by Mikki Whitworth
“What a great trip,” Henry Bender announced upon return to Salt Lake City from Portland, Ore. “We should create a court of the Imperial Court system here.”
“What the hell is that?” Gordon Winklekotter asked.
Henry began telling about the Portland Court’s Coronation. He explained an empress and emperor reigned over a group of gay men, lesbians and others. Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon raised money to help people in need. The group sitting around the table listened intently. Cherisse, Empress I of the Emerald Court of Eugene, Oregon began visiting the city to help assisting building the new court. During this process, Henry asked Pepper Prespente to become Salt Lake’s first emperor and Henry started performing drag as Deanna. Pepper needed to know more before she could make a decision, but as Henry explained the court system to her, Pepper wanted to become a part of this new community.
According to the Utah Stonewall Historical Society, a group of “more than 20 people, straight, lesbian, drag queen, activist, and businessman met over the Veteran’s Day  weekend to create a Founders Council to organize an Imperial Court system for Utah.” The diverse group wanted to move forward with visibility for the LGBT community. Acting mostly as a social group, they desired to be nonprofit. The money earned through their events helped the build the group and start planning who they could assist.
Several changes have occurred since the inception of the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire. First, it was called the Imperial Court of the Wasatch Empire of Utah. Plus, unlike all future emperors and empresses, Deanna, Empress I, The Origin of the Spike, and Pepper, Emperor I, The Spice of the Spike, were appointed. Annual elections choose the leaders of the Court. Another difference between the early Court and the modern Court is the empress was president of the board then, and now, the empress and emperor are co-presidents of the board.
On Feb. 22, 1976, with about 100 people in attendance, Deanna and Pepper were crowned by Cherisse, Empress I of the Emerald Court of Eugene, Oregon and Scotti Carlyle, Empress II of the Imperial Court of The Rocky Mountain Empire of Denver. At the same time, Cherisse granted the Imperial Court of the Wasatch Empire of Utah its official charter. With the crowning of Pepper, Emperor I, she became the first female emperor in the fledgling International Court System.
Over the next fourteen months, the Court continued to grow. The events held by Reign I developed a community as a social group for Salt Lake’s new queer community. When the first reign ended April 30, 1977, it began a tradition of caring for the community around it. However, it did not end Pepper’s involvement in the Court. She is currently a member of the board and a driving force in the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire.
On May 27, 2012 the Court holds Coronation XXXVII in the Red Lion Hotel Ballroom. The doors open at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 6. This year’s theme celebrates the past by highlighting Reigns VI, XVI and XXVI. Tickets are on sale now at all Court events, during voting and at the door and cost $40. Pepper, Michael and Nick invite you to join them to meet your extended Court family.
Mikki Whitworth is a junior at Westminster College pursuing a degree in English with a creative writing emphasis. She is a disabled veteran.