Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my friend Lee Paris. A while back I stumbled upon a tribute site to Lee and posted my thoughts there. In celebration of his life and in memory of his passing, I want to share that post with you, below:
I first met Lee Paris in late 1979, when I was "lucky" enuf to become a Meet A Punk on his YNMT program on WXPN - I wound up developing a good friendship with him over the next six years, and with his torch, I followed the trail of discovering new wave at a level I never had known!
The scene was beautiful- the never ending concerts at places like the Hot Club, Elks, Starlight Ballroom, and the sacred East Side Club... mixed with the constant fix of Lee and company teaching the listeners - or as Lee called his fans his 'Paris-ites" - what to like and how to listen to more than you thought you liked...
I wound up taking my music and spinnin 45s at the Love Club (or Love Hall, depending who u ask!) at the corner of Broad and South ... next thing, Lee and Co. opened The Kennel Club - and I had a new home.
I hung there more than I hung at my own apartment. At the time I was running a weekly gay newspaper in Philly, so I was out every night - but no matter where I had to go, I always wound up just about every night at the Kennel.
I worked with my friend Seth on throwing mad parties and showing sleeze/shock-a-rama horror flicks at the Kennel and even wound up spinning a few times ... there was nothing like being out on the deck at 2am - surrounded by the lights of the city and listening to the mix of '85... sweet.
Sadly, Lee was imploding slowly - he and I would watch a number of sunrises talking about the pressure of life - he was a fast soul and I personally think he just wasn't able to handle the pace anymore.
Lee crossed over on Jan. 8, 1986. I remember that time clearly. It was a Wednesday night - I got word late the next night from my friend Mo - I was in a collapse mode myself at that time, only months away from imploding and leaving everything and starting over - Lee's passing hit me hard and I remember, a few weeks after, around the end of the month - when the Challenger blew up - I watched that over and over that day and thought of me and my life, of Lee and our conversations, of the whole scene. Everything was ending. It was like watching a film and then - BAM - it ends at the weirdest moment. Roll Credits.
Ironically, when you look back on the scene locally and on New Wave, 1986 was the end of that chapter. Things just weren't fun anymore. Reagan had settled into the culture, the music scene became vapid and those on the cutting edge - which included a large gay element - were realizing that there was a deadly enemy among them and everyone had to sober up and get serious.
Lee must have saw it coming and just said 'fuck this shit' and checked out.
I miss him, but since 1988 I've worked at WXPN and, on the nights I am in the studios alone, I feel him still around. I feel him with me as I spin my monthly new wave dance party 'Sex Dwarf' in Philly. I know he's getting a kick out of it. And I REALLY feel him when I host Land Of The Lost, a monthly rock of the 80s show on XPN. It will never be YNMT. But each month right before I flip open that mic, I say outloud to no one "OK Lee, here we go!".
And that makes it all good. :)