The court system was originally designed as a forum for “campy fun.” Our titles of “Emperor”, “Empress”, “Prince”, and “Princess” and our gala functions, enthusiastically reflect that nascent spirit of “campiness”. None of this, however, undermines our objectives as each year the Imperial Court of Los Angeles & Hollywood raises tens of thousands of dollars for local, regional, national, and even some international charitable causes.
Perhaps one of the most positive aspects of our empire is that it is open to everyone. Our membership is made up of many different types of individuals from within the LGBTQ community, and heterosexual individuals as well. No person’s gender, lifestyle, or mode of dress has any bearing on their welcome within our empire or their eligibility to join the Court Family.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us via our Board of Directors page.
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ICLAH, Inc. can only achieve its goals with the assistance of generous donations from members of our community. Since our organization relies on the generosity of individuals like you, we ask that you consider making a donation to our cause. We hope that you will help support our efforts. Thank you in advance for your generosity!
Imperial Council of Los Angeles and Hollywood.
The ICLAH Is richly stepped in the growth and development of the GLBTQ+ communities. A much heralded unification emerged in 1996 of the Imperial Mother Court of Los Angeles and The Imperial Movie Capital Court of Hollywood created a stronger and more powerful Imperial Council to serve the greater Los Angeles and Hollywood area. With a rich tradition of charitable giving, camp, fun, regality, and celebration of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender culture the court also fights for human rights and equality.
The imperial mother court of Los Angeles was founded in 1970, and started as a beauty contest for female impersonators. It was the first imperial court organization founded in southern California. It was an organization intended to provide a different manner of fellowship and social gathering in the glbt community. As the Imperial court contest became popular and widely attended by all sectors of our community it was decided to organize.
In 1974, history was made in the community as the emperor and empress (charity fundraising co-chairs for each year) were elected for the first time by popular vote.
The imperial movie capital court of Hollywood was founded in 1984 as a fundraising contest to start the organization “Aid for AIDS” and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1985. Initially Hollywood elected their monarchs through a contest where the candidates who raised the most money for charity won. The organization grew dramatically and raised tons of thousands of dollars for charity through plant auctions, yard sales, beer busts, drag shows, contests and an annual coronation and anniversary dinner.
Over the last 49 years, the court of Los Angeles and Hollywood have raised and contributed hundreds of thousands dollars to many charities on the Los Angeles and Hollywood areas respectively.
Gay and Straight Elected officials have supported the imperial court fundraising efforts, with the west Hollywood mayors like Abbe Land, John Heilman and Jeffrey prang attending many events and issuing many proclamations of support.
The Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood will continue to work within the imperial court system and its traditions while expanding to truly serve our community of Los Angeles and Hollywood. We will continue to raise money to support local charities.
José Julio Sarria
In Honor and Loving Memory
Absolute Empress I, The Widow Norton
December 12, 1922 - August 19, 2013
José Julio Sarria, was born December 12, 1922, in San Francisco, California. The Grand Mere, Absolute Empress I de San Francisco, the Widow Norton, José; a proud openly gay Latino, drag queen and one of the great iconic American pioneering political activist and leaders of the modern day LGBT Civil Rights and Social Justice Movements.
After graduating high school and the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Sarria enlisted in the United States Army, honorably serving his country in Europe. Following Jose's honorable service and discharge in 1947, he returned home to his beloved San Francisco.
Upon his return, a young Sarria would frequent a local bar called the "Black Cat" on Montgomery Street near Broadway at the center of San Francisco's Beat and Bohemian scene. He was later hired as a waiter and later became the hostess. The owner, noticed José's ability to provide entertainment and later encouraged him to create performances to draw customers on the weekends. The Black Cat stage became the vehicle of Sarria's powerful politically active and community voice of purpose. During a time of McCarthyism, abusive police raids and Alcohol & Beverage harassment of gay establishments, the "Black Cat" stood up to these institutions via the legal courts and community support. Sarria was a prominent drag queen and political activist that was unafraid of standing up against the establishment. At the end of his Sunday performances he made the audience stand up and hold hands and sing his famed "God Save the Nellie Queens" as a way of instilling solidarity for the gay community on hand and beyond the walls of the Black Cat. He would encourage audiences to be united and proud of who they were, instilling in all that "united we stand, divided they get us one by one." Sarria would remain as the headliner at the Black Cat until it's closing in 1963 after multiple police raids.
In 1960, Sarria, founded the League of Civil Education, lending his political voice to educate the community at large about homosexuality. While the community at large was not aware of Sarria's homosexual politics, Sarria had organized the gay community and collected the signatures needed to qualify him for the 1961 Fall elections of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
In 1961, Jose Sarria became the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States when he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He placed fifth with over 5,600 votes from among a field of 29 candidates. Jose's courageous run for public office put the gay vote on the American political map. As Jose himself put it, "From that day on, nobody ran for anything without knocking on the door of the gay community."
In 1964 at “Beau Arts Ball” José was crowned Queen of the Ball. Later he was to say "we're all queens and why become a queen when you can become empress"; thus he proclaimed himself Empress of San Francisco and later proclaimed that he was the wife of the late Emperor Joshua Norton. In 1965 Sarria founded The Imperial Court of San Francisco. As in any organization the start was a little rocky but José held firm and a Privy Council was formed to govern the office of Empress. Based upon European royalty. In the years that followed Sarria lead the Imperial Court of San Francisco and electing Empresses at the Tavern Guild's Annual Beau Arts Ball became an annual event that drew audiences in growing numbers. In order to vote you had to buy a ticket to the ball, so contestants solicited votes and the person with most votes and admirers at the ball was elected and crowned Empress.
In 1972, a group of men formed the Council of Emperors of San Francisco and elected their first Emperor that year. In 1976 the Emperors took José to Woodlawn Cemetery to visit the gravesite of her late husband Joshua. (A plot was purchased close to where Joshua is buried and where José will be close to her husband.) This was to become an annual pilgrimage and where the elected Emperors of San Francisco takes his oath of office the day after his election. The Emperors and Empresses had separate coronations and courts until 1983 when they held a joint coronation and election of the Emperor and Empress.
By 1969, Sarria set out to expand and create Imperial Courts and Empires across North America modeled after the Imperial Court of San Francisco. In 1970, Sarria and his Imperial Court of San Francisco helped establish Imperial Courts in Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Oregon making them the first Imperial Courts outside of San Francisco. By 1995 at the 30th Anniversary of the 1965 founding of Imperial Court of San Francisco, under Sarria's leadership over 60 Imperial Courts and Empires had been established throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Jose Sarria gracefully and peacefully passed on from this life after a long battle with cancer at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico at 7:02 AM on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 in his 90th year blessing this earth.