Posted by: johannalee | October 9, 2009

We always had each others’ backs

I met Joey some 7 years ago at  Ardys’s
house. She was a periodic couch crasher there
at the house.
I was doing some work at the house at the time.
WHen I first met Joe, I pretty much ignored
her and kept doing my work.  She was surprised
that someone could be that focussed on work.
Eventually we started talking at this gathering
for a holiday party at the house.  I remember
this vividly because Joe, Thyme and me were
laughing about all the political dyke drama through
the community.  Both Jo and I were doing skits
and making fun of these situations.  We laughed
and laughed for hours.  A bond was made that night.  It soon occurred to me that I should make
a film about Joey and her adventures….
We started that in 03 and it screened in 04.
Throughout the years, I saw Joe through some
very dark periods, spending time  in jails, being rushed to the hospital countless times for seizures, etc.
I remember when she finally got her own home
and she was clean and sober for awhile.  SHe
was at her most healthiest and clearest time
that I can remember her.  She took pride
in being a warm hostess, sharing everything
she had.  She was kind in that way, with what
little she had, she always shared and had a sense
of family in that way.
We would talk for hours on the phone when
she had a phone of her own.
Sometimes she would go off on these religious
rants and ramblings that would drone on.
I would make a joke, catch her “off guard” and
she would laugh and start talking rationally.
Sometimes I could refocus her attentions.
She often had a free associative mind flow
of thoughts.  The story telling was amusing
a lot of the times, but I did hear the same
story a few times.  I would tell her she told
me that one…she would laugh.

“Yes Ok right” and start a new story.
Her magical child like behavior was endearing to
me.  As streetwise and savvy as she was there
was a innocent part of her.  She trusted people
who she never should have.  She called me
her “Uncle Frankie”, her brother Frankie
because I was protective of her and tried to
advocate on her behalf.

We always had each other’s backs.  We were
kindred spirits that way.
I am glad that she had a dignified passing, loved
and held by V.  What a gift!What a relief that she
wasn’t found in some door way in the city.
I always prayed for Joe’s safety and well being.

Like a cat with nine lives she lived through so
many brushes with death.
When her death finally came,  I was in shock
and still am.
I still see her walking down the block in a non-chalant kind of way, holding a juice bottle and newspaper in her hand.

She is healed in her mind and body and her
spirit is in peace.   That is the vision
I hold of my pal Joey.

You are gone but never forgotten. RIP.


