Imperial Court of Arizona Holds 10th Annual Coronation

By Laura Latzko – April 23, 2015

With crowns, diamonds, cloaks, scepters and lavish attire, the Imperial Sovereign Empire of Arizona’s annual coronation is steeped in tradition.

This year’s coronation, Sapphire and Diamond Ball: All that Glitters in the Desert, marks a decade of “striving to unite the [LGBT and allied] communities through charitable fundraising events to meet the needs of all.”

According to Darrell Dern, president of the court’s board of directors, the 10-year anniversary speaks to the organization’s perseverance.

“It’s satisfying to know that the court was able to overcome significant difficulties early on in its years and pull itself up,” Dern said. “It rose like a phoenix. It literally pulled itself out of the ashes to become what it has become today.”

As part of the 10th anniversary celebration, Queen Mother of the Americas Empress Nicole the Great, the executive director of the International Court System, will attend with her heirs apparent.

Monarchs from previous reigns will walk with banners in honor of the milestone, and the court will give out 10-year commemorative pins at the event.

The coronation festivities will include entertainment by Starlight Native Dance Group, a Native American performance group from Page, Ariz., former Miss Gay Arizona America Tyra Marie, former Miss IGRA Victoria London, former Miss Gay Arizona America TC Taylor, Miss Gay Arizona USofA Newcomer Aimee V. Justice and AZ Gender Outlaws founder Pandora DeStrange.

For the milestone event, which Dern expects to draw around 300 guests, court members from as far as Alaska and New York will travel to Phoenix to be a part of the celebration.

During the coronation, Reign IX titleholders Empress Miss DeMeanor and Emperor Bill Mitchell will step down and the court will announce the new monarchs.

During Reign IX, DeMeanor became the Arizona court’s first Native American empress. Throughout her reign, she said her goal was to be a positive representative for, and reach out to, native groups and communities in Arizona. After taking a year sabbatical, DeMeanor plans to resume her service with the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as Navi Ho.

Mitchell, a military veteran originally from Louisiana, became involved with court during reign IV. However, he had already established himself as a leader in the leather community, winning titles such as American Leatherman and Southwest Leather SIR.

DeMeanor and Mitchell agree that because of their hard work and the bond they’ve built with each other, they’ll be forever connected.

“When you spend a year together, you become each other’s confidants and screaming posts,” Mitchell said. “It is family. ‘Friend’ is not a strong enough word.”

During their reign, the monarchs and their lines raised about  $25,000 for various local organizations, including Paws for Patriots, Logan’s Playground, Phoenix Pride, Joshua Tree Feeding Program and the Bryon Wiley Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Emperor II Michael Gaffney will announce the recipients of the Bryon Wiley Memorial Scholarships. Last year, the court presented a record $9,000 in scholarships.

Each reign builds upon the previous, Dern said, finding new ways to give back to the community and strengthening existing relationships.


Reign X Candidates

Online voting for emperor and empress will take place at April 22-April 24, or in person at the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center, 801 N. Second Ave., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 26.

r9-olivia_WEBOlivia Gardens

Reign IX Viscountess Olivia Gardens was the drag queen winner of the imperial court’s 2009 Closet Ball, she holds 2011 Miss Phoenix Gay Pride title and is a members of the AZ Gender Outlaws.


r9-nikki_WEBNikki Starr

Reign IX Princess Nikki Starr has 20 years experience as a drag performer and a volunteer resume that’s just as extensive, including the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association, Arizona Leather Bears and Cubs and the Men of Charlie’s.


r9-steve_WEBSteve Marino

Reign IX Prince Royale Steve Marino has served on the court lines from reign VII to IX. In 2004, Marino won the title of Mr. Michigan Leather, and as a member of the Arizona Men of Leather, he was recently given the title “Bill’s Baaaad Boy” from the reigning Las Vegas emperor.


r9-robert_WEBRobert Schenberg

Reign IX Prince Robert Schenberg has organized the leather community’s annual toy drive for Logan’s Playground and started the Bearlesque charity fundraiser. Also a member of the Arizona Men of Leather, Schenberg holds 2012 Southwest Leather Daddy Bear and 2014 Mr. Phoenix Leather titles.



Coronation Itinerary

Meet and Greet
8 p.m. April 30
Nu Towne Saloon
5002 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix

Out of Town Show
6 p.m. May 1
Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport
4300 E. Washington St., Phoenix,
Emperor and Empress bus tour of Melrose District bars, including The Rock, Charlie’s and Bunkhouse. Emperor bus also stops at Nu Towne Saloon.

Sapphire and Diamond Ball: All that Glitters in the Desert
5 p.m. May 2
Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport
Tickets: $75

Victory Brunch
10 a.m.May 3
Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport
Tickets: $45 (brunch only)

Victory Shot Party and Victory Show
3 and 6 p.m. May 3
The Rock
4129 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix

For more information, and tickets, visit