They were glamorous, beautiful, high-camp and on a mission.
I had attended my first event by the Imperial Court of New York back in 2001. And while I had been out in public before, this was the first time I did so in the mainstream in such an open way. I stepped out of the cab in full length black gown with a slit up to my thigh, black stockings and black pumps. Well, of course! I walked into the Marriott Hotel at Times Square and strode passed all the "regular folks." Yes, my heart was pumping double time. When the Gala came around the next year, I'd been out so much that year that this was just another eveing event. I covered the event that year as the New York city columnist for GIRL TALK Magazine, and again in 2003 and 2004.
In one of my write ups of the event and the Imperial Court of New York, I had noted that in addition to gowns -- that would rival most any monarchy in the world -- that the good work they do and the money they raise for so many good causes elevated them to a state of grace. However, that doesn’t mean this gang can’t cut loose and have a good time.
This past Sunday on Fire Island, at the Cherry Grove Arts Theater, they all kicked up their heels for the "Invasion Dragavanza" show.
There was an excited crowd lining up outside when Fran and I arrived. And while everyone was waiting to get in it seemed like a great opportunity for photo ops -- then again, anytime there is a Queen in close proximity it's always a photo op.
The show's billing featured Regent Empress XXXI Madison Mansfield, Empress XII Panzi, Empress XVII Demi-Tasse, Empress XIX Robin Kradles, Empress XXIII Pepperica Swirl, Princess Royale and MAC Award Winning Caberet performer Doris Dear, Princess Royale Giovanka De Medici, Grand Dutchess Victoria Falls, and Empress 2017 Lucia Virginity of All Connecticut.
Even the reigning “Emperor" XXVI Harington” was in drag. I asked his husband Billy if it was high-maintenance when Harrington dresses in drag from time to time. He chuckled and told me “It’s high-maintenance when he does it once a year!” He did say it with a smile though.
Harington co-hosted with Panzi and looked great. He (come on, he is the Emperor! ) opened the show with a fun rendition of Downtown, entering the stage in a cut-out taxi, wandering the stage with a map that said free souviners, only to reveal when it was fully opened was a map to the meatrack, which got a laugh.
Cherry Grove has been the launching point of the the annual Invasion of The Pines each July 4th for 40+ years. And the the show (Invasion Dragavanza) was a benefit to raise money for the Cherry Grove community.
Ginger Snaps filled the stage with Fannie Bice as Hello Dolly, and later in the night did a rousing and heartfelt number. Robin sang Luck Be a Lady, and Doris Dear sang My Mama. Newcomer (from the Connecticut Court) Sylvia Hart let loose with a high-energy rendition of Rhythm of the Night, and Lucia Virginity too did a high energy number as she danced through the audiance.
The girls were clearly having a good time on stage and it was contagious: the audience was loving every minute of it too. Or perhaps the complimentary Prosecco we all were drinking was kicking in.
No matter, the mood was jovial.
When the sound playback wasn’t working for Donna Parana’s number, she simply reset herself: her hands interlocked, held high and dainty at her waist, her feet placed just so, with a little head babble that seemed to trigger her big smile. Two seconds later she did it all again. Then stood still. Then repeated it again, waiting for the song to begin. Finally, she bowed, then pranced off stage, stopping at the edge to do a parting rear leg kick -- the place went wild with laughter. She came back though, the song was finally played as she entertained us with “I’m A Queen.”
The singer extraordinaire, Porsche, was a surprise guest. After her opening number, with people shouting encore, she took requests from the audience and proceeded to sing as Cher, Adele, Macy Gray, Janice Joplin and others, to everyone’s delight.
Victoria Falls closed with “Buenos Aires” from the musical Evita. She moved as light on her feet as a 5’ girl that had had dance training for years. Truly spectacular. All in all a wonderful night.
You can follow the Court’s events on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/imperialcourtofnewyork