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Candace Derriere and Eric Bonesteel
Candace Derriere and Eric Bonesteel
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Considering the controversy surrounding Coronation 2009, the signature event for The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle & The Olympic and Rainier Empire (ISCSORE) held Saturday, February 14 in the Waterfront Marriot ballroom, I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with newly crowned monarchs Emperor Rainier XXXV Eric Bonesteel and Empress Olympia XXXVIII Candace Derriere. The Imperial Prince and Princess of the organization, the two were elevated to the new positions after it was announced the only candidate running for Emperor, Court member Douglas Anderson, was no-voted by the electorate.

With that fresh in our minds, the three of us sat down for a brunch conversation in the VIP room at Purr Cocktail Lounge. No question was off limits, and both of the newly crowned monarchs were eager to talk about ISCSORE, the significance of the Imperial Court System and what it was that persuaded the two of them to assume their new positions.

Sara Michelle Fetters: When ISCSORE Board President Rod Fender approached the two of you before crowning and asked if you would be willing to elevate to the titles of Emperor and Empress, what thoughts went through your minds?

Eric Bonesteel: For me, I feel like [these positions] must be filled. If there is a void, the Court lacks a certain spark. The Emperor and Empress are the ones who ideally push people along and urge them to give their best to the organization. In the event that the candidate was no-voted, I did not want to see the Emperor slot go unfilled. I felt it was my duty as Prince and as a Court member to accept the position if that [unfortunate] event occurred.

Fetters: It was a little different for you, though, Candace. You knew going in there was no candidate for Empress. What led you to believe it was better to be appointed to the position of Empress now than wait to run for it at a later date?

Candace Derriere: Seattle has always been known as an Empress city, and you feel that in the community and in other Courts around the country. There was a lot of concern in the public that & the absence of an Empress candidate was a bad sign, that things might not be going as well as they were in the past. & It feels like it would have left just a big void in the Court had there only been one title holder and I didn't want to see that happen. & I felt like the position of Empress needed to be filled.

Fetters: Were either of you surprised by the no-vote? How did it make you feel?

Bonesteel: I'm a little surprised. Having heard what people were saying I would be totally lying if I didn't admit to making myself ready for the possibility, but that doesn't mean I thought it would still happen. But, no, I wasn't blindsided by it.

Derriere: Was I little bit surprised? Sure I was. But I was prepared for it. Listen, when you're in these positions you're here because of the community, and because of that you have to be able to listen to them, you have to be able to hear their concerns and find out what it is that's troubling them. You have to be able to get a feel from them as to how they would like things to go and, if you do that, then you're prepared for whatever surprises might be coming your direction. One thing I've learned running for titles all the way back when I was Miss Neighbours is that you should never assume anything because it never, ever will come out exactly the way you [expect]. You have to walk the fence, you can't pick sides, and that's what I've always done in these instances.

Fetters: I'm curious. You say, "walk the fence," and I wonder if you might need to explain that a bit more. Are you saying people should keep their opinions to themselves? Now that you're Empress, you're going to be expected to make decisions, to take stands. Isn't that idea at odds with this statement?

Derriere: When I say "walk the fence," what I mean is that, as things come up, people will have their concerns and their ideas about what is going on. In short, they want to gossip. Gossip is killer, and 95 percent of the time none of it is even true, they just want to have something to talk about. When it comes to that, I don't even want to respond, I don't want to give them the time of day. But when it comes to decision-making, that's an entirely different story because when you need to make a decision you need to make that decision and be a leader. I look at the Court as the business side of it. There's always gossip wherever you go and I don't have time for that, I don't want to hear it. What I want to talk about are the things important to the Court, about raising money for the scholarship fund and about growing the membership base. That's what's important to me, and when it comes to those [things] I guarantee I'll make more decisions than you can count.

Fetters: At Coronation, when you were announced as the new Emperor and Empress, there was a great deal of applause, but there were also quite a few gasps and more than a couple boos. The people that are unhappy about this, how do you reach out to them and keep them involved?

