Empress Jose I, The Widow Norton has died. Jose Julio Sarria made history as the first openly gay man to run for public office (yes, before Harvey Milk) and was the founder of the Imperial Court System. Jose didn't just do drag, he defined drag, and when he took the title of empress, he made history.
Appearing along with other notable drag queens in the 1995 film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Jose is seen briefly in the opening sequence judging the "Drag Queen of the Year Contest." The performance that is best remembered though is his longtime association with the historic Black Cat Bar in the Financial District.
In recent years he might not have been as visible on a day to day basis, but anyone within the Imperial Court knew who he was and knew him. Tributes will pour in over the days ahead because Jose was universally loved! The block of 16th Street in front of the Harvey Milk Branch Library was dedicated as José Sarria Court in 2006.
Yesterday morning his earthly life came to an end, but Jose Julio Sarria will live on in our hearts forever! Long live the Empress!