Night of a Thousand Gowns; A State of Grace

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: Events , Reviews

Pomp and circumstance was on full display at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square on March 27, as the New York chapter of The Imperial Court, a charitable organization with 70 chapters throughout the United States, Canada & Mexico, held their 18th annual “Night Of A Thousand Gowns” charity ball.

As they passed the sixth floor in the glass elevator, or happened to look down from over the railing of the seventh floor, visitors of the hotel were astounded by the parade of magnificent gowns milling around the cocktail party outside the main ballroom. Many of the gowns were period recreations from the 18th century, and although the black tie gala is known as a “drag” event, it attracted men, women and people of all gender expressions, dressed in tuxedos and gowns of various styles. Some of the gowns were drop-dead-over-the-top-the-royal-family-wished-they-could-have-one-of-these gowns type gowns. With hair and tiaras just as magnificent, the Imperial Court of New York could rival the best of any European monarchy in style and grace.

Amid all the glitz and the glamor that the 1000+ attendees experience; four course dinner, dancing, deserts, stage entertainment, the walk of the royal court, people sometimes see right past the real jewel of the court – their humanity. Formed in 1965 by Jose Sarrie, the organization exists to help the community at large, raising money for various charitable causes. The beneficiary of this year’s charity ball was The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and a silent auction was held to benefit the ACLU Lesbian and gay Rights and Aids Project.

Who can join the Imperial Court? Anyone can join as a Lord or Lady, and elevate through the ranks (Duke & Duchess, Count & countess, Barons & Baroness, Prince & Princess or Princess Royal, you get the idea – and ultimately Emperor and Empress), which is based on service to the community, and then voted on by the Board of Directors, who in turn are elected by the membership.

Many of New York City’s best-known drag celebrities turned out for the evening festivities, such as singing impressionist Porsche and the legendary Boy George. At ten o’clock the Emperor XIII Ron (The Golden Ursus Emperor of Valor, Virtue, and Charm) and Empress XVII Demi-Tasse (The Hollywood and D’Vine Empress of Sincerity and Sympathy) led the royal court in a grand procession as they were presented to the audience. Later, new members to the Court were introduced and took their walk down the runway, as well as honorary members who made a donation and purchased a title for the evening. Rebecca, from Philadelphia, walked so fast from the excitement of it all that her friend Kalina told me, “I didn’t have time to get a photo.” But Rebecca countered, “I don’t even care about the photo – it was a fabulous experience.”

The culmination of the evening came just before midnight when Emperor XIII Ron and Empress XVII Demi-Tasse took their final walk as the reigning monarchs. A local drag performer, Trai La Trash, was crowned Empress XVIII and will serve until her reign ends March 2005. I asked Demi-Tasse what advise she had for the new Empress, and she said, “To be Empress one has to keep their ego in check.” I wasn’t sure if that was a lesson she learned or an opinion she had about the new Empress, but it sounded like good advise either way.

The Imperial Court may have different rankings within their own organization, but through their personal efforts, commitment to community, singular and collective generosity, they have all elevated themselves to a higher state of grace.

Published in Girl Talk Magazine


About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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