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    50 Years of Fabulous – Documentary Reveals the Successes and Struggles of the Imperial Court

    Being homosexual was still illegal in the U.S., yet José Sarria introduced the Imperial Council of San Francisco (ICSF) as a campy social club governed by drag queens and open to gay men, lesbians, transgendered people, bisexuals and all allies. Sprouting in 1965, the Council has flourished as a pioneering grassroots organization passionately improving the LGBT community. HIV and the AIDS epidemic brought heartbreaking change, but the Council blossomed into a fundraising organization, benefitting innumerable charities and positively influencing lives. A mature cultural force with 70 branches worldwide, this Imperial Council, most worthy of a lasting legacy, now is struggling to achieve sustainable existence in today’s fast-changing culture. In a world dominated by social media and technology, as event attendance dwindles and funding sources trickle, the Imperial Council has begun to question its relevance.

    celebrtingChanging attitudes and visibility in popular media, including RuPaul’s Drag Race, have given the current crop of drag queens an entirely new purpose for their craft—earning viable income. The influence of drag has shifted, and for the ICSF—an organization focused mainly on creating community and utilizing drag performances to fundraise for social causes—is having difficulty recruiting new members and maintaining their own commitments.

    Despite these challenges, the Council moves forward with preparations for their 50th Year Anniversary Celebration and 50th Coronation, complete with electing the new Emperor and Empress. During this historic year in the documentary 50 Years of Fabulous, we meet Chablis, the 36th Absolute Empress of the Imperial Council of San Francisco (aka David Lassman), who takes us behind the glittered Imperial façade to document the ICSF’s ebb and flow.

    Nurturing the commitment to ICSF’s legacy of charity, Chablis mentors the candidates, empowering them to think creatively about their campaigns and fundraising efforts, including fresh ways to redefine and invigorate the aging organization. Chablis then broadens the conversation to engage the entire organization. In interviews with Council stakeholders, Chablis confronts the Board of Directors and many past Emperors and Empresses, pressing them to consider the organization’s role and positioning amidst current cultural changes. LGBT rights’ advances, the very freedoms and protections the Council has long championed, ironically have rendered the Council vulnerable. Both internal and external conflicts now threaten the Council’s function and community standing as they uncover less need for this type of social club.

    This film celebrates The Imperial Council of San Francisco and recognizes 50 years of significant contributions. Whether they are still relevant today is for their audience to decide, yet one thing is certain: ICSF camp, drag, and community has left its high-heeled mark—and will continue to dazzle and enchant audiences on or off the silver screen.

    This film is being made through generous donations of time and money. Fundraising efforts, headed by Executive Producer David Lassman aka Chablis, include many creative ways for the community to get involved. Jethro Patalinghug, the film’s writer and director, works in collaboration with Chablis and the ICSF to capture the Court in all its glory. Says Patalinghug, “Contributing to this project will teach future generations about this groundbreaking organization that paved the way for other organizations and affiliates. Let us value and preserve our individual oral histories as we continually evolve.”

    To view a trailer for the documentary, clips and more, please visit