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    Celebrating 50 Years of the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco

    By Kippy Marks–

    (Editor’s Note: This issue of the San Francisco Bay Times launches a new column by musician Kippy Marks concerning the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco, which is a non-profit, predominantly LGBTQ fundraising organization. It was formed in 1973 as a more camp-oriented response to San Francisco’s Imperial Court System.

    Over the next several months, Marks—who previously authored another column for the Bay Times and is a Grand Ducal Council member—will highlight individuals and moments in the Council’s history leading up to the organization’s 50th Anniversary Gala on September 22, 2023. For this first entry, Marks spotlights H.L. Perry, the Council’s founder. While Perry died in 2021, his great legacy lives on.)

    “Oath of Office:

    Grand Duke ______, do you solemnly swear

    to maintain and keep honorable the title of Grand Duke of San Francisco; To conduct yourself with Dignity and in the Spirit of CAMP during the year of your reign; To support the Community and the Board of Directors and Trustees whenever needed. Do you swear to uphold and be governed by the Rules and Regulations of your office and the Corporation, which owns your title? So help you.”

    These are the words that each monarch must swear to and adhere to in their year of community service to the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco (GDCSF) that H.L. Perry founded in 1973. Prior to the founding of the GDCSF, Perry was already a dedicated community activist and supporter and gave 10% of all fundraising efforts to the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church).

    Perry owned the Blue & Gold and Frisco Disco bars in the 1970s. He served on the Board of Directors for the Tavern Guild, which was founded by the League of Civil Education that became the structure of the gay rights movement, helping to create such organizations as the Society of Individual Rights in addition to the Guild, which was the first gay business association in the country. It quickly became a political entity that protected bartenders, patrons, and bar owners from unfair treatment by the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). It helped to set drink prices and even established a phone networking system to track the ABC and unfair police raids. The Guild was also known for fundraising that included dances, auctions, day trips, social gatherings, and drag entertainment.

    Perry attempted three times to become Empress of San Francisco, but each effort was successful. During his time serving on the board of the Guild, Perry established the underwear event Mr. Gay San Francisco in 1971. Later, Mr. Gay San Francisco would become the Mister and Miss Gay San Francisco pageant that he trademarked. Eventually, he passed it to the bar Kimo’s in 1984. Three years later, Remy Martin, who was part of the MCC, bought it and gifted it to the Imperial Court.

    In 1972, Perry placed an ad in the Gay Crusader announcing a new contest through the Helping Hands gay community center, which was then on Turk Street. The contest had voting done by the public with ballots printed and available at cooperating businesses and gay centers. Perry won the contest easily, became the first Grand Duchess of San Francisco, and formed the new “rebel” organization to be known as the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco. It was the first time that two courts would share the same territory. Perry trademarked the titles in 1973 and issued the Council’s first official Proclamation on September 20 of that year.

    Perry reigned as Grand Duchess I under the title of “The House of Cinderfella” with the colors of blue and silver as the official royal colors until step down in 1974. These colors still remain, and every new monarch has branded these colors at all Ducal Ball Coronations henceforth.

    During this first reign, Perry created “The Royal Bunny Contest” and on October 12, Duchess Perry announced a “Gay Social Service Day” and started the annual canned food drive that would acquaint queer San Francisco with the many social services available to them that are fun and campy, and also encouraged greater community participation in these services. Perry additionally founded Atlantis House in 1973. It was a halfway house for gay ex-cons. In 2006, Perry was recognized by the California State Senate as a “gay icon.”

    Perry gave so much back through service and love for his beloved community and fellow humankind. He gave us all something honorable to aspire to, and with five generations of community service, we celebrate and honor the continued growth of this prestigious organization within the LGBTQI+ communities. From now through September 22, 2023, we will highlight these five generations of our College of Monarchs and the community service that each did.

    We encourage all San Franciscans to attend the 50th Anniversary Gala on September 22, 2023, at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Join the GDCSF for an evening of fun and campy celebration of its legacy of raising funds for all San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties.

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    Kippy Marks is Grand Duke XL of The Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco. He is the first ever elected African-American Grand Duke.

    Celebrating 50 Years of the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco
    Published on November 17, 2022