Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In Praise of Arizona Katie Lee

One way to get to a sense of Katie Lee, the dynamic personality at the center of an eight-minute documentary short premiering this weekend at the 2016 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, is to consider how she has been described by journalist and naturalist Craig Childs.

Marvels Childs: "Katie Lee speaks for the canyons and the sweet desert recesses. She is our foul-mouthed, lightning-eyed, boot-stomping balladeer, a character Louis L'Amour never could have invented. Born from the rock itself, she is a lifetime of experience on this wild, restless, cradling ground. If you want to know this [Western] place, you need to know Katie."

Another fantastic snapshot of Lee, now 95, is the photo below, which is being used to publicize this weekend's film. Kickass Katie Lee was made by the Telluride husband-and-wife team of Beth and George Gage. Typically, the pair make feature-length films, starting with Fire on the Mountain, which premiered at the Mountainfilm event back in 1995.

Lee has been a fixture in recent years at the Memorial Day weekend Mountainfilm event, appearing several times as a featured speaker and in a pair of films shown in 2014 that highlighted her environmental activism (Wrenched, DamNation). The Arizona native, once upon a time, was a regular on NBC radio shows The Great Gildersleeve and The Railroad Hour With Gordon McRae. She also did some acting work in Hollywood and was folk music director on The Telephone Hour with Helen Parrish in the early 1950s.

For the purposes of this blog item, one final lively way to get a sense of Lee's indomitable spirit is to savor a web-exclusive(!) essay she penned last fall for the High Country News. The piece involves a friend named Slim Williams and a Hopi artifact.

[Kickass Katie Lee]

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