tailored black suit, purple and gold cape, short golden wig and tiaraâ€”singing live the Sophie Tucker classic, â€śSome of These Days.â€ť Her lyrics said, â€śYouâ€™re gonna miss your widow; you know you had your way; and believe me, you know youâ€™re gonna grieve me.â€ť She cracked, â€śWith all that applause, Iâ€™m now going to do 75 more numbers.â€ť But actually she only had one more, and it was the quintessential pride song that back in the day she always led her fellow â€ścriminalâ€ť homo bar attendees in, â€śGod Bless Us Nelly Queens,â€ť the queer lyrics to â€śGod Save the Queen.â€ť
Act two began with Olympia XXXV Alexa Manila and a production number with pallbearers carrying her mummified self to â€śSweet Dreamsâ€ť by the Eurythmics. They lowered her body, and suddenly she came to life, ripping off the mummy rags and illustrating the lyrics, â€śsome of them want to be abused by you,â€ť by supposedly pulling a candle from the ass of one of the leather-clad servants; lighting and pouring hot wax on another; and digging her heels into still another. After flogging one of her temple priests, she made all of them form a human divan that she could lounge across. This was also the 30-year anniversary celebration of Absolute Empress XI Flame, who was appropriately clothed in a flaming red silk mini-dress. She strutted about, seductively dragging her red boa behind her to â€śLet Me Entertain Youâ€ť from Gypsy, and then lip-syncing the bitter â€śWherever He Ainâ€™t,â€ť which venom we knew was directed towards a certain foul president, indicated by the huge sign at the endâ€”a bold red line drawn through â€śGeo. W. Bush.â€ť Candidate for Emperor, Jason Ladd, was in his snazzy dress uniform of blue leather with black and red tuxedo pant stripes, bringing out his hot, fetish-dressed leather guys and gals to do robot dancing and simulated sex. He lip-synced, â€śI like the way you look at me; I like the way you move; I like your ass,â€ť as they circled around him in lascivious but worshipful poses. The mood suddenly got all official as certificates of recognition and honor were presented to the Bear-Hug Emperor John-Richard and the Bird of Paradise, Black Pearl Empress Tiger Lily from Mayor Gavin Newsomâ€™s office and the office of Assemblyman Mark Leno. For the 20-year anniversary celebration and tribute to Emperor XIV Matthew Brown and the late Empress XXI Sable Clown, Brown had all of the past SF Imperials walk and carry ornate, gold-trimmed oval face masks with his and Sableâ€™s portrait taken when they reigned. Matthew lovingly carried Sableâ€™s crown on a pillow as we heard the Village Peopleâ€™s â€śFreedomâ€ť ring out. The next Imperial command performance was by Alina Maletti, draped in black velvet and rhinestone cape, complete with huge collar. She wriggled all that off to reveal a lace-up waist cincher and thigh-high high-heeled boots, doing acrobatic moves to â€śNo More Lies.â€ť Since this was tribute night, it was only proper that the late Emperor Steve Valone receive his due on what would have been his tenth anniversary. His Empress, XXXI Cockatielia, was also celebrating a decade of Imperial service, and she brought out her regal Egyptian dancers and drummers to back her up while she sang live her own very moving lyrics to â€śIâ€™d Do It All Over Again.â€ť
The last act opened with a hula dance by the Imperial Court of Hawaii. The final Imperial command performance was by Empress XXXIII Lala Too of San Diego doing â€śDeeper Loveâ€ť in a sparkly copper-colored off-the-shoulder gown with matching copper boots. One of the most important parts of Coronation is always the dispersal of checks to the charities that the Imperials worked for all year. Itâ€™s not just dressing up and playing; itâ€™s also about working for deserving beneficiaries, which were this year: Positive Resource Center (helping HIV-positive people return to the workforce); Healing Waters (offering life-changing river-rafting experiences for the terminally ill); AIDS and Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (providing emergency money for rent and other expenses to people with AIDS and cancer); and the API Wellness Center (proffering aid and counseling to Asians and Pacific Islanders with serious diseases)â€”each of which received $3,700. Nikki Starr came out to do a holy roller â€śDo You Wanna Go to Heavenâ€ť number (well, yes, as long as they allow queers there).
Then it was time for the Imperialsâ€™ last walk. A series of male mummies and female mummies in petticoats formed a circle and began square dancing to a caller while â€śSee the pyramids along the Nileâ€ť was heard in the background. The emperor and his consort Sister Saki danced away as all the past emperors joined onstage. Empress Tiger Lily did her last walk in a gorgeous red hoop-skirted taffeta gown, lip-syncing â€śIâ€™m Forever Yoursâ€ť and â€śAt the End, May You Find Comfort.â€ť Then with â€śI Surrender,â€ť all the empresses joined her. The finale was, of course, the crowning of Emperor-elect Jason Ladd and Empress-elect Galilea, who both received the regal treatment with crossed swords, orbs, and crowns. Long live the Imperials!