Investiture and Royale Ball are big productions
Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
The Imperial Court de San Diego is one of the oldest and most preeminent charitable nonprofits within our local LGBT community and this weekend, the newly crowned Emperor Jay Heimbach and Empress Angel Fairfax will formally invest their court for the 2017 reign.
The “investiture,” as it is called, will act as a precursor to the 2017 Royale Ball, which serves as the crowning of the new Prince and Princess Royale.
The events take place at Rich’s Nightclub on Sunday, April 2, from 4 – 8 p.m.
For 52 years, the International Imperial Court System, founded in 1965 by José Sarria and currently run by Nicole the Great, Queen Mother I of the Americas — otherwise known as San Diego’s own Nicole Murray Ramirez — has literally crowned emerging and longtime leaders within each court’s LGBT community, adorning them with titles and all the nobility that goes along with it.
After launching in San Francisco, the court system has continued to expand and currently has 86 chapters in cities throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, where each city has its own “royal family” that follows the typical imperialistic traditions of history.
This region’s royal family is called the Imperial Court de San Diego. It joined the court system 45 years ago and generally has its annual coronation ball the first weekend of February. The event consists of stunningly beautiful attire with full regalia, performances by current and former monarchs, and is not to be missed.
But behind all that pomp and circumstance is an organization that is so much more.
“A lot of people, because we wear gowns and we wear crowns, think that is what the court is all about; but to be very honest with you, it is really not,” said Regina Styles (aka Richard Poole), a former Empress who serves as executive secretary for the court’s board of directors. “We’re all about the charity work and every once in a while, it’s about the gowns and the crowns.”
Styles said members of the royal court even get into the weeds and get down and dirty, referring to the court’s upcoming 15th annual Easter Egg Hunt, held at Trolley Barn Park on Easter Sunday, April 16. The free and wildly successful event involves the donation of 600 store-bought Easter baskets; 7,000 plastic eggs stuffed with 21,000 jellybeans; and 20 new bicycles that will be raffled off to a field of 600 excited children.
The Easter egg hunt is just one of the many causes, often for children, that the court takes on. Styles said another of his favorites is “senior bingo,” which takes place on the third Sunday of every month at the Mission Hills Retirement Center in Hillcrest.
“The cool thing about bingo is to see these men and women — probably about 60 percent of whom don’t get visitors and only get out of their rooms to eat or to watch TV in the lounge — get so excited when they win, and yell ‘bingo!’”
The doors for the Investiture/Royale Ball will open at 4 p.m. for a reception, which will have food and the opportunity to network.
The actual festivities, which will last about 45 minutes, will begin promptly at 5 p.m., when the newly-crowned Emperor Jay Heimbach, who just stepped down in March as Mr. San Diego Leather, and Empress Angel Fairfax choose their royal court for 2017.
Though they received their crowns in February, this is the official kickoff for the year of their reign and they need a court to assist them in their charitable deeds. The monarchs will choose a privy council — those who will act as their support system — and a King Father and a Queen Mother — those who will inform and advise them.
But the event, Styles said, is more about the Royale Ball, and the transition of the new election of the 2017 Prince and Princess Royale.
“We added the investiture [to the Royale Ball] six or seven years ago to make it a larger scale event,” Styles said. “The last time we had an investiture all alone, was when I was Empress in 2010.”
At 6 p.m., after the new court has been duly appointed and titles handed out, the Royale Ball will begin.
Styles said this is the second year they’ve had the event at Rich’s, having moved it from its longtime location at the San Diego LGBT Community Center in 2016, and it is the second-largest official court event of the year.
“Rich’s was really good to us last year and we had a really good time there,” Styles said. “Their big TV screens and light system and the ability to make it more of a production, rather than just coming into a room where you have a stage, those were the selling points for me. I’m very much a production person.”
The Royale Ball is actually the election of the co-vice presidents of the Imperial Court’s membership, which are the Prince and Princess Royale (the Emperor and Empress are the co-presidents).
In a production that mirrors the annual coronation, the current Prince Royale, Romeo Anderson-Camacho, and Princess Royale, Barbie 2, will be stepping down as a new prince and princess will be crowned.
Candidate for this year’s Prince Royale is Paul Rhodes, with Cheryl Lynn the candidate for Princess Royale. Both are running unopposed.
While Rhodes is a well-known trans activist within the local LGBT community, Lynn is a lesser-known but well-connected ally. She began volunteering for the court three years ago after meeting Styles during his karaoke gigs at Red Wing Bar and Grill. Cheryl Lynn has helped raised money for the court by selling her specialty “pudding shots” at bars and events around the community.
“I’m going from behind the scenes to right out in front,” Cheryl Lynn said. “It is a little out of my comfort zone, but I’m doing it. I decided last year that I was going to do things outside of my comfort zone and this is a good chance to do that.”
Dubbed a “country crooner” by her friends, Lynn will be performing live — not lipsyncing — at the Royale Ball.
In addition to the candidates, other entertainment will come from past and current Emperor and Empresses, the reigning Prince and Princess Royale and chosen command performances, including Empress 35, Norma Braxton; Vanity Jones, who is part of the San Diego Divas; and the reigning Miss Gay San Diego Nadia Simone.
Tickets for the event are $25, which includes food at the reception and all the night’s entertainment. A ticket also gives you the opportunity to vote.
The Royale Ball and Investiture takes place on Sunday, April 2, from 4 – 8 p.m., at Rich’s Nightclub, 1051 University Ave. in Hillcrest. The cost is $25. For tickets, call Styles at 619-288-1183 or Katrina Duall at 253-592-7619. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/kzsr6ue.
—Reach Morgan M. Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org.