Bentley’s auctioneers will conduct an online estate auction of Jose Sarria, Empress I, The Widow Norton, from August 1 to August 11, 2014. The auction proceeds of nearly 2,000 valuable artifacts, including rare jewels, all belonging to the founder of the Imperial Court System (ICS) will go to fund a documentary about the activist’s life. To view the Lots, go to Bentley’s at:
Sarria passed away in Los Ranchos, New Mexico August 19, 2013, at the age of 90.
“Jose was a collector of fine jewels, coins, antiques and oil paintings,” said Sarria’s executor Tony Ross. “This is a great opportunity to own a bit of LGBT history and for the gay community to support a documentary long overdue on one of our unsung heroes.”
Award winning Los Angeles filmmakers Dante Alencastre and Daniel Carrera are in pre-production on Sarria’s documentary “Nelly Queen,” slated to be released in 2015. Sarria was the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in the United States in 1961, more than a decade before Harvey Milk.
When San Francisco city officials vowed to shut down all the gay bars in 1961, the 38 year-old cabaret singer ran for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Although Sarria lost the election, he garnered nearly 6,000 votes, proving for the first time in American politics that there was a gay voting bloc.
Speaker John A. Pérezof the California Assembly noted that “Jose Sarria’s trailblazing run for public office as an openly gay man laid the groundwork for LGBT Californians to run for public office proudly and openly. But Jose's refusal to be silenced or shamed back into the closet--in an era where LGBT People were routinely discriminated against--was the greatest contribution to our movement.”
In 1965, Sarria founded the ICS in San Francisco when a group of gay bar owners formed a Tavern Guild as a means to stand in solidarity with one another under the pressure of police harassment. The Guild put on the first large public drag ball in San Francisco's history. The following year, Sarria declared himself Absolute Empress I Jose of the newly formed nonprofit.
ICS was intended mainly for "camp" fun as its members derived royal titles and elected Empresses and Emperors at annual Coronations. However, under Jose's guidance the organization grew to 70 chapters, making it the second largest LGBT nonprofit corporation in the U.S., and since its inception has raised millions of dollars for AIDs organizations and other charities.