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A Visit to the Marquis and a Thousand Crowns
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Imperial Court of New York
Imperial Court of New York (ICNY) Royalty was out in full force at Night of a Thousand Gowns (NOATG) on March 21 at the Marriott Marquis in the heart of New York's Time Square. And what a time it was! It could have been named Night of a Thousand Crowns, as visiting dignitaries from the Imperial Court System (ICS) abounded in glittering abundance. The ball is the jewel in the crowns of achievement Empress Charlene Chivoe and Emperor Rob de Woofs have built over the past year, and the passing of the torch to the new Monarchs for 2009-the once and future Empress Anne Tique and Emperor Tony Monteleone!

photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Emperor Rob Hunter deWoofs & Empress Charlene Chivoe
Last night was my very first experience at this gay-la event and it is something that everyone should attend at least once. In fact, every year there are new beneficiaries- this year they were LIFEbeat/the Music Industry Fights AIDS and the MCCNY Homeless Youth Services (Sylvia's Place)-meaning one should attend every year to support the work done by the Imperial Court of New York.

ICNY is part of the International Court System, which is the second largest fundraising organization for AIDS and AIDS services, and ICNY members put on a show, they do it properly! Of course, when a group has a Mistress of Protocol like Imperial Dowager Grand Duchess Swana Swarovski, doing things properly is second nature-or else!

The evening kicked off with a visit to The Chicken Ranch-a Busby Berkley-esque production number staged by Empress Ran-Dee and drawing on not only "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," but also "The Life." Great style and aplomb bounded as bible-thumping thought-police in glittery light blue uniforms and dazzling white boots danced around the denizens of the eponymous Texas landmark. Sassy young ladies in colorful outfits, with leopard print undies, danced around the handsome cowboys, who made payment via, well, chickens. But love will out and, here, happy endings abounded.

Other highlights of the first act included MAC Award Winner John DeMarco's dulcet performance of a medley of selections including Michael Callen's "Love Don't Need a Reason," music from "The Boy from Oz," a London medley including "A Foggy Day in London Town" melded with "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," with a wee quote of "London Bridge," and finishing with "This Time Around," with Barry Levitt at the piano. Speaker Christine Quinn was given the Imperial Diamond Award for her significant contributions to LGBTI rights and the awarding of Dame and Knight (you are the one?) honors to people who were significant during the reigns of Empress Charlene and Emperor Rob, including Asbury Park, New Jersey's openly gay City Councilmember Hon. John M. Loffredo; Amy Sadao, Nelson Santos, Thomas Krever, Joan Rivers, Tom Shivers, and Cherry Grove's own bright star, Ariel Sinclair.

Handsome and talented singer Ari Gold brought some beefcake magic to the runway with a soulful performance and had all eyes - male and female alike - riveted to his performance. He's got a special brand of energy when he takes the stage.

photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Empress Anne Tique, Empress I Jose Sarria & Emperor Tony Monteleone
Anne Tique's Decade Walk, celebrating the tenth anniversary of her first reign as Empress, was a brilliant adaptation of the opening scene of "Xanadu," where art comes to life, culminating in the title song from that show. The performance galvanized the audience and brought the energy back up in the room to a fever pitch.

Featured also were the finalists of RuPaul's Drag Race-Bebe Zahara Benet, whose performance of the Dame Shirley Bassey cover of Pink's "Get the Party Started" was graceful and soignée; Rebecca Glasscock's sexy Linda Eder "Impossible Dream" from "The Man of LaMancha;" and Nina Flowers with a super-hot version of Robin Fox's "Call Me." WOW! This is High Drag Lip Synch, people-each made that song her own! The segué into the crowd's dancing on the runway was seamless.

This was the 23rd annual NOATG and it included the first-ever live auctions. First, not one, but TWO all-expenses-paid trips to Los Angeles for the Emmy Awards were bid upon, as angels who raised thousands of dollars for the beneficiary organizations. And who better to conduct that live auction than the very first Empress of the Imperial Court of New York, the amazing and tireless Sybil the First AKA Sybil Bruncheon! Regally attired in white tie, tails and tiara, Sybil whipped the audience to a delicate latte froth with her insouciant witty wonder. No wonder the crowd was generous-Sybil always knows the right thing to say!

Then Empress Robin Kradles chaired an interesting fundraiser that used a single notorious dress, worn throughout a year of Court events, to raise more than $2000! Court members would pay to have other members wear this dress at various functions, many of which were photographed and of course shared with the crowd. Empress Gianna made something beautiful of the dress as the main stipulation was that it be worn-no restriction on "how". Bidding then went on in another live auction that raised even more money than the first! Ultimately, Empress Gianna designated the recipient of the funds to be the Alzheimer's Foundation in memory of her mother. Most generous all around!

photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Dame Robin Strasser, Torez & Jase
Broadway diva Jackie Hoffman was a last-minute replacement for Lea DeLaria and was a perfect psyche swap. Ms. Hoffman liberally used salty language in pursuit of laughs, and delighted us with a child-actor version of "I'm Still Here" that left many breathless with laughter.

Christopher Sieber, who plays Lord Farquaad in "Shrek the Musical" on Broadway, simply had to share the outfit he wears every night in his role-one that easily rivaled many of the accoutrements in the room- and he regaled the audience both in speech and song and is truly a star in every way. Generous and funny, and extremely talented, and whomever landed him for this event is a genius!

Performers from popular music for LIFEbeat included Amber and also Michelle Williams, who was "Reaching for the Stars" while entreating us to "Break the Dawn" with her! Though when she said to the room full of monarchs as guests "you don't know what I had to do to get into this dress" I laughed out loud-clearly she didn't realize whom she was addressing-as the dedicated people in her audience have been engaged in their "sequins" of events since long before this evening began, to be dressed as brilliantly as they are! Williams was very sweet and very genuine and was clearly fully on board with LIFEbeat and its mission. Both Amber and Williams were very gracious.

Performances by Emperor Rob and Empress Charlene were "Feelin' Hot" and "Sweet Old Fashioned Girl" respectively, in their final walks as reigning monarchs, each with the fire, wit and dazzling flair we've come to expect. The Widow Norton-ICS founder José Sarria-and the Empress Nicole the Great de San Diego-Queen Mother of the Americas-presented the ICS Lifetime Achievement Award to Empress Coco LaChine and other special service awards to Empress Panzi, who was inducted into the Imperial Order of the Double Eagle, and to Emperor Rob for ushering in a Renaissance for the Imperial Court System.

Then the style and flavor of Venezia fell like a delicate mist across the room-Prince Royal Peter B and Princess Royal Bella lip synched with operatic abandon, to "O Sole Mio" and the Barcarolle from "Tales of Hoffmann," respectively, as the court of the soon-to-be-crowned Empress Anne Tique and Emperor Tony Monteleone processed in at the end of a Carnivale-esque retinue whose bejeweled splendor rivaled all that had gone before. The cloth of gold ceremonial raiments worn by the new monarchs shone with mellow highlights and in a trice, with words of the Coronation ceremony pronounced by Emperor Gabriel Della Notte, the evening of one thrill after another was coming to a close.

All of the beauty and pageantry, all of the nobility, sexiness and pure enjoyment of a roomful of attractive people well-dressed and ready for a great time, all of the promise of an evening of love and service was fulfilled. I'd write more, but I have to go now. I have only until March 27, 2010 to plan my outfit for the 24th Annual Night of a Thousand Gowns! So mark your calendar for a rollicking Royal time next year at the Marriott Marquis!

Imperial Court Raises $275,000+ at 1000 Gowns Gala »

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