Bonesteel: You have to stay in touch. Communication is key; it is how you prevent rumors and how you get people excited about being involved. You have to know what they're thinking, what it is they want and where their headspace is. If you cut them out and just hide away, then that's how bad feelings occur, but if you're out there communicating with them, listening to their problems, spending time with them, that's how you get them back into the fold.

Derriere: Ultimately, though, this is why you have elections. Elections are the opportunity for the public to speak. Anyone can get no-voted and anyone can be yes-voted because, bottom line, it is up to the people. They're the ones that get to decide.

Fetters: You say that, but the public didn't decide on you. The two of you were elevated to these positions; there wasn't a public vote like there was for Douglas.

Bonesteel: Yes there was. We were elected by [King County] voters as Imperial Prince and Princess. Part of our duties is that we are the heirs apparent. If something happens to the Emperor and the Empress, part of the job of being a Prince or being a Princess is that we need to step in and be there if those positions are vacant. So, to respond to your statement, we were elected, and the possibility of becoming the new Emperor or Empress is all part of the job.

Derriere: If people come up to me and say they'd rather have seen no Empress at all, then I'd like to have them tell me why. & Personally, I just don't understand those kinds of sentiments at all.

Fetters: Isn't all of this just much ado about nothing? Why should people in the community care? Isn't the Court a dying organization as it is?

Derriere: Why do people do anything? They do it because they enjoy it. The Court is full of people who like performing and dressing up and putting on a show, but more than that they like doing it for a cause that matters. The Court System is about making a difference. It is about meeting new, like-minded people all across the country who share your belief and values. It is about raising money for organizations and people who might not otherwise have access to the funds without this help. Let me tell you, once you start getting involved it is extremely hard to stop. The enjoyment I get from it all is wonderful. The Court System gives people an outlet where they can perform and showcase themselves in a multitude of ways, the raising money part of it is all just icing on the cake.

Bonesteel: As part of that, you have to remember that 20, 30 years ago, there weren't a whole lot of organizations you could join as an LGBT person and make a difference in your community. The Court was pretty much the only one. For Seattle, that fundraising that the Court did then frequently went into other organizations, like Chicken Soup Brigade, like Lambert House, and gave them a needed jumpstart. If anything, the Court is part of the reason why there are so many other options for LGBT people in Seattle. What people want to get involved with, no matter what that might be, there are now hundreds of different options in the community. I think you could make a strong case that this would not be the case without the Court of Seattle.

Fetters: Bottom line, the Court is supposed to be fun. With all the drama and the controversy going on at the moment, in the long run this is an organization built on putting on shows and showing the flamboyantly glamorous side of the community. What can we expect as far as all that is concerned?

Bonesteel: I am a firm believer in production value and in getting what you pay for. Our goal is to do less events, less shows, but when there is a show-oriented fundraiser, I want to make sure people come away impressed. & Our shows aren't going to be the same old broken-down showcases people have grown tired of; they're going to be something we in the Court can be proud of. You've got to give people something extra to keep them entertained and to keep them coming back, and that's the goal I have for this coming year.

Fetters: With that in mind, what do you want to tell people in the community?

Bonesteel: Come out and get involved, and if you don't want to get involved with the Court, that's fine. Just make sure you get involved with something. Find an organization that works for you. But don't count the Court out. We're not just about drag queens, we're not just about performing. We're about family, about community, and we want to use everyone's talents in the best ways possible. I think if people check us out they're going to be pleasantly surprised. This is the business of raising money, and the feeling you get from doing that is something truly special.

Derriere: I just want people to know that we want to definitely concentrate more in the city of Seattle, we want to introduce ourselves to the community again. We want to see that spark of interest, we want to get the younger people involved and excited about being a part of the Court, and I know that is a [challenge] we can both accomplish.

Most of all, you make it fun. All that drama you talked about earlier? Ants at a picnic. Nobody cares. All that matters is whether or not people are having a good time while also making a difference in their community. That's what we have to offer them, and I'm excited about it.

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