your buddy, Frankie

This is Marie, Kat’s partner (of over 21 years now)… and yet another friend of Jo’s.
Jo and I are both from Northampton, MA and left Northampton – California bound that same summer of ’89.  Actually it was precisely because Kat and I were leaving for San Francisco that Jo and a large number of other young and oppressed dykes (oppressed by the older, rather sexually reserved lesbian community) decided to take the plunge and come to SF too.
We were all looking for a far more sexually identified dyke community where we could express ourselves openly and meet more women like ourselves.  Our small group of erotically expressive wimmin was becoming deeply frustrated at the lack of information (this was pre-Internet), lack of understanding from our “sisters”, and intolerance that was our daily experience within the larger lesbian community.  Not to mention the lack of respect that was all too obvious to everyone.
Anyway, we all felt like the outcasts that we really were there, in that beautiful corner of the world… so without further adieu Kat and I stated our intention to leave for San Francisco on May 1, 1989 and within a very short time Johanna announced her intention to do the same.
After Jo made her intentions known, more and more dykes began to toss their kerchief into the ring and before too long we realized that there was a massive movement underway… a whole bunch of our lesbian sisters were all leaving Northampton and heading WEST that summer.  San Francisco here we come!  And what a summer it WAS!
First stop… Michigan!  We all met at Michigan to celebrate of course!  We danced and played in the warm summer nights lit by the moon and the stars.   We had a liberating experience knowing that we were now going to be carving out a new life for ourselves.  A life where we would be respected for who we are, and more than tolerated… actually welcomed by wimmin who like ourselves celebrated our erotic energy and came together to create an environment where we could joyfully play together without judgment and oppression from wimmin who do not understand.
Those first few years in San Francisco, Jo, Kat and I and Jo’s wild assortment of gyrlfriends were very close.  We tried to watch out for each other and to take care of each other in all those important ways.  Not only to be certain that we all had safe housing but that we were in good health both physically and emotionally.
We all got lost now and again… after all there is/was so much to distract us here in San Francisco.  There were so many more women, so many more energies to deal with and so much FUN to be had at the many dungeon parties and etc.  It was a good thing that we had each other.  And it was an especially good thing that we cared enough for each other to keep an eye out for each other.
So many stories to tell.
Anyway… I love Johanna, loved Johanna… and am terribly terribly sad at her early death.  I grieve my loss, our loss… and pray every morning and evening for her enlightenment in her next life.
I am not certain if Kat got this information correct, but it appears that in one of the last meetings that Kat had with Johanna in San Francisco, Johanna mentioned that her housemates were Buddhists…!  And I believe that she said that they have a Gohonzon enshrined in their home and that they chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
I am a practicing Buddhist and a member of SGI-USA.
I am in deep sorrow over Jo’s death, especially since Kat read your cues wrong in that Kat was under the impression that Jo’s illness although serious did not necessarily mean that death was only moments away.  We were wrong in that Jo apparently did not have much time left and we missed the opportunity to see her, hug her and tell her how much I love her.  I wanted to chant with Jo a bit too.  That way she could ensure her fortune to have the Gohonzon in her next lifetime.
Frankly I wanted Jo to stay here in San Leandro with us while she was dealing with her health care issues in the city… but my past experiences in offering housing to Jo held me back.  As much as I love Jo and care about her, I was reluctant to bring her back into my home.  Jo and I have had some really terrible (not terrible with each other but terrible in general) and complicated experiences in trying to live together… and you know how it goes…And we are so cramped here where we are already, there really is no room, not even in the living room, to have Jo or anyone else come stay even for one overnight.
Anyway, I want to thank you for forwarding the information to me.  I will visit the websites right now, and I especially want to thank you for doing all you have done for Johanna.  Both while she was alive and now that she is gone.
Thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Thank You…

Marie Louise Francoise (and Kat Lee Buell)
[written October 4th via email, held for permission to post]

Johanna and I had a brief flirtation, though it never led anywhere, but we continued a friendship as we were both going to the 12 step leather meetings.  Unfortunately Joe wasn’t able to embrace recovery, though she tried, but that didn’t stop me from being friendly with her.  She was one of the few dykes in the leather community who consistently was friendly to me.

What probably meant the most was when I went to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival FINALLY the first time ever, in 2001, when I lost my house and my partnership in a particularly nasty breakup.

I ran into Jo, and she was very friendly and supportive, and it was nice to see a familiar face in such a sea of womyn whom I didn’t know. It was quite overwhelming for me, being a Festie Virgin that year, along with that immense loss.  We hung out a bit together, and socialized. She’d tease me about my chosen last name above…it kinda irritated me, but it was kinda cute too. She knew my other incarnation too, but that is the name I go by on women’s land and women’s sacred space. We also got along both being Pagan as well.

Like others, I’d see her here and there, sometimes in the Castro around Dyke March, or at Ardys’ house when she came down to visit, or one Dyke or gay event or another. I know in some ways she was a lost soul, not knowing quite where she fit. But at least with me, a gentle, kind soul, a sister  Butch Pagan LeatherDyke.

The last time I saw her was at Santa Cruz Pride. Such a vanilla event, and it was nice to see her, then the other leatherdykes and dykes who were her friends that congregated around. It’s where I first met Dani and V. Willow was also there, and we all stood together for several minutes. It was good to see Jo, but was sad to see her physical condition. I know she lived a rough life. I was glad Dani and V were taking care of her, and that she had love among friends who also were there for her. That’s so important. We ALL need that kind of love.

