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God save us nelly queens!
August 24, 2013 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Jose Julio Sarria, Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, Jose I, The Widow Norton, passed away on August 19th, at the age of 91.

Jose Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for public office anywhere. He founded the Imperial Court, which continues to be a significant gay institution. He also helped found the Society for Individual Rights and the Tavern Guild. A waiter and drag performer who grew tired of police raids on the Black Cat bar, when it was a crime for two people of the same gender to dance together, or to wear clothes of the other gender, he began serenading the police with a chorus of "God Save Us Nelly Queens" at closing time every night. Early video without sound of Jose at the Black Cat.

'Gay journalist George Mendenhall recalled: "It sounds silly, but if you lived at that time and had the oppression coming down from the police department and from society, there was nowhere to turn ... and to be able to put your arms around other gay men and to be able to stand up and sing 'God Save Us Nelly Queens' ... we were really not saying 'God Save Us Nelly Queens.' We were saying 'We have our rights, too'."'

He took the name "Widow Norton" as a reference to an earlier colorful San Franciscan, the Emperor Norton.

His memorial will be, as he requested, a grandiose public affair, culminating in his burial in Colma near the Emperor Norton.

His archives have been donated to the GLBT Historical Society.
posted by gingerbeer (36 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
And they say only the good die young.

Because of what he did with his life, I can live mine the way I do. What a legacy.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on August 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Good night, Mama.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:53 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by xingcat at 3:56 PM on August 24, 2013


//////////\\\\\\\\\\|.

A 21 gun .

(Is that proper for royalty?)
posted by Samizdata at 4:00 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


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posted by dnash at 4:08 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:10 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by jim in austin at 4:20 PM on August 24, 2013


What an extraordinary and great man.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2013


Drag in 1963. I can't even imagine.



.......
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.......


Another 21-gun salute for Her Imperial Majesty.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:30 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by trip and a half at 4:42 PM on August 24, 2013


Such bravery *and* so much fabulousness.

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posted by rmd1023 at 4:55 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a life. What a man. The queen is dead; long live the queens.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:57 PM on August 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


A dot seems so inadequate for such a life.

§

Maybe...
posted by The Whelk at 5:08 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by Pope Guilty at 5:10 PM on August 24, 2013


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What a hero.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:16 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by emmtee at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2013


Can we hold a vote for deification of the Royal Couple? And then name them patron deities of ... everything awesome and wonderful about humanity?

.... I've got something in my eye.
posted by strixus at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2013


A dot seems so inadequate for such a life.


There does not seem to be any mere mark of punctuation that indicates a tearful standing ovation.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:29 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"...serenading the police with a chorus of "God Save Us Nelly Queens.""

That video is from 2010! Wow.

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posted by marienbad at 5:36 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a long and fabulous life!

I agree, a dot just doesn't seem right. Maybe
*
or
;

and thank you, your Majesty!
posted by Athanassiel at 5:40 PM on August 24, 2013


God Bles Her Royal Majesty and may angels bring her to her rest, but you know, spangly angels.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


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posted by koucha at 6:32 PM on August 24, 2013


There's a sweet letter to the SF Chronicle about Sarria published yesterday.
José Julio Sarria, the widow Norton, was a closet Episcopalian. He attended Trinity Church, San Francisco, during the past five years when I was rector of the church. He attended our 11 a.m. Holy Eucharist regularly.

Sarria, the widow, called me one Saturday afternoon and asked if it was all right with me for him to attend church in his widow's weeds on Sunday. He did not want to offend anyone. I said, Please do come, most people wouldn't even notice.

At Trinity, at funerals for empresses and emperors of the Imperial Court, Sarria, as founding empress, was last in the recession while the attendees sang "Long Live Our Nellie Queen."

He was always fun at the coffee hour and even provided some hilarity to my retirement party in 2001. He was a gracious and charming man, widow and empress.

Robert Warren Cromey
posted by Nelson at 6:51 PM on August 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


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What a legacy.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:00 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:07 PM on August 24, 2013


Sometimes, it seems, hell-raisers are exempt from the "only the good die young" truism. Thanks for this post!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 7:15 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by user92371 at 8:03 PM on August 24, 2013


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posted by Foosnark at 10:21 PM on August 24, 2013



posted by Joe in Australia at 10:54 PM on August 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


!
posted by scody at 12:18 AM on August 25, 2013


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posted by runincircles at 12:20 AM on August 25, 2013


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posted by mike3k at 10:09 PM on August 25, 2013


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posted by conradjones at 1:09 AM on August 26, 2013


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posted by rhiannonstone at 7:14 AM on August 26, 2013


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posted by the_bone at 9:47 PM on August 26, 2013


Mourners celebrate gay rights pioneer Jose Sarria
The funeral combined all the pomp of the Episcopal Church with the flamboyance of gay life. The Right Rev. Mark Handley Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, presided. Two empresses and two public officials were among those who gave eulogies.

Sarria's official title was Empress Jose I, the Widow Norton, and his ceremony looked like one of those state funerals held for royalty in Victorian times. Some mourners wore long dresses with trains; the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had a place of honor. ...

Sarria was buried in a grave next to the last resting place of Joshua Abraham Norton, better known at Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
posted by Nelson at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2013


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