On March 31 New York City with be a little more glamorous -- and certainly more "royal" -- than usual when the Imperial Court of New York hosts its annual Night Of A Thousand Gowns gala event.
The Imperial Court of New York is part of the International Court system, which was founded 45 years ago in San Francisco by Jose Sarria -- the first openly gay candidate for public office -- and today governs 70 kingdoms in the United States, Canada and Mexico, making it one of the largest LGBT organizations in North America.
In 1985 the Imperial Court of New York was born at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria when it crowned its first Empress, a local drag celebrity, Sybil Bruncheon, the Atlas Empress, notes Gary F. Cosgrove, President of the Imperial Court of New York's Board of Directors.
"Since that time the Imperial Court has raised over two million dollars for worthy charities in New York and New Jersey focusing on GLBT issues, HIV/AIDS related causes and GLBTQ youth. All with just volunteers, an amazing group of dedicated people who donate their time and energies to raise money. How do we do it you might be asking yourself? The Imperial Court is based on the European Royalty system. You enter as a Lord or a Lady and rise through the ranks as you volunteer and raise money. Our membership is diverse, with gay, lesbian transgender, cross-dresser, transsexuals, drag queens all welcome. We provide a safe and fun environment for people to express themselves through dressing and performing as royalty. It's quite a spectacle to be seen!"
And as far as spectacles go, you'd be hard pressed to find one more spectacular than the organization's biggest fundraiser, Night of a Thousand Gowns, a black tie dinner, dance and coronation ball.
This year marks the group's 26th Night of a Thousand Gowns and proceeds from the event will benefit PFLAG-NYC and New Alternatives, a direct services group for homeless LGBTQ youth.
The Night of a Thousand Gowns "is an opportunity to celebrate the LGBT community, and in particular, the colorful cross-dressing segment of that community," Cosgrove says. "We will celebrate the Reign of Emperor XX Vanity Society & Empress XXV Pepperica Swirl and at midnight we will crown their successors, Emperor XXI Ritz Kraka & Empress XXVI Witti Repartee."
Interested in witnessing the glamour firsthand? Visit The Imperial Court of New York's official website for more details and ticket info.
Below view a slideshow of photos from the 2011 Night of a Thousand Gowns.