Lee Anderson

Lee Anderson

It was the early ‘90s when our paths first crossed. Lee was already an infamous legend when joined the Trade family. He’d be outside, working the guest list. I was just inside the door, working the till.

Alongside security staff, we were the front line. Sometimes those nights were a battle. Mostly it was a hoot. The messy, mad, rude and beautiful were the scratchy cats we had to herd and the Marys we had to manage.

Chemical Dawn

From 4am-10am every Sunday morning, for many years, we worked together. Lee always impressed with an ability to give tough love to those refused entry and a screaming welcome to the Trade royalty who swished in like wide-eyed superstars.

Trade staff were a queer mafia. Acceptance from this gang was neither instant nor guaranteed.  Lee and his crew were Mean Girls you didn’t wanna cross and witches you wanted to bitch with.

Lee Anderson

From left: Rifat Ozbek, Laurence Malice, Lee Anderson, B-art, Lee Freeman 8am Trade Birthday, Turnmills.

Guest list Lee

It was at least six months before Lee really let me in. To win Lee’s trust, you had to boast a dog’s loyalty, razor sharp wits and skin like galvanised steel. EVERYONE wanted to be in Lee’s cartel. As mistress of the Trade guest list, he was the key to a debauched and exclusive club. Regulars queued for hours in the cold, but Lee’s list was a fast track to hard house hedonism.

Lee’s popularity wasn’t simply due to his role as ruler of the Trade door. He was adored ‘cause of the fun you had in his company. He made life a loud, camp, circus of LOLs and spontaneous madness.  When you hung out with Lee, that’s what you got.  Whether you wanted it or not.

Lee on the door at Trade

Lee on the door at Trade

Raving mad

During the ‘90s, Lee spent most of his time in discos. You rarely saw him on the dancefloor. He’d set up shop in some dark corner of the club and would rule that roost like a thing possessed.

He liked a spot where he could watch the crowds go by. He clocked the changing landscape with an unforgiving and dilated eye. Nobody was safe from his brutal quips.

While the muscle boys worked their masc facades, Lee buzzed biggest while bursting their bubbles. A-list celebs or pumped up hunks got equal savaging. He was an equal opportunities court jester. Nobody was safe.

Resistance was futile. When Lee threw down the gauntlet, it was best to just take it and run. On rare occasions that people clapped back, Lee would make them regret it.

Lee Anderson

Wig and wonder

He was the first to laugh at himself and hated rules and convention. Lee would fashion drag out of ANYTHING. Bin bags, mops, plastic cups, rags, record sleeves or fag packets. Lee could turn any object into a wig or couture. Then he’d model it with terrifying passion.

It might be 9am, in a dark, sweaty after-hours, but Lee would turn the place into a twisted, creative catwalk. Watching drug addled punters trying to make sense of these floorshows was spectacularly funny. Everyone was an unwitting extra in Lee’s demented show.

Lee Anderson

Growing up

Trade ended (sort of) and I didn’t see Lee for a while. When we did run into each other, we were right back in the saddle; screaming, bitching, gossiping. Sometimes, the happy mask would slip slightly and he’d share a worry or ask advice.

Lee’s muscles got bigger. His tattoos grew broader, but the prison chic he wore like armour hid a softening centre. Many people get harder as life wears them down. Lee went the other way.

Sister in sadness

We were united by a grim commonality. Lee lost a boyfriend in a harrowing suicide. Not long after, my partner took his life. Both chose quite horrific exit strategies. I knew his boyfriend Richard well. That damn funeral was devastating. He’d known my boyfriend for years. I said to him, ‘Look, I can’t take away the pain, but unlike many, I really DO know how you feel.’

Basically, you never get over it.

Whenever someone famous took their own life, I’d call and check he was okay. Media splashes on suicide can stir it up again. Both of us were living with the consequences of our lover’s actions. We were equally fragile, haunted by ghosts of grief and weighed down with shadows.

Lee and Princess Julia

Lee and Princess Julia

Fighting spirit

Working the door of Trade, he had sympathy for few and shade-a-plenty. Years later, the work Lee did with Kids Company was transformative. It revealed a socially conscious, politically active side to him that was a revelation.

To see his gobby energy channelled into care of queer refugees, single mums and vulnerable teens was mind blowing. I told him as much, as he blinked back tears.

‘You really think that Dolly?’ he whispered.

It choked him up, ’cause that work mattered to him.

