In San Francisco Salute the Skeleton Emperor

Posted by Steve on Nov 3, 2009 in Characters, Production | Subscribe


Frown Town production’s been on hiatus this past week as I put together my Halloween costume.  For one drunken evening I walked in the guise of his excellency Norton the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.


Emperor Norton declared himself such on September 17, 1859 via a proclamation issued to the various newspapers of San Francisco.  Largely believed to be mad, he plays forefather to San Francisco’s proud tradition of notable eccentrics.  Though his powers extended only as far as he was humored, he was humored by everyone in town.  During his triumphant reign he printed his own money, ate free all over town, proposed the League of Nations as well as the Bay Bridge and dissolved Congress, though the blighters took no heed to their Emperor’s decree.  30,000 citizens attended his funeral.  If outlandish tales of days gone by are your favorite cup of tea, head on over to to learn more about his majesty and a cavalcade of other eccentrics and eccentricities dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.


To assemble a reasonable facsimile of his majesty’s attire, I had to craft the tasseled epaulets of a warrior king.  It turns out what I wanted wasn’t tassel fringe but bullion fringe, a product evidently impossible to come by as even the Uber Posh Fabric Tower known as Britex couldn’t deliver the goods.  On the upside, while searching for fringe I lucked across some super saturated sea foam and turquoise felt which suits Judy Swinehopper to a T.  It’s 100% wool so it cost a little more, but the only girl in the vacant lot deserves the best.  She’s gonna rock the locks of a candy raving mermaid.


The mantle of my kingdom: a brown felt top hat with gold band, festooned with a royal plume of feathers.  With a bit of alteration, both this and the epaulets will likely end up on Trey or someone sooner or later.  I’m big into upcycling.  My original costume also included a handcrafted beard which I wore spirit gummed to my face.  Stayed on brilliantly.  Unfortunately, I haven’t got photos from Halloween proper, but I do have a few from November the 2nd — Dia de los Muertos in the Mission — where I was reborn as the Skeleton Emperor.  Upcycle.


As the wax melted, the candle fused to my hand and looked generally awesome.  I’d like to make brass-cast, hand-shaped, wall-mounted candle holders to recreate this effect permanently, but I’m doing this puppet thing instead.  You got to pick your battles.


Skeleton photos by the inestimable Alice Howell.

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