Passing of Jose Sarria

I felt this huge sense of loss when I heard The Widow Norton passed this morning, the same as thousands around the world–people’s whose lives he has directly and indirectly touched.

I was at an event in Beverly Hills last night given by Maria Shriver for her Best Buddy’s Benefit. There we were chatting away like old girl friends about youth with special needs. she admiring my hair, I admiring her wonderful way of public speaking–just down to earth Ladies!

She dropped her sunglasses in the lift on the way up to the VIP reception and they broke. I was all concerned until she announced in that Kate Hepburn (young Kate) voice of hers” Oh they were only $19 at The Cape–never mind!”

Her gorgeous sons were so courteous getting me coffee and Ice creme as I sat with my team and handsome escort Yale Scott formerly a Wash. DC insider.

I could not help this morning thinking that none of this would have been possible without Jose’!

In another day I would have been frog marched off to jail in handcuffs in my Versace frock, pearls and Gabinni pumps! The people in the lobby at the Montage whispering behind their hands and the staff looking down their noses at “the drag queen faggot” instead of leaping to get my Jaguar, bowing and scrapping!

Jose’ did this–for me and for all of us who like a little glamour on the edge–and who have the right to pursue it any time, any place.

I met Mama years ago at one of the first Long Beach Imperial Court events which I helped to start with Dorothy Big Mouth and Empress One Leslie. I was just a boy then–but I can remember the awe in people’s voices as they pointed Jose’ out saying “that is the FIRST Empress of San Francisco!” She was regal and funny all at the same time. She sang with a mantilla and lace veil, told jokes and made everyone feel somehow special–Royal.

In recent years I got to know Jose’ better–we had a wonderful after noon and evening up at Aerie Hall my hilltop estate–where beleaguered Monarchs sometimes go to get away from it all behind closed gates. His stories were wonderful and amazing.

I would write letters and talk to Mama on the phone. I think the great Court-wide controversy over my title and little Kingdom made Jose’ curious about me–and one night at a Christmas party in Palm Springs we got to know each other well–talked for hours as if no one else was there! The last time I saw Jose was at The Pasadena Playhouse where a reading of a play commemorating his incredible life was presented.

He got out of the car looking hauntingly aristocratic. Cancer had refined his great bone structure to that of Castillian Nobility. He seemed resigned but happy.

The presentation was marvellous–his escapades with the San Francisco police a riot of humor and derring-do! It screamed movie and SHOULD be produced. I actually contacted the talented writer about raising the funds for this project but never heard back, Maybe it will still happen.

Jose’ was before Harvey, Stonewall and my dear and intrepid friend Stuart Milk. He was to the gay community what Mae West was to sex. He made us fun, colorful, creative and gave us the power of camp, tongue in cheek and the message that “all are welcome to this Ball, come on in and be pretty with us and have a grand time!”

Jose Sarria lived his life on his own terms and made a lot of people aware of themselves. Millions have been raised in the Imperial Court System he started so long ago. An era has passed and the likes of what we shall never see again.

We will miss Mama.

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