My brain is a little short circuited on coming up with something new this week, seeing as how taxed I was assembling all those November sweeps ratings for all our favorite comic book genre shows in my last entry.
So as I was rummaging through my old storage boxes, I came across this little ditty of the time when I almost swallowed the hype that Hyapatia Lee had actually died.
Looking back fondly , it was amusing to speak ill of the dead, WHEN they’re not really dead.
Today Hyapatia Lee is still very much alive and well and I’ve learned recently that she will be part of a quartet of classic porn queens coming out to Los Angeles on February to give a little talk on secret behind the scene stuff that went on porn sets back in the glorious days of the late eighties and early nineties moderated by hairy gorilla Ron Jeremy (groan!).
The event is called The Golden Age of Adult Cinema and it will take place over the course of three weekends starting February 12th. Nina Hartley leads a panel on the first weekend. Modern age blonde bombshell (and professional cos player/gamer) Alana Evans is on a panel next weekend, whilst Hyapatia leads the third and final weekend. The event will be taking place at the Cupcake Theater in North Hollywood, Ca.
Hopefully there will be a tribute to William Margold, a back page columnist for the LA X=Press (now changed to the Hollywood X-Press) who passed away a few weeks ago.. Not only did Margold serve as the one of the greatest and wittiest film critics that Los Angeles had to offer, but he was instrumental in getting the Free Speech Coalition up and running.
I think I originally wrote this for Jay Allen Sanford for an essay to include in one of his Carnal Comics editorials circa 1998 or 1999.
GOODBYE GRANDFATHER SKY, GOODBYE GRANDMOTHER EARTH
By Cary Coatney
It’s never easy coming up with goodbyes, especially one so belated. You get so caught up in the minimalism of counting lofty goals that you forget to take a short breath now and then to give thanks to one who has been a guiding force of moral support during ideas of conception. After all, I didn’t slide easily in this newly appointed role of professional extrovert spinning yarns and related treatises for the raison d’être by simply waxing vestiges for those fallen in forever silent slumbers. This was never in the job description.
So how is it that I’m constantly sucker punched into sitting before a lonely keyboard trying to come up with the delicateness of a perfectly fitted eulogy for those in memorial?
I’ve been fortunate enough to pay tribute in recent memory to a few considered to be a major influence in my often unappreciated easily ridiculed chosen mode of profession in the pages of the Comics Buyer’s Guide. Great men and women compassing the likes of Bob Kane, Archie Goodwin, and Roz Kirby; people I barely knew or briefly made the acquaintance of, but along comes a celebrity that I somehow to raise a rapport with over the course of the past year and her tumultuous loss has really hit home.
The merest mention of Hyapatia Lee makes my heart sink like the proverbial stone. To lose someone so young and so vital as she is pitifully devastating.
Here I am in the prime of my life with things slowly trickling towards the limelight with me. A few months back in March of 1999, my first joint self published venture with a small upstart publishing company, Death Comics published their first (and only) issue of Malice featuring the debut of my outlandish theologically perplexed bashing enigma, The Deposit Man finally arrived incognito to very slow sales of 500 copies. But yet, I have something published with my name in it and I was in the process of sending off comp copies to friends and relatives. Last being on my list was a care package for Hyapatia with her complementary copy enclosed.
But it never got sent. In fact, it’s still sitting here in my in and out basket at work, still signed, sealed, and addressed in an oversized manila envelope.
I humbly apologize for being such a morbid nerve wracked mess using this non sequitur approach. I should instead, probably retrace a few steps back and reconnoiter various precious vignettes with this once vibrant, no-holds barred boisterous woman whose obstinate campaigning for safety and health awareness in the adult film industry resulted in a lifetime achievement award from the Free Speech Coalition. The result of accepting this prestigious award (in the porn industry) also served as a shot heard around the adult film world.
Hyapatia Lee, a Native American born of both Cherokee and Irish decent blossomed into a long black raven haired beauty ultra-curvaceous sultry siren who stumbled into the porn industry in 1983 and was a mainstay for a little over a decade after competing in numerous nude dancer competitions. She diversely performed, produced, and wrote almost 40 x-rated movies including Snakedance; an homage to the mating rituals of her Native American upbringing before gradually getting work in legit B movies with such recognized actors as John Savage and Tim Allen. During the course of this up and down variegated odyssey, Hyapatia suffered and survived a traumatic abusive marriage to one husband who directed several of her films, conquered a cocaine addiction, and has done something totally unexpected and unheard of in this detached paced industry much to the detriment of fans and colleagues alike: she took the time out to give birth to two children and wound up homeschooling them ( Updated Editor’s note 2017: one of them eventually made it into UCLA!).