For some of us, it’s members of the Dyke communities we travel in that are our family, and who best understand us. I know this certainly was true for Jo. She had huge hurdles to overcome, especially when she described her family background.

We also compared tattoos too. Goodbye Jo, I hope you’re doing some hot scenes there in the Elysian Fields.

In DykeAmazon Sisterhood,

-Artemis Passionfire

Posted by: johannalee | October 5, 2009

Joe’s Jersey bro weighs in

Hello fellow friends of Jo..
First off let me say that I fucking HATE to be writing this!! My friend is gone and I am angry!! At pain, at dis-ease, at poverty, at the Goddess (please forgive me) and at the fact that I had such a short time to get to know such a luminous person..
I first heard of Jo through friend to all “LOST BOIS” Artemisia. who has MOTHERED me as well as Jo (and others) for as long as I have known her..Jo would have approved of my mentioning this loving and supportive SISTER SPIRIT here and would be even more thrilled to hear me praise her from the rooftops!!  Artemisia never felt the need to “warn” me of Jo’s living situation and chemical challenges from within..she never spoke of frustration..or dissappointment about medicine decisions or any of that stuff….when A spoke of Jo her eyes lit up in an interesting way and she said she thought Jo and I might be fast friends…she was right..

But it was not A who introduced me to was the Goddess herself, really, unwilling to wait till all of our schedules coincided..I was busking for change on 18th and Castro…pasting on my “chin up” smile and feeling sorry for myself and trying to keep from giving up the ghost already..having dealt with my own issues of dibilitating pain and the disbelief and shunning of my own tribe… when next to me I noticed a handsome bearded and hairy fella happily humming an old “Times Square” tune, I think it was “SPIC, NIGGER, FAGGOT, BUM-(YOUR DAUGHTER IS ONE)” She was reaching into the trash can next to me looking for some glass or cans she could scare up a few bucks with…I started to join her on guitar as Times Square was one of my favorite films growing up in the early eighties too…but Jo knew EVERY SINGLE WORD to that song and so many other old greats like L7 Fast and frightening and when Jo started to sing all the words to Snarkism by Tribe8 I knew I had a pal..and I couldn’t have needed one more.. Jo knew that too.
Anyhoo, it finally occured to me that this was the infamous and beloved Johanna Lee that A had told me about! What a laugh we had praising A’s fabulous high femme ways and sharing stories about the love she had showed us both..this mutual love and respect for Artemesia was to become the fodder of many great hours of love and laughs…
Fast friends! Belive it!! We sat down with my guitar and her brilliant wit and fantastic resilience and sense of humor and proceeded to put some music together for a acoustic duo with jazz music set to sick ass punk rock lyrics as “the Lexingtones” Our plan was to sit outside the Lexington untill some rich little baby dyke discovered us..We didn’t make alot of money ..but we sure did have some fun!!
Our first album cover was to portray Jo and I dressed in our thrift store finery standing nose to glass in front of a chinese buffet..with a blinking neon sign overhead saying “ALL YOU CAN’T EAT” She was a very very funny ol hag…
The last few times I found Jo she was sprawled out alone and unprotected on a Tenderloin sidewalk trying to keep her self alive and in touch with reality and her mind and body so beaten and exhausted she could barely speak…but she would wake up and grin her fabulous toothless grin and say ” Hey Hunter! How ya doin handsome?” After which I would gather up whatever of her belongings that weren’t pilfered and load her into my truck where she could at least be warm and safe..for a few hours anyway..
I brought her more than once into situations where her schitzophrenia induced poetry midnight slamming would get me into hot water but it was always worth it…we would work on songs and make fun of the “lesbotrons” and “gay bunnies” who did not know they were already in hell..the hell of mediocrity and slavery to the machine..she taught me so much.. and even though we were the same age.. she was way wiser than I ..and I tend to think I’m a real smarty..but she saw right through it..
Friends… I could go on and on about her..her laughter in St Francis Hospital at how her old body had blown up like a balloon…about how she NEVER complained…about how she would have to be pushed to call for more pain meds when it was written all over her face how she hurt..hurt..hurt..
If you knew were touched by her..and if you didn’ missed the fuck OUT!
If this comment was too long..too bad!! And as Jo used to say..”If I’ve offended any of you in any way..please let me know..cuz I might like to offend you again sometime in the future!!”
Don’t miss the celebration of the moving ahead of this brilliant spirit…she was truly one of a kind, special, hilarious, genius, weird..proud..uplifting..caring..and will DEFINITELY BE MISSED!!!
Truly Love You Pal, Hunter

