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Volume 35
Issue 08
 
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Tragedy fails to foil Seattle's 2007 ISCSORE Coronation celebration, ICS ascension
Tragedy fails to foil Seattle's 2007 ISCSORE Coronation celebration, ICS ascension
Empress Olympia XXXVI Sapphire Knight crowned only hours after loss of partner of 13 years

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

In the midst of courtly pomp and circumstance, came the ascension of San Diego's Nicole Murray Ramirez, a.k.a. Nicole the Great, in the position of Queen Mother of the Imperial Court System (ICS) -- due to the stepping down of the international nonprofit's founder José Sarria, a.k.a. Mama José, the Widow Norton - and Sapphire Knight and Mark Dubois being crowned Olympia XXXVI and Rainier XXXIV of the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle (ISCSORE). This crowning took place only hours after the tragic passing of Empress Knight's partner of 13 years, Alan Strange, due to injuries received in an unfortunate accident less than a month prior.

"I don't know if I have as much strength as [Sapphire] does," said Dubois the morning after he was crowned the new ISCSORE Emperor. "I don't know anyone who could say they could go through all this and still put on that smile. It's very inspiring."

With not a dry eye in the house during the crowning ceremony introducing her to the crown, it was very apparent that the audience -- filled with ICS members representing 51 different cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico -- felt much the same way. Newly minted Queen Mother Nicole the Great put it best in a speech the next morning commenting, "You [Sapphire] are already a vision of courage and role model to many of us."

"It is very emotional," said a visibly choked-up Sapphire. "Throughout all my other titles my husband [Alan] - I call him my husband because when you've been together with someone for 13 years I don't care what a legislature or a politician says he is definitely your husband - has always been there with me. It's really hard when you've had someone in your life for that amount of time and then they are gone. But he wanted this for me so much. My reign [as Olympia] will be as much - if not more - for him as it is for me."

"I felt it was a bittersweet victory," said stepping down Emperor Larry Stewart Ryan. "I was so happy for her and it did my heart glad to see her having that moment of joy after something so tragic. He wanted this so badly for her, and I know she wanted it to. To be able to go through with the evening while still dealing with so much pain really showcased how strong [Sapphire] is, and I definitely feel like Alan was in the room with us at the moment of her crowning as Empress."

As much as the events preceding the evening colored the festivities, the night was still a celebration of both the ICS' rich 40-plus year history and of the reign of ISCSORE Rainier XXXIII Ryan and Empress Olympia XXXV Aleksa Manila. Even with a pricey $75 ticket, the event at the downtown Red Lion ballroom was sold out. Many of the evening's guests told this reporter that this was one of the best Coronations Seattle had put on in years.

"I'm so happy people had a good time tonight," said Manila. "I feel so ecstatic. I can humbly say with certainty that this has been a very successful event. Personally, I am just filled with joy. Words cannot express my feelings right now. It's definitely been a very emotional night."

The audience's good time could be related to the high quality of entertainers assembled for the evening, which began with a fast-paced Broadway-style production number featuring members of the Court of Seattle. The reigning Mr. and Miss Gay Seattle Dynasty and Regina King, Mr. Gay Washington 2004-2005 J.J. Temple, Empress XXXIV Asia Caché; and Miss Gay Washington 2003-2004 Shaka Kuan performed in the production, which had been choreographed by Coronation producer and Miss Gay Seattle XLI Nina Maxwell.

The night was a cavalcade of talent. Highlights included performances by Miss Gay Seattle XXIX and Los Vegas showstopper Toni James, famed lip-synch terrorists The Visqueens, San Diego's Lala Too, Olympia XXVI Coco Vaughn, the renowned Filipiniana Dance Company, Miss Gay Seattle XXXII Ebony LaFace Ice, Olympia XXIX Gaysha Starr, legendary Cher impersonator Miss Gay Seattle XXII Smokee and Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse, fresh from her acclaimed New York cabaret debut

"I was moved and surprised by how many representatives there were from so many different cities all across North America," said Ann McGettigan, Executive Director of Seattle Counseling Service and one of the evening's honorary co-chairs. "It is so important for us to be here. [The Court] has had such a rich history and been an important part of the LGBT community for a long time now. As a representative of another local nonprofit, I think it is only fitting we are here in attendance and are able to pay our respects. Of course, it helps that the show was just so darn entertaining!"

"I just feel so glad," said Ryan afterwards in the comfort of his dressing room. "People really appeared to enjoy themselves. The entertainment tonight was absolutely amazing. The night just went so well and went by so fast. It was a great evening." The Emperor had every reason to be ecstatic, his mother Eileen Stewart and his Aunts Sue Reese and Donna Winters all flew cross-country to be there for the event.

"I am very proud of my son," said an emotional Reese. "It was more than worth flying over 2,000 miles. I think it was a great honor that the people of Seattle thought enough of him to name [Larry] Emperor. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. He's my boy and I love him."

"Personally, this was a great celebration of the past year," added Ryan. "It was a wonderful affirmation from all of the other Courts who showed up to be here tonight. Having my family here just made it all that much better. I can't begin to express how much having them here means to me."

History and family are two of many reasons why the Court system is still important and viable. The ascension ceremony featuring José and Nicole was a representation of that belief. "It is always important to come to Seattle," said reigning Empress of Spokane Blow Me Bubbles. "Not only is this my city's mother Court, it was definitely nice to be able to be here for the ascension. It was like watching the passing of a torch, this transition from José to Nicole. It's exciting to see what it going to happen next for the [ICS]."

"[These] are not Coronations," said Nicole in a speech to the membership, "[these] are family reunions. We have 41 years invested. We have lost many good people to [disease] and to time. [All] of you have not gotten the recognition you deserve for your accomplishments. That is going to change."

During the ascension ceremony the new Queen Mother proclaimed that ICS would be entering a Renaissance, a rebirth of ideas and direction; helping to bring the nonprofit to a generation unfamiliar of their place in LGBT history. "The fact that there is not one Lesbian or Transsexual on our current [ICS] Council is totally unacceptable to me," said Nicole in an official statement. "And, that there is a lack of younger members of a different generation and only one African-American is also a concern."

These are concerns felt by Mama José. "We either go forward and ahead or we stop and die," said the founder in a brief farewell message the following morning. "The choice is up to you."

"Let there be no mistake," continued Nicole in her statement. "Empress I José is our beloved founder and, most importantly, an historic pioneer in our [LGBT] history and civil rights movement and that she will always be treated with the greatest respect and dignity. [But] as we begin this new chapter in our Court's history, I look forward to this journey and ask each of you to not walk behind me or in front of me, but walk beside me as we celebrate a new beginning in Seattle and as the official Renaissance Decade begins."

"I've always been asked [if] the Court is dying," said Aleksa, just after Coronation. "I've always responded by saying the Court is not dying, it is changing. Nicole said it best in one word: Renaissance. Rebirth. A new age. Without question, it is a time to move forward, and, under her leadership, it will move forward. When you want to know someone, look at their heart and then you will see how they shine. I am very optimistic that under her stewardship and her direction [the ICS] will continue to grow and to flourish for many decades to come

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