Lee at Pride

Lee at Pride

Deep inside

He sought answers to big questions, dipped his toe in spiritual waters via David Parker and the Urban Lifeclass. He felt out of place in the hippyish vibes of a rebirthing workshop, but persevered and found peace in breathwork.

Lee Anderson

Blessed and gutted

The world is poorer without Lee Anderson. Let’s not forget when he took on a street gang he caught stealing a kid’s bicycle. He personified ‘have-a-go’ bravado- the fearless fuck. He gave so much to us. The hysterical laughter he sparked in his wake. Community action. Passion for life. He lit up a room like a nuclear mirrorball.

Lee Anderson- club kid, speed freak, door-whore, muscle man, loud queen, activist, big-hearted bitch, wide boy, drag addict, shouty drunk, champion of the vulnerable, party animal…

I’m blessed you let me in and gutted you’re gone. Thanks for the good times, grrl.

There are 21 comments for this article
  1. dorothy higginbottom at 10:24 am

    your words have been written with love and sincerity.I havent been able to express how i feel as yet I have lost my wonderful son in law.Lee was my friend and the person who I confided in when I lost Richard.We always have remained family and he was able to share his proudest moments and saddest feelings with me his Yorkshire mam.He and Steve visited Yorkshire only the week end before and we had a wonderful weekend.I was so pleased he had learned to love again and honoured that he wanted to share this feeling with me.he truely loved Steve and knew I was pleased that he had learned to love again after loosing my beautiful boy Richard to tragic mental health issues ,which led him to take his own life.Loosing Lee is like loosing my own son again and it doesnt get easier the more people you love and loose.thank you for posting your thoughts

    • stewartwho Author at 11:59 am

      Hi Dorothy, sorry for your double-loss. I met Richard when he first moved to London, long before he dated Lee. His funeral was just the saddest day. Just got teary again thinking about it. Lee enjoyed my writing and I knew he’d be buzzed for me to pen something for him.

      As i said, I also had a boyfriend who took his own life, so I know the pain of surviving such grief (you never really get over it). Thanks for reading.

      Peace & love to you.


  2. Nigel at 12:20 pm

    Lovely words Stewart you reminded me of lee in so many ways i moved away from London in 2000 but kept in touch with lee i also knew Richard so hello to Dorothy they are reunited again and one can only imagine the giggles they are sharing…….. my heart goes out to Lee’s Boyfriend Steve, his family and all the Munchkins who we all know loved lee very much and as we know he loved them all too….. The WORLD has truly had a light go out will miss him very much xx and hello Stewart its been years xx

  3. Joan at 2:13 pm

    I didn’t know Lee but I know his brother Nick and sister in law Kate.
    I just wanted to say how nice and well written your words are. I’m sure his family and friends will appreciate them.

  4. Pauline at 3:27 pm

    I can’t write much today, thank you for a lovely job: I was the side-kick, we were inseparable. A strange double act, he yanked me out of my shy-shell. We would often bunk the train from Essex together in the early days. A quick memory: A Tuesday afternoon, Kingsland Road before it morphed into Portlandia. I could dance face to face with Lee – full on eye contact, we just worked

    Considering I couldn’t look at most people for a few seconds, this was amazing. The real party at wherever was home. Lee in a wonderfully messy but stunning drag, Trying to flag down a faux punter, entertaining the masses on the busses (no train then girl). They/we lived in a ‘converted’ office. Jaguar Shoes now? Or the Hostel. Regardless. Then midweek someone delivered a massive trifle and the custard with cream soothed us to sleep like the poppies on the road to Oz. Woke up around Friday. Fire up the glue guns.. whip crack away. Thanks Stewart, hello Dott, see you soon. Paul (Abdul)

    • stewartwho Author at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Pauline- i know how close you two were and what strulles and hoots you went through together

      *sends hugs*

  5. Jason at 7:16 pm

    I had the honour of working closely with Lee at Kids Company, there was a man to be respected and love, his passion to helping was an inspiration and he never held back against speaking out towards injustice. My favourite memories with Lee are when he use to come into my teams office to take a look at what snacks we brought with us that day and then just sit and chat with us. I can’t believe this great man is no longer with us.

    I’m sorry for the loss to everyone close to him.

    • stewartwho Author at 4:30 pm

      Thanks Jason- he was very passionate about that job and very sad and angry when Kids Co. went down. I was a volunteer for Kids Company in Southwark working with the 16+ so I know the hard work that people did there. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    • stewartwho Author at 3:05 pm

      Cheers Mona- I’m inspired