Welcome to Arizona's Real Katie Lee Web Site

ABOUT KATIE LEE

CAREER | PERIDOCALS & ANTHOLOGIES| MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS | AWARDS


Katie Lee Katie Lee: An Eclectic and Wild-Riding Career

Katie Lee has emerged as one of the Southwest's most outspoken environmental activists. Like David Brower and Ed Abbey, Katie has taken up the torch they left burning when they died - to sing, write and lecture about the importance of preserving and restoring wilderness refuges; the lonesome characters the West still breeds; and the histories of ancient races embedded in its sinuous sandstone canyons. Today, her unwavering commitment to her principles and feisty eloquence are primarily directed at draining Powell Reservoir and letting the Colorado River once again run free.

Now in her nineties, Katie Lee has had an eclectic and wild-riding career. A native Arizonan, Katie began her professional career in 1948 as a stage and screen actress. She performed bit parts in motion pictures in Hollywood; had running parts on major NBC radio shows, including The Great Gildersleeve and The Railroad Hour with Gordon McRae; was a pioneer actress and folk music director on The Telephone Hour with Helen Parrish in the early 50's; then left Hollywood to spend 10 years as a performer in coffeehouses and cabarets throughout the US, Canada and Mexico, singing folksongs to her guitar.

Katie's first book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse, takes the reader on a tour of the West and its people as the author tells the process of her rediscovery of the sources of the cowboy's music. The book celebrates the history of cowboys through their songs.

"A beautiful job...exact, comprehensive and witty. Should remain a basic history of the subject for many years to come." Ed Abbey, Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang, et al.

"Katie Lee's book of cowboy songs and commentary, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, is a classic.  And besides all her knowledge, she really knows how to sing these songs" Hal Cannon, Executive Director of the Folk Life Center, Elko, Nevada.

In conjunction with the book, Katie made an award-winning television documentary, The Last Wagon, which celebrated the lives of Gail Gardner and Billy Simon, two Arizona cowboy legends.  The film won the 1972 Cine Golden Eagle Award. She also released 28 songstitled Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, the same as her book, plus several other CDs of western songs for her own label, Katydid Books and Music.

Katie Lee's second book, All My Rivers Are Gone, was published in 1999 by Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.  The book brings Glen Canyon back to life as she tells about her journeys down the Colorado River with a few close friends. It was republished in 2006 by Fretwater Press, Arizona under the new title Glen Canyon Betrayed -A Sensuous Elegy.  This new publication features an afterword, many more photos, an index and a beautiful new cover painting by Serena Supplee.  Terry Tempest Williams wrote the foreword.

"In so many ways, this is a woman who embodies the power and tenacious beauty of the Colorado Plateau. Her spitfire intelligence and redrock resolve provides us with an individual conscience that we would do well to adopt.  Katie Lee is a joyful raconteur, a woman with grit, grace and humor.  She is not afraid to laugh and tease, cajole and flirt, cuss, rant, howl, sing and cry.  Katie Lee is the desert's lover.   Her voice is a torch in the wilderness." 

Just as the Sierras were John Muir's refuge, Glen Canyon was Katie's. For more than a decade she regularly ran, guided, photographed and explored the canyon; knew the river guides and characters that roamed there; and named many of its side canyons. In 1953 she was the 175th person to run the Grand Canyon after John Wesley Powell's first run in 1869, and the third woman to run all rapids in Grand Canyon.  Ten years later, despite Lee's and other's protests against the Glen's destruction, Glen Canyon Dam was completed - 190 miles of Glen Canyon and Colorado River drowned beneath Powell reservoir; leaving a truncated Grand Canyon to shift for itself with intermittent flows of ice water. A river no more!  Her anger became the driving force that turned her into an environmental activist. Katie says of her early efforts:

"We had there the political damning of an Eden unequaled; yet our efforts, with meager numbers and unschooled politics, were like trying to put out a wildfire with a teacup."

Two recordings were released in tandem with the book - Colorado River Songs, with Katie singing songs she wrote about the river - and Glen Canyon River Journeys, that features readings from the book and some songs.

Sandstone Seduction, Katie's third book, is a collection of essays about growing up in the laid back town of Tucson with her cowboy buddies and Mexican border friends; life as a Hollywood actress, wilderness river guide and explorer; and adventures in Baja California, Mexico, Alaska and Jerome, Arizona, where she now lives.  According to the late Ellen Meloy, author of Raven's Exile, in her foreword to Sandstone Seduction, Katie is:

"Outrageous, mischievous, and never shy about calling a shithead a shithead, Lee is a woman so far ahead of her time, we are still catching up. She writes with fists and flesh to the wall, rendering an acid hatred for the canyon's destroyers and a near perfect sense of the deep pleasure that comes when a few companions float downriver and share beauty by instinct rather than conversation."

