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Thursday, October 6, 2016

THE (FILM) MAKING OF A LEGEND




THE (FILM) MAKING OF A LEGEND
By Joe Castel
Adelante Magazine
This past June, the empresses and emperors of the Imperial Courts of Los Angeles/Hollywood and Orange County came together to recreate a historic scene for the documentary, Nelly Queen, the Life and Times of Jose Sarria. It was one of the hottest days of the year, but their royal eyeliner never ran, even under the bright lights, as these royal peacocks paraded their vintage couture down the makeshift runway in honor of their founder, Jose Sarria, Empress Jose I.
The reenactment date was October 31, 1963. The scene: the closing night of the San Franciscan Black Cat Café, the Stonewall Inn of the West Coast. The Cat’s s star female impersonator, Jose Julio Sarria, encouraged his fellow revelers to defy the law and wear drag that night. Despite it being Halloween, drag was still against the law and the San Francisco police chief warned the Black Cat staff that anyone caught in drag one minute after midnight on Halloween would be arrested.
Who was Jose Sarria?
Jose was an entertainer activist who exemplified gay pride before the phrase was even coined. From 1952 to 1963, the legendary diva performed opera parodies at the Black Cat Café, a bohemian hangout for local artists, beatniks and gays in a section of North Beach. From a stage made of four tables shoved together, Jose not only entertained his audiences with gay operatic story-lines, he galvanized a disenfranchised community with such slogans as “Gay is Good!” and “United we stand, divided they’ll catch us one by one.”