Hyapatia during her porn star heyday, found time to front two rock bands: W41K (Double Euphoric) and Vision Quest, whose songs focused primarily on issues dealing with her ancestral birthright.
I was first introduced to Hyapatia during the summer of 1995 at the San Diego Comic Book Convention and Expo by Jay Allen Sanford ( Edit note 2017 #2 I’m sure you’ve heard that name before- check my near end of the year blog for his assistance in bringing some rare unseen Yes comic book artwork for all of you to see) world renown entrepreneur of the adult line of comic books called Carnal Comics who was at the time was basking in the reverie of record sales in adult bookstores. Jay had just come off the presses with Hyapatia’s autobiographical first issue and that particular issue wound up being the line’s hottest seller (Deposit Man’s penciler Larry Nadolsky having helped). Jay regarded me as one who campaigned an revocable stance when it came to conservative ridicule in the news and other media. This was evident in my more glorious contributions to the Comic Buyer’s Guide (which earned me an honorable mention on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website) making Jay generous enough to invite me on several occasions to go behind his booth at the convention and introduce me personally to plenty of starlets that have been subjects of other issues in the Carnal Comics line of biographies.
Hyapatia instantly stood out from the otherwise somewhat vainglorious crowd. She was easily approachable, her graciousness and beauty spoke for herself and it was a trait you never had to second guess when confronted with her eloquence in articulated conversations. You could practically talk up the world with her. Later subsequent meeting with her in the Los Angeles still maintained the courteous demeanor of our first meeting. Further confrontations were almost the equivalent as having a remote chance encounter with the Devine Mother herself.
Whilst Hyapatia was in the midst of putting her artistic explicit past behind her, she was still attracting controversy. Shrewd comments were still being said and printed in local and national publications over her appearance at the San Diego parading around in a North Beach leather fringed dress (since the Republican convention was held at the same venue in 1996, the whole city of San Diego in general has since gone through some eccentric changes). I raised to her defense and vouched for the garment’s appropriateness.
During the course of late 1997 and throughout most of 1998, I was privileged to be regarded as one of Hyapatia’s e-mail correspondents. We talked the whole gamut that varied everything from Chris Carter’s The X-Files and spin-off show, Millennium to her eclectic tastes in music. We kept each other appraised of each other’s writing projects until in the midst of writing her autobiography she made light mention of trying to combat a childhood illness that was once again creeping upon her like an ugly dark shroud.
I thought nothing of it at first, but as time marched on her e-mail replies began to dwindle and get shorter and shorter. Some even went unanswered at all.
Then a happenstance occurred last February when I picked up a copy of the local alternative paper, the Los Angeles New Times, a cover story on local porn gossip ‘diva’ (and I mean that in the most sincerest unflattering way) Luke Ford made a slight mention of ex-porn star Hyapatia Lee ‘faking her own death’.
Immediately I dismissed it as the most absurdist thing I ever heard of – but within a few days of reading the smear campaign article, an envelope arrived for me in the mail addressed from the Hyapatia Lee fan club-a club that I had no real affiliation with other than getting mail out to her- sent me a letter. The letter informed me that Hyapatia did indeed passed away accompanied with a mini-catalog asking for donations either by money contributions of purchasing videos, photo-stills, and any remaining props or costumes to raise funds for her funeral expenses.
Stranger still, the envelope looked addressed in her own handwriting, comparing the envelope to the Christmas card she once sent me.
My first indication or rather my immediate reaction was that Hyapatia was probably in need of a divorce from the business altogether for the final time tying up the loose ends of associations with a lukewarm profession that brought her more pain rather than fortune. Before I knew it, a conversation with Jay at last summer’s convention had him verifying Hyapatia’s passing.
It was too late to say goodbye.
Out of respect for her husband and family, I won’t go into details concerning her passing. Her friendship meant so much to me to simply disclose it such a private matter; besides I couldn’t even begin to explain it in medical professional layman’s terms. Although, I can’t help wondering that her spirit still remains roams the earth, perhaps raging further controversy and admiration amongst her ancestors as she quietly vanishes away from the public eye like a hibernating will-o-the-wisp. The scenario is just like she described to me in a e-mail: “It’s very sad when people pass on, but try to look at it as going up on a spiral. Everything in life is cyclic in nature, and even through death – change and transformation are all part of it.
From those words, Hyapatia was equally deserving of the same tranquil treatment.
And it is with these words I do lament:
There was supposed to be a Cherokee translation of the title of this piece, but apparently I stumbled across the wrong edit of the article in my storage.
Here’s a fairly recent photo of Hyapatia from her facebook account give or take a decade: