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Shiny Crowns and Sparkly Gowns

ERSICSS celebrates 35 years of supporting the community.

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Jade Anniversary: Members of ERSICSS pictured at a fundraiser at Tony’s Corner Pocket.

The traditional gift to give for a 35th anniversary is jade, but the gift ERSICSS gives every year is time and talent to help the community. The group, whose full name is The Empire of the Royal Sovereign and Imperial Court of the Single Star, Inc., is celebrating its 35th-anniversary month with fanfare by inviting the community to be a part of their tradition of service.

ERSICSS’ mission statement says the organization sponsors, supports, and promotes community charitable and educational programs and efforts; promotes and recognizes community leaders; and promotes harmony among people in the community.

“We do everything one dollar at a time—shows, bake sales, car washes, whatever it takes. We are here to educate, promote, and give back,” says Falcon, president of the ERSICSS board. “We like to promote the community, and what Houston is. Our realm is Harris County and [the adjacent] counties.”

The group can often be seen on the weekends hosting fundraisers and raising awareness for local nonprofits. Members aren’t hard to spot—the women are usually dressed in gowns, men are dressed in formal or western wear, and everyone usually wears a sash and crown. Some of the members perform in drag, but the unifying thread is that all are focused on the philanthropic mission of the organization.

“We consider ourselves a charity that was founded by a drag queen. We are fully diversified. We’ve had every type of diversity at one point or another for our emperors and empresses, including heterosexual, cisgender [men and women]. We’re open and fluid,” Falcon notes.

The current emperor and empress are His Most Royal Sovereign and Imperial Majesty J.J. Fulton, Emperor XXXV; and Her Most Royal Sovereign and Imperial Majesty Morgan Fairview, Empress XXXV. The nonprofit groups they supported in 2019 are Omega House Hospice and Hatch Youth’s Rapid Rehousing program. Omega House provides a home-like environment where people at the end of life may live fully, receiving compassionate and competent care from professional, volunteer, and family caregivers. Hatch Youth Rapid Rehousing provides case management and rent for young adults ages 18–24.

The group also participates in direct fundraisers for other nonprofits throughout the year.

The reign of Empress and Emperor XXXV is coming to an end, and when the new royal court is announced, ERSICSS will select this year’s charity partners.

Voting for next year’s royal court will take place January 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., and January 11 from noon to 6 p.m. at JR’s Bar & Grill, 808 Pacific. Anyone with a 77— zip code on an official picture ID card will be allowed to vote.

“[The empress and emperor are elected] based on who the community feels is best for the position. It’s rare for a community to get to choose the leadership of an organization. The candidates promote, they do shows, they bust their butts for two months trying to get the community’s vote,” Falcon says.

The results of the vote will be announced as part of Coronation 36, Northern Lights: A Winter Odyssey. Those planning to attend the January 16–19 events must appear in full regalia, formal western, formal leather, or themed attire. Planned events include an in-town show, an out-of-town show, a bus tour, the coronation, and a victory brunch and party. The January 18 coronation (the “crown jewel” of the week) takes place at Sheraton Brookhollow, 3000 North Loop W., with several other events taking place at Neon Boots Dance Hall & Saloon, 11410 Hempstead Road.

Once the new Emperor and Empress are announced, it’s back to the grind—ERSICSS isn’t planning any other hoopla for the organization’s anniversary outside of this month’s coronation ceremony.

“It’s so much work. When the new emperor and empress step in, they’ll realize it’s almost a full-time job because they travel, promote, mentor, and put in the work,” Falcon says. “I’m proud of everyone who’s been a part of this court. They’re a hardworking corps of people who have their hearts and minds in the
right spot.”

For all of the hours put into the job, the payoff is quite nice. Falcon estimates the group raises anywhere from $58,000 to $70,000 per year, and the group is nearing the $2 million mark for donations during the past 35 years.

While the main focus for ERSICSS is raising money for other nonprofits, they have also established their own gift-giving entities with the Kimberly Anne O’Neil Believe in a Dream Scholarship and the Jonathan Smith Emergency Fund. These are geared toward LGBTQ students and people facing unexpected financial need, respectively.

“We leaned toward creating some of our own funds because we don’t get to see the results of the money we raise; we give it to others. We wanted a little bit of a pat on the back at the coronation, to show that we’re giving some of our own money,” Falcon explains.

Falcon is proud of the organization’s endurance, noting that its members’ sustained participation speaks to the values of the group. “What’s exciting about our organization is the longevity of some of our members. Not too many organizations get to say they have people from 33 years ago who are still members. Empress III is still playing. Empress VI just came back. Emperor I should be coming to this coronation. That says a lot about who we are. Most people join an organization for a few years and then disappear. We don’t. We stay.”

What: Voting for the 2020 Empress and Emperor of ERSICSS
When: Jan. 6 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Jan. 11 (noon to 6 p.m.)
Where: JR’s Bar & Grill, 808 Pacific
Info and tickets: ersicss.org (the $65 coronation dinner is January 18)

This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.

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