Not since King Edward VIII Of England abdicated his throne in 1936, has there been so much controversy around a sovereign resigning his or her title.
Well, at least not in Toronto drag circles. Performers and fans alike are in a tizzy this week as word spreads that reigning Empress XIX, Maria Del Monte, has resigned her title — for a second time.
The news came in the form of an e-mail, forwarded from the executive of the Imperial Court Of Toronto (TICOT). Demietrio Salazzar, aka Maria Del Monte, had pulled a repeat. She was handing back her crown.
“For the court it’s business as usual,” says George Pratt, TICOT chair and owner of George’s Play. “If Maria’s resignation happens, one of the past monarchs will step forward and complete the reign for the year. I wish Maria luck in whatever she decides to do. She still is going to be a great person if she’s the empress or not the empress.”
Toronto’s most recognized Latin drag queen was first voted empress in 2001. But five months into her reign, she resigned, citing reasons of receiving little financial support and internal conflict amongst TICOT executive. It was embarrassing for the organization, which appointed Candice as replacement; there is no mention of Del Monte’s 2001 reign on the TICOT website.
Still, Del Monte decided to take a second run for the position — which is volunteer and requires the empress to do charity fundraising and to represent Toronto at Imperial Court functions in other cities — in last October’s election. With no opponents, it was a yes-or-no campaign. And there was a “no” campaign against her. On voting day, after the campaign was supposed to have ended, posters appeared: “Vote no. Why give her the chance to quit again?” A photograph of Del Monte had a red circle and line across it.
Voters decided they would give her the chance to quit again. Del Monte got the vote of confidence and silenced her critics. Seven months into the job, with help from local businesses, Del Monte raised about $20,000 for TICOT and Casey House, the charity of her choice.
Then the heel fell. Why? Who knows. Del Monte did not give a reason for her resignation and declined to be interviewed for this story. Other performers speculate the travelling commitments and the fundraising shows may have lead to drag-queen burnout.
“She’s a very serious person and likes to do her job and do it properly and maybe she feels she can’t do anymore,” says Pratt. “With 25 fundraisers and 10 out-of-town trips it gets to be finically burdensome for one person and emotionally draining.”
“The hardest thing for the members to understand who have not been monarchs is the difficulties and the stresses we go through as monarchs,” says Tom Ivison aka Babushka, Emperor XV and XVII. “Sometimes those difficulties and stresses can weigh heavily on the mind and if you don’t have a good support team to talk things over, then you react in different ways. Every monarch has reacted in their own way to try deal with the stresses as best they can.”
With or without Del Monte, Pratt points out that plans are moving forward with preparations for TICOT’s 20th anniversary celebrations coming this fall.
TICOT’s bylaws stipulate a seven-day cooling-off period after a monarch resigns before the resignation becomes official. That deadline passed after Xtra’s Tuesday deadline.