The United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire is part of an international court system that includes over 50 courts in North America alone. But if the words "international court system" bring to mind the Geneva Convention, think again.
The court system began in San Francisco in 1965 as a celebration of camp, costume and sheer fabulousness. This spirit has endured even as the system itself has evolved into a highly efficient hierarchical organization.
A group of Pikes Peak area residents cast their ballots recently in the UCPPE's 30th annual election of its emperor and empress. Their coronation will take place at this weekend's annual ball.
The officers on this court are trained gender-bending entertainers who don elaborate costumes and perform complicated song-and-dance routines. Although pageantry is a significant component, its pomp comes with an important message.
Founded in 1975, the UCPPE is the oldest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered organization in Colorado Springs. Its main purpose (other than to have lots of feathered, boa-ed and sequined fun) is to raise money for other nonprofits in the community.
In addition to making monthly appearances with their court at events around town, the emperor and empress travel around the region to visit other courts and to represent the city. In Colorado Springs, which has not always had the soundest record for supporting GLBT rights, this can be a tricky task.
Over the years, the UCPPE has faced many challenges. Due to the makeup of the organization, its charitable donations have not always been accepted, although 29th Emperor Marc Callan refuses to share the names of those groups.
"I'd rather focus on what we have been able to accomplish," he says.
Last year, the court suffered a real blow when the Hide 'n Seek -- its "home bar" and performance venue since the organization's inception -- closed suddenly.
But the court was undeterred. This year's coronation weekend will include a performance by out-of-towners at the Sheraton Colorado Springs, as well as a bus tour to the Ancient Mariner and The Keg in Manitou Springs.
The coronation also is a chance for the former emperor and empress to perform and say their goodbyes. Callan is coy: "I can't give away what songs I'll perform, but (they) have special meaning for me, and they're full of messages for my court."
Dorian Lord, 29th empress, gushes about her year of service, and also hints at what fun the coronation party can be.
"To tell you the truth, I do not remember a lot about the night I stepped up as empress, but I will say that since then, I have done nothing but try to help bring this community together. There is not a thing I would change about this past year."
Callan just wants everyone to know that even if the glamour of the coronation party is intimidating, "We're open to everybody; we do not discriminate.
"We just want to have fun and raise money for other nonprofits. Everybody is welcome to attend the coronation. It's a nonstop event, four or five hours of celebrating our year and the year to come. The performances are great, and the costume changes are amazing."
-- Bettina Swigger
The United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire presents Anniversary Coronation XXX
The Sheraton Colorado Springs Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive
Saturday, Nov. 12; doors at 5 p.m., ball at 6.
Donation: $30; call 800/325-3535 or see ucppe.org.