Katie's DVD, Love Song to Glen Canyon, features Katie talking and singing about Glen Canyon against the background of 140 color photographs that she took on her river journeys through the canyon in the fifties and sixties, before this beautiful canyon was drowned.

Katie serves on the Advisory Board of the Glen Canyon Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates the draining of Powell Reservoir and the restoration of the natural ecosystem and beauty of the Colorado River through a truncated Grand Canyon. She still performs for many educational and non-profit organizations.

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Periodicals & Anthologies
Katie's words, photographs, songs and poems have appeared in:
Arizona Highways; Mountain Gazette; Canyon Country Zephyr; City Magazine; American Whitewater Journal; Wild Earth; Boatman's Quarterly Review; The Waiting List; Arizona Historical Quarterly; Hidden Passage - A Glen Canyon Institute Quarterly; and Inside/Outside Magazine.

Her essays, music, stories and various chapters from her books are included in:
* Land That We Love, Ed. Barry Scholl, a USDA Publication for the Olympics 2002, Salt Lake City.
* Grand Canyon Women, Betty Leavengood, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, CO.
* When In Doubt, Go Higher, Ed. M. John Fayhee, Mt. Sports Press, Boulder, CO.
* Sisters of the Earth, Ed. Lorraine Anderson, Vintage Press, New York, NY.
* Hell's Half Mile, Ed. Michael Engelhard, Breakaway Books, Moab, UT.
* Images of a Lost World, Tad Nichols, Museum of New Mexico Press.
* Levis & Lace-Arizona Women Who Made History, Jan Cleree, Rio Nuevo Publishers.
* Voices of the American West, Corrine Platt & Meredith Ogilby, Fulcrum Press.
* Nature's Restoration - People and Places on the Front Lines of Conservation, Peter Friederici, Island Press.
* The Glen Canyon Country, Don Fowler, Univ. of Utah Press, is dedicated to Katie Lee.

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Media Highlights
Katie has been interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) and featured in TV and independent film specials.
* Alexandria Cousteau's Blue Planet (co-sponsored by National Geographic, Ocean Foundation and others).
* Drowning River - an award-winning documentary short by ML Lincoln Films.
* Troubled Waters - The Dilemma of Dams by documentary filmmakers Beth and George Gage, which won the Ecological Award, at the Telluride film festival 2001.
* Cadillac Desert, Mark Reisner's PBS Video Series.
* The Dilemma of Grand Canyon: The Ecosystem Paradox (Japanese TV).
* Mein Amerika, w/Claus Kleber (TV Germany).
* Naked Planet, Wall-To-Wall TV Series (Britain).
* Glen Canyon - A Dam, Water & The West, Univ. of Utah public television, KUED 7.
* The Arizona Collection, People and Places that Shaped Our History, A Production of Eight, PBS.
* The Goldwater Lecture Series, KAEY-TV, Phoenix, AZ.
* River Runners of the Grand Canyon, Don Briggs Films.
* The Open Road, PBS Series produced by Hal Cannon.
* NPR Morning Edition interview with Rene Montaigne.
* Glen Canyon Remembered, W.L. Rusho, Tower Productions, Salt Lake City, Utah.
* My Canyonlands, The Adventurous Life of Kent Frost, Chris Simon, Sageland Media, LLC.

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Awards

CINE Award

Cine Golden Eagle Award, 1972 (Council of International Non-theatrical Events) for her documentary, The Last Wagon.  It was chosen to represent the USA in international motion picture events.

David Brower Award

David Brower Award - 2001, for "Outstanding Environmental Activism."

Culture Keepers Award

Culture Treasure Keepers of Canyon Country Award, 2012.

Ward Roylance Powell Award

Ward Roylance Award, for Commitment to Arts and Outdoor Education, Entrada Institute, 2003.

Clark Powell Lifetime Achievement Award

Lawrence Clark Powell Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005.

AMEHOF PLaque

AMEHOF Award
Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall Of Fame - Induction, 2011.
Town of Jerome, Arizona: Certificate of Commendation and Recognition - 2011
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This page was last updated on
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
 
 
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