Imperial Court de'

Fort Worth/Arlington Inc.

A brief history and notable facts of The Imperial Court de Fort Worth/Arlington Inc. (ICFWA).

The Imperial Court de Fort Worth/Arlington has been in existence since January 1979 and is the oldest Court in the State of Texas and a proud member of the United Courts of Texas. Our Court, as are rest of the United Courts of Texas, is but one of many in an International Court System, so in essence, we are a Chapter in the International Court System.

How we got started...

After Keith Barbee was discharged from the Navy, he settled in San Francisco and became friends with Jose I, he and his partner, John Silva, were also dress makers for Jose I. In time, Keith decided to return home to Texas and with the approval of Jose I, gathered 30 people together and explained the Court System. In turn, these 30 people became the founders of the Imperial Court de’ Fort Worth/Arlington. For crowning, the 30 Founding members encircled Keith “Barbie Doll” and Sonny Terry. Founder, Jack Guthrie (later Emperor IV) placed the Emperor's crown on Sonny while founder, The Lady Wyatt (later Pat ‘Cookies’ Wyatt Empress XVI) placed the Empress's crown on Barbie Doll and they were proclaimed Emperor and Empress I.

Fort Worth has always been one unified Court, but there was a time that discord did occur, later cooler heads prevailed to stop any issues.

Notable and interesting facts of the Fort Worth/Arlington Court system …

  • Regent Emperor I, Billy Doll Caram, never actually reigned. At the behest of Empress I, Barbie Doll, Bill was named Regent Emperor I so that Barbie would not have to walk alone. And most importantly, so that Barbie’s wishes for the ICFWA would never be forgotten after her demise.

  • Following her reign as Empress II of Dallas Imperial and preceding her reigns of Empress V & VI of Fort Worth, Raina Lea founded the Gay Pride Week Association in Fort Worth in 1981.

  • During the development of the Samaritan House in 1991 (a home for persons with HIV or AIDS which provides a sense of community and acceptance), members of the ICFWA sat on the founding committee to assist with start-up and development of the house. When the house came to fruition, the ICFWA sponsored the refurbishment of the very first room and to this day sponsors a night in the monthly Supper Club by cooking and serving dinner to the residents.

  • During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the heads of all the organizations and the bar owners in Fort Worth began meeting together monthly to schedule fund raising shows (it’s still active today and known as the Treehouse Commission). This group meeting had a two-fold purpose, eliminate shows from stepping on each other and open up the organizations to support each other. In short time, Fort Worth became known as the place where the Leathermen, the Cowboys and girls, the Drag Queens, and the Lesbians all worked together as an actual COMMUNITY.

  • Even though the Bars are very supportive of the Ft Worth/Arlington Court, at one point you couldn’t just go into a bar in drag. Empress XI Donna Dumae had to work with the owners of the 651 Club to allow drag to always be welcome…the agreement was a “show had to be in effect in the City of Ft Worth”….isn’t there always ??? At this same time, the Girls “Lesbians” could not enter any “man’s bar” without a male escort. The issue was resolved when it was decided that the Lesbians did just as much for the Community, sometimes more, as the Drag Queens.

  • During reign XIV, their majesties Raymond Gill and Ima Tu Luce proclaimed that 100% of all fund raising events for charity would go directly to that charity and that separate fund raising events would occur for general funds to maintain the business and put on coronation. The proclamation remains in effect today.

  • During reigns XIV, XV, & XVI when the AIDS Outreach Center was losing grant funding, the ICFWA stepped in and became a primary supporter of the Food Pantry to ensure clients would not go hungry. Spawning from that, Empress XV Rhonda Mae began the Wall of Food organization which raises funds solely for the AOC food pantry.

  • Many of the bar owners and managers in Fort Worth and Arlington went above and beyond for the organizations in the early days. They gave us a place to raise funds and hold meetings in off-hours. They sponsored numerous hospitalities and believed in the mission of the ICFWA as to become members. These people shall never be forgotten for their unending support: Josey Gallegos and Darlene Smith of Aubs (later D.J.’s), T.J. Hollewell of the Other Place, Gordon, Ray Anderton, James Allen, and Jerry Jones of the Corral Club, Billy Ray Hill (The Mayor of Jennings), Gerald Ford, Paul Wallace, and Scott Jones of the 651 Fort Worth, Jerry ‘Big Mama’ Cassidy of The Magnolia Station, and Danny Nugent of the 651 Arlington. Many of these people, who never reigned as Monarchs, carry life-time titles due to their dedication to the Ft Worth/Arlington Community.

And a whole lot of firsts …

  • The first Latino Emperor is Emperor I Sonny Terry
  • The first Lesbian Emperor is Emperor II Vicki Zeblin
  • The first Lesbian Empress is Empress III Alene Van Gorp
  • The first Black Monarch is Empress IV The Lady Carlotta
  • The first Latina Empress is Empress VIII Delphine Gomez
  • The first Monarch to reign as both Emperor and Empress is Emperor XI Lee Hatcher / Empress XIV Ima Tu Luce
  • The first Transgendered Empress is Empress XV Rhonda Mae
  • The first Texas Emperor and first Lesbian named Heir Apparent to Jose I is Emperor XVI Melissa Flories
  • The first Straight woman Emperor is Emperor XXVIII Janie ‘Mom’ Stanton
  • The first Gay Couple reigning together are Emperor/Empress XVII Michael & Angela Aaron Winchester
  • The first Legally married Gay Couple reigning together are Emperor/Empress XXXV JD Swisher & Scarlett Rayne

Do you know any interesting ICFWA history? you can email us at and we'll add it.