Page 33 - the Noise December 2017
P. 33

remembering the starlet who made John Muir sexy again
Katie Lee, singer, songwriter, naturalist, author, passed into the Great Beyond on All Soul’s Day, 2017. Her longtime lover, Joey Van Leeuwen, passed the day following. Here we pay tribute for the full 98 years this matron gave of herself, encouraging us to preserve the pristine, protect the divine, and heed the lasting treasure, our bond with this, our Mother Earth ...
The canyon winds are stilled tonight with this sad news. There will never, ever ... be another like Katie. I was honored and overwhelmed to have known her and experience her fervor, passion, and and unflinching environmental stands.
When the Glen Canyon Dam finally falls, Katie’s spirit will be riding it down, whopping and hollering in victory! Her legacy will loom as large and as long as the towering buttes and mesas that she cherished and fought to protect throughout her lifetime.
But Katie won’t rest in peace. No Way! ... She is already drinking and swearing with Ed,
Seduction; and All My Rivers Are Gone), The Ballad of Gutless Ditch “just fell out of the sky.” {Excerpt from which is printed the preceding pages}
“I couldn’t understand how I could write this thing and not know where it was going,”she says. “I did not write it. It wrote me.”
Tad, and the rest of the Gang!
— Mike Frankel
— Sarah Gianelli
orn in 1919 and raised on the outskirts of Tucson, the legendary Katie Lee has seen the
superficiality of Hollywood as a folk singer, the sanctity of the natural world as a river runner, and the insincerity of bureaucracy as an activist for Glen Canyon. Her writings and music have inspired a generation of naturalists who “won’t take no bull.” I asked her: What does the sandstone have to say?
“They have to say where they were born and how they were born and you don’t have to be a geologist to figure that out. They have to say how big they are and how dinky you are in comparison. They humble you. And they have to teach you patience, if you’re capable of being taught that at all. That’s something I had a hard time with; I wanted to see it all, all at once. But the more I went back, the more I learned.
“You can’t know a place if you only see it once or twice. You have to be entwined in that place. You have to really want to know what’s going on. It’s a never-ending curiosity in fig- uring out how this or that curve or dip in the rock was formed or why the river does this or turns that way. You might want to know why this rock fell down, but this other piece didn’t.
“Pretty soon, you just get so involved in trying to figure these things out. That’s what I mean about the rocks talking back to you. You know, if you look long enough, you will see what happened and why it’s that way and why it will be that way again. That’s how I developed a relationship with that place. I got to know it.
“To most humans, it’s not important at all and that’s what’s wrong. If more of ‘em knew what was going on out there, they wouldn’t be out to destroy so much of it, either for money or anything else. But that does not seem to be the way our civilization is set up.
“But it is important. It’s important because these places have a lot to teach us, not just about them, but as I mentioned, about ourselves. They teach us what we’re capable of; they remind us of how fragile the real world is, and the scope of our actions. They help us find our place in this world, as a member, not a master.”
— Kyle Boggs
The first time I saw Katie Lee, she swept into the Asylum Restaurant draped in turquoise and glittering with gems. Her cocktail — double Absolut with a splash of tonic — was ready and waiting before she sat down. Her outward appearance, dazzling as it can be, would quickly dim in comparison with the diamond-cut sparkle in her eyes and the shocking slew of expletives that fire from her mouth when something — or someone — got in her craw. At 92, Ms. Lee could have easily inspired the slogan “well behaved women seldom make history.”
The life and achievements of this amazing woman are impossible to justly summarize, or even list, in the space allotted here. Since the sweeping biography of this grand dame, who performed her way from Cowboy-era Tucson to Hollywood, to the river wilds of Glen Canyon, has been documented by countless writers, at times glossed over — friends with Edward Abbey! Third woman to raft all rapids of the Colorado River! She shared the stage with legendaries Harry Belafonte, Burl Ives and Josh White!
My favorite stories to picture, and the ones that, for me, capture the essence of this brazen broad, are closer to home: a 77-year old Ms. Lee biking “buck ass naked” through Jerome, and how, during the race for the Democratic nomination for president, Ms. Lee adorned her main street home with giant braziers reading, “Support Hillary” — twice!
Unlike the books she would struggle painstakingly to write (among them Ten Thousand Goddamn Cattle: A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse; Sandstone | the NOISE arts & news | D
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