A deposed emperor, a mysterious sister, alleged affairs with a Utah state Senator and Mormon apostle, death by AIDS. God, I love living in Utah. Who said history is boring? The following is a continuation of the turmoil in the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, Utah’s oldest queer-related charity.
It was not quite the Ides of February, when on February 12, 1980, the Imperial Court of the Wasatch Empire of Utah held its last board meeting. While no daggers in togas were present at the Denny’s restaurant, located at 300 West and North Temple, resistance to tyranny was on the agenda. The emperor, wary of the danger of impeachment, brought his attorney/bodyguard to the meeting.
After a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the emperor and his consort, and their refusal to abdicate, there was no other course of action. The entire Imperial Court pulled out their membership cards, turned them in and resigned. The meeting lasted 10 minutes. The members walked out leaving Steele and Candy to preside over a phantom court.
Unbeknownst to Steele, the jubilant rebels had already filed new papers with the state to form the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire. They had reworked their charter and bylaws and had submitted Articles of Incorporation. Fred Sexton, also known as Dusty LeManns, and Joe Conti were escalated to being the first monarchs of the new Royal Court. However, to honor the former monarchs, the pair retained the titles of the fourth empress and emperor. Bill Lanning and Herman Moore, aka Donnie Marie, assumed the vacant positions of prince royale and princess royale. On March 25, 1980 the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire was officially registered in the state of Utah.
With all the turmoil behind them, the RCGSE held their first charitable event, an annual Golden Spike Awards banquet. It was held in April 1980 and the Humanitarian Award was given to honor Stephen Holbrook’s creation, KRCL, for its commitment to local gay programming.
One of the changes instituted by the new Royal Court was to move Coronation to Memorial Day weekend. This move made Salt Lake City’s Coronation a popular venue due to a long weekend of partying. On May 25, 1980 Emperor IV Joe Conti, “The Memory of the Spike” and Empress IV Dusty LeManns, “The Balance of the Spike,” stepped down at the court’s fifth Coronation. It was the end of a year of discontent.
Larry Kasper, aka Lois Lane, would later rejoin the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire and was given the honorary title of “The Liberty Empress.” On June, 1, 1987, Kasper died of AIDS at the age of 34.
A darker side of Steele emerged after he lost control of the Imperial Court. He told his family that he was involved with a certain senator who was deep in the closet and threatened his life if he told anyone. Due to this relationship, he said he was burned out of two apartments and had numerous threats against his life. He went underground then, living under an assumed name for the last year or so he spent in Utah. One of the assumed names was that of his older brother from whom he stole his social security number and got him into legal trouble “before the Feds and IRS nailed Gordy.”
When he did not get his way, his sister wrote, Steele, “would pay big males to take his ‘enemies’ back into a dark alley and beat the crap out of them… I am now wondering if some of these big males went beyond merely beating these guys half to death. This thought really frightens me… He even had our brother beat up when he discovered his identity had been stolen and he was filing charges against Gordon.”
At that point Steele was literally fleeing for his life. He moved to Chicago in 1981. However, while there he continued his pattern of trying to control all events. His sister wrote of his time in Chicago, “Whatever was left of Steele’s sweetness was destroyed by the lifestyle he chose to live in Chicago. Incredibly self destructive. He evolved into what I would term as a sick trick.”
This sister did not see Steele again until he was terminally ill in 1990. “I got a call from Gordon and he asked me to come to Florida and help him. A friend of his had stolen thousands of dollars from him, which I was able to get back — and he weighed about 85 pounds. I about died when I saw the condition he was in. No one should have to die from such a devastating illness. So I ended up staying for several months. Learned more than I ever wanted to know about the ravaging effects of the disease. He not only had AIDS but also very advanced syphilis. Both diseases cause dementia and he got to be very far mentally gone due to this.
When I was caring for Gordon at the end of his life – he would sometimes fly into horrible rages for no seeming reason. Often times the hospital in Tampa had to call me in the middle of the night to come and try to get control of Gordon. They would have to truss him up in a straight jacket to keep him from harming both himself and others.”
Steele died in Tampa, Fla. on March 13, 1991 at the age of 38 of AIDS. He was interred in Florida although his sister hopes to someday have him moved to Salt Lake City to be buried next to his grandparents. She wrote of Steele, “My kids adored him, he always bought them gigantic milkshakes.” Steele’s sister-in-law wrote, he “ was always so good to me, very sweet… Stubborn? You bet! He stood his ground for what he thought was right. Self centered? Yes, but not so much to forget about others. He was always doing something for others.”
As for Candy Steele, the woman he passed off as his sister and claimed to be Empress IV of the Imperial Court, she was a fraud. This woman was not his real sister, who was married and living in Alaska during this time. The phony sister fooled people into thinking she was Steele’s sibling and kept up the ruse for years. She remained in Salt Lake City, to the annoyance of many people, and worked as a prison guard at the Utah’s state correction facility for many years. When I met her in 1986 she treated me kindly and I even worked with a woman who said that this person was her sister-in-law, so you can imagine my surprise when Michael Aaron forwarded me an email from the real Candy Steele.
The real Candy Steele was just as surprised to find that some woman had passed herself off as her. However, she informed me that Steele also falsely claimed that a nephew of his was his son and that “Gordon was certainly not beyond stretching the truth when it suited him to do so.” So who was this mysterious woman who posed as Gordon’s sister? No clue. It’s an enigma.