Posted by: johannalee | October 4, 2009

The Art of the One-Liner

Joe was the most comedically gifted person I ever knew (since I’m not personally acquainted with like Robin Williams, though I did pretend not to see him out at the old Blackpoint Faire with his toddler). She used to say, “I’m not a redneck – I’m a woman of country!”    Not always politically correct, always able to make me laugh.

For a long time, because she was on disability she used to joke about being a “young senior citizen” – though she never seemed much like an oldster until some times in the last months (though very energetic still at other times then).

Another one vividly in my memory banks was about speedsters slinging “cool”: “Going nowhere faster than you!

She could just deftly skewer any posing or pomposity.

Posted by: johannalee | October 4, 2009

a life that touched us……… words from Anou

one thing that certainly can be agreed on is that Jo touched everyone she came in contact with.
She had an accidental disheveled way of leaving her mark on your emotions.
In hindsight for some and constant for others what stood out most was her charming wit and brilliant memory.
Her never ending creative sarcastic approach to a life most of us could not have managed. in my opinion she was the strongest of us all.
Her matter of fact approach to the most difficult of situations perhaps led us to believe she would always work a way out.
Her seemingly limitless supply of energy and antics tho they then were frustrating and unnerving now are endearing and nostalgic.
Above all it was that Jo was a teacher. she taught us so many things, patience, kindness, love, forgiveness, understanding. She took all those she touched to a core emotion in some way or another and quite simply we are better because of it. We have all grown and matured, we have all come together and we have all come apart. We are all old enough now to know the difference, Maybe it could be the last thing Jo is teaching us is to come back together and celebrate our differences, our specialness and just let love shine thru it all.
See you later Jo.. you were a good good friend to me. I will never ever ever forget you, thanks for the laughter, the memories, the inspiration and most of all the love.


Posted by: johannalee | October 2, 2009

greetings & salutations everyone (the day after)

This is intended to be a place where anyone who wants can bring a memory, photo, scan of a scrap of cartooning, video or sound file, or anything else that is about or by Johanna Lee, who went by Joe (“not just your average Joe”!) & if you feel more at ease under a pseudonym, that’s all right, as long as what is said comes from the heart without malice – speak freely.  If you have something that is too long for you to type in, or needs scanning and you haven’t got a scanner, just mail a copy (unless you are moved to send an original) to:

Boxholder, P.O. Box 1151, Redwood City, CA  94064

& I’ll do my best to get it up in here.  This is intended to complement any & all other tribute pages people raise up online, and there are a couple of them already.

Joe’s video artist friend Frankie has a couple of pages with photos from not too far back at:


& Joe’s very longtime friend V Kingsley has a page with some amazing photos at

If you are able, you can also contribute to expenses of Joe’s passing via the PayPal link on that page.  Joe preferred burial to cremation, but as some of us have been surprised to learn, there is no longer an option for folks without lots of $ saved up to be buried…even the cremation + memorial are costly.  More on this at the link above.

V also wrote a moving and detailed personal post about Joe’s last mortal moments:

and check back for further V writings at:

It isn’t in me to say much myself yet but it will come.  Just got through grounding after falling apart.  I will leave it at this, that though I knew her departure could very likely be imminent it’s still a shock.  A system shock.  It’ll never be enough but I am very glad that we spent time together a few days ago, and talked for nearly half an hour the day before…Joe left the building.  She was always larger than life, just like Elvis, right from the moment we met, despite the earthly travails (& there were many).  Joe has left the building.

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