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    Donna’s Chronicles

    By Donna Sachet–

    The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation once again delivered on their promise of providing top notch entertainment while raising funds for great causes when they tried a new event called Sexy Circus Cabaret. Last Monday, we entered the Great Northern Club, 119 Utah Street, and were immediately dazzled by the Art Deco architectural details and design motifs. As the cocktail reception wound down, sheer Austrian curtains rose to reveal the central room with high ceilings, cabaret seating and rows of chairs. From the moment Vladessa introduced herself as our hostess accompanied by a studly escort, we were captured by a variety show of acrobatic and aerodynamic acts, musical and comedy numbers, and a flirtatious story line. Unfortunately, there was no printed program, making it impossible to acknowledge each performer, but they were gathered from the cast of Kinky Boots, The Seven Fingers, various circus shows, and alumni of École Nationale de Cirque and DECCA, L’ecole. Sight lines were limited, but breathtaking feats and graceful movements riveted the audience’s attention. One performer rose above all the rest; a young woman emerged skillfully playing violin, but eventually also singing simultaneously in a compelling original composition. What a talent! Sprinkled amidst the evening were several live auctions, resulting in generous bids. The crowd represented REAF’s loyal followers, including Doug Waggener, Richard Sablatura, Jeff Doney, Mark Calvano, Joel Goodrich, and Skye Paterson, as well as many new faces. It was a fresh engaging presentation and a wonderful success!

    Last Friday we were clued into an unusual evening with the SF Urban Film Fest called The Stories We Will Tell: Interactive Media and Placemaking. Supporters of historic preservation and creative multi-dimensional experiences gathered to see various works in progress, many shared through 360-degree virtual reality oculi headsets. Program Director Robin Abad met us at the door of SOMArts Center and quickly introduced us to Susie Smith, curator of the evening. Individual creators shared projects ranging from the historic and now closed Gangway bar in the Tenderloin by Keith Wilson to Vero Majano’s reflection on the San Francisco Mission’s Los Siete and Adam Osfield Snell’s telling of Heather Escandon’s personal journey at City of Hope. A panel discussion at the end revealed a bit more about these creators and their inspiration. Our own unfamiliarity with, and understanding of, some of the technical aspects of that night’s presentations limits the scope and depth of this report, but suffice it to say, our curiosity was piqued and we’ll be watching for further developments. We were especially delighted to see so many young faces at an event concerning historic preservation and thank Coy Meza for inviting us.

    Regrettable circumstances prevented us from attending Power Lunch V: Bridges, the Golden Gate Business Association’s annual event at the Marriott Marquis, but with an incredible lineup of speakers including Stacey Lentz, part owner of New York’s historic Stonewall Inn, Juan P. Novello of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer of the United Nations, and Cesar Casas Ferrer from the Mexican Federation of LGBT Businesses, how could you go wrong? We understand that the attendance was record-breaking.

    As you can see from the adjacent schedule of events, we’ll soon be consumed by all things Imperial. Perhaps a short lesson in the history of the Imperial Court is appropriate. Life as a person who didn’t fit into the mainstream mold was quite different in the 1960s and as many minority populations were stretching their limbs and embracing their true nature, so the LGBTQ community began to emerge. San Francisco led the way on many fronts, including the formation of the Tavern Guild in 1963, uniting Gay club owners, employees and patrons in a common cause to fight police intimidation, raids, and corruption. At their Beaux Arts Ball in 1964, they crowned José Sarria, a popular entertainer at the Black Cat, as Queen of the Ball. He famously said that he was already a queen, so he became an empress. In true San Francisco style, he later claimed to be the widow of Emperor Joshua Norton, a historical figure of some notoriety from decades earlier, but the titles worked and it created an inspired historical connection. Although José Sarria’s title was by most accounts meant to be merely ceremonial and symbolic, his political and organizational background led him to use this position to unify and solidify the nascent LGBTQ community. The next year, he created the Imperial Court of San Francisco with a new Empress publicly elected every year, surrounded by courtiers, pomp and circumstance. The title’s meaning has evolved over the ensuing 50 some years with an Emperor being added about 7 years later, but remarkably, new Monarchs have been publicly elected in San Francisco every year since. 

    That is the tradition that continues today with upcoming Voting Day, Imperial Coronation and all of the surrounding events.  We are proud to have served as the 30th elected Empress and we’ve watched this loosely organized, largely ceremonial organization grow into the International Court System with over 65 chapters across the United States, Canada and Mexico, successfully leading the campaign to get a U.S. Postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk, a U.S. Navy ship named after him, and currently working hard to get José Sarria included in the California Hall of Fame, in addition to raising charitable funds for a variety of worthy causes. Representatives from many of those chapters will visit San Francisco for Imperial Coronation week, including Queen Mother of the Americas Nicole the Great, the current organizational head of the International Court System.  Few groups can claim such a rich past, broad membership and current importance in our movement. Come celebrate with us this month!

    Please note that information missing from the last issue’s Imperial Court calendar is now up to date. We apologize for several omissions, but as with any event this complex, there were last minute challenges, now mostly settled. We hope to see you at these annual events, many of them free and open to the public, as the Imperial Court of San Francisco celebrates its fifty-third year of fund-raising and fun-raising!

    Finally, we have been so touched at the many public remembrances of the late Carol Channing. Personal stories and photographs have appeared in the San Francisco Bay Times and many other places as a true testament to her magical connection with other people. She certainly made us feel special each time we met, encouraging my entertainment goals and sharing a love for all things theatrical. May Carol Channing long be remembered for the tremendous talent and amazing heart she possessed.

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at


    Calendar a/la Sachet

    Every Sunday
    Sunday’s a Drag!
    10:30 am Brunch, 11:30 am Show
    The Starlight Room
    Sir Francis Drake Hotel
    $75 inclusive

    Saturday, February 16
    Emperor & Empress Voting Day
    Project Open Hand: 11 am–4 pm
    Powerhouse: 1 pm–5 pm
    Harvey Milk Plaza: Noon–6 pm

    Sunday, February 17
    The Earthquake Party
    4 pm–7 pm
    Aunt Charlie’s Lounge
    133 Turk Street

    Wednesday, February 20
    In Town Show
    Hamburger Mary’s
    531 Castro Street

    Thursday, February 21
    Anniversary Monarchs’ Reception
    6 pm–8 pm
    HA-RA Club
    875 Geary Street

    Friday, February 22
    Out of Town Show
    Details TBD

    Saturday, February 23
    Imperial Coronation 54: Under the Sea
    6 pm
    SF Design Center Galleria
    101 Henry Adams Street

    Sunday, February 24
    Annual Pilgrimage to Colma Cemetery
    Host Hotel Bus: 8 am
    José Sarria Plaque at Castro & Market: 8:30 am

    Sunday, February 24
    Victory Brunch
    11:30 am
    Holiday Inn Golden Gateway
    1500 Van Ness Avenue