My Mother Meets Katie Lee

(Copyright 2013. Short excerpt about Katie Lee from Diane Rapaport’s forthcoming book: Home Sweet Jerome,

I was once asked, “Do any famous artists live in Jerome.” I thought about this and answered, “Katie Lee.”

She is famous in Jerome for riding her bike through town naked except for a helmet and boots when she was 77 years old. She howled with laughter as she sailed the mile downhill from Main Street to her house. It was her way to shed the glum, sad feelings she had after a close Jerome friend died.

The day she decided to do it was the kind of sticky and hot it gets just before a summer monsoon. “Friends were snapping at each other like loony birds in a tank of toxins and the humidity was a wet, down comforter under a 110-degree heating pad.[i]

She rode past bar owner Paul Vojnic as he talked with Ray, the town cop. Paul said, “Well, aren’t you going to arrest her?” “What am I going to arrest her for” Ray said. “For floppy tits?”

Even before Katie reached her house, people who saw her started shaking the phone calls with their laughter. “Do you know what Katie Lee just did?”

Katie says she’s likely to be more famous for her ride than for her books and music.


[i] Lee, Katie, “The Ride,” Sandstone Seduction (Johnson Books, 2004), pp. 185-192

Photo: Katie on her bike.  Ceramicist and painter Jane Moore’s birthday present to singer songwriter and anti-dam activist Katie Lee on her 93rd birthday was a ceramic bowl commemorating Katie’s famous stark naked bike ride through Jerome. Photo courtesy Katie Lee.

Photo: Katie on her bike. Ceramicist and painter Jane Moore’s birthday present to singer songwriter and anti-dam activist Katie Lee on her 93rd birthday was a ceramic bowl commemorating Katie’s famous stark naked bike ride through Jerome. Photo courtesy Katie Lee.

Katie says she’s likely to be more famous for her ride than for her books and music.

Mother Meets Katie

Katie was absolutely unforgettable to my mother after I introduced them at a party at Wylci Fables and Jore Park’s art studio in the old high school.

My mom and Katie were contemporaries. Both were stunning women throughout their lives. Katie was a sensuous and provocative blue-eyed Irishwoman. My mother, a black eyed beauty with a quick smile and a great deal of charm, was crowned Miss Greek America when she was eighteen. They were the center of attention in any room they entered.

Mom grew up in upper middle class Washington, D.C. surrounded by lawyers, bankers and foreign embassy personnel. 8My mother was the only one in our family to get a job. In 1942, she was the first woman lawyer to be hired by the National Labor Relations Board. When Katie met her, mom had just been appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the same board.

Katie grew up like a Western fox, shrewd at survival and defense against predators. The downturn in real estate was her family’s downfall in the depression. She was western and country, a native Arizonan who grew up near the foothills of Tucson. She shot quail, squirrels and rabbits for the stew pot with her .22 rifle. She camped in the mountains and canyons around Tucson with a couple of cowboys that taught her their songs and took her to the cantinas and brothels of Nogales, Mexico where she learned Mexican border songs.

Katie Lee, activist, singer, songwriter.  Author Glen Canyon Betrayed and soon The Ghost of Dandy Crossing.

Katie Lee, activist, singer, songwriter. Author Glen Canyon Betrayed and soon The Ghost of Dandy Crossing.

They met during my mom’s second visit to Jerome. My mother could not believe that we had settled into this dilapidated town full of pot smokers. She thought smoking pot led directly to heroin and she lectured us about it every time she could. This second visit though, she made a little peace with Jerome. She said it reminded her of the mountainous northern Greek village that her parents had come from.

Nothing prepared her for the party at Wylci and Jore’s. I told my mom she would meet my close friend Katie, whom I described as a well-known published author and singer/songwriter who was about her age. My mother smiled with relief at the possibility of meeting a respectable friend of mine.

Mom walked up the forty-five iron steps to the second floor of the gym. As soon as we were at the top, I handed her the brown paper bag that contained her high heels, which she primly substituted for her walking shoes. As we walked down the corridor, we could hear ripples of music and laughter. Soon we were immersed among fifty rowdy-looking hippies, gussied up in their gypsy best, a wilder and more raucous group than my mother had ever been in. I looked around for Katie so I could introduce them. It was not until I looked up that I found her as she swung upside down on a trapeze. The skirt that hung over her body exposed the white ruffled pantaloons she had sewn for the occasion. She waved her high heels, which were, oddly enough, the same color as mom’s.

It was an irresistible moment for me. I marched my mother up to Katie and introduced them. It was one of the few times I ever saw my mother at a total loss of words. Katie invited her to lunch the next day without missing a swing. Eventually, they became good friends that admired each other for their independent and outspoken natures.

For more info on Katie’s book and music: http://www.katydoodit.com/


[i] Lee, Katie, “The Ride,” Sandstone Seduction (Johnson Books, 2004), pp. 185-192

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5 thoughts on “My Mother Meets Katie Lee

    • Just posted a contemporary shot of Katie. She’ll have a long segment in the book in the chapter on the arts in Jerome; and she appears again in a segment about Kate Wolf meets Katie Lee (posted in an earlier version somewhere in the blog. Thanks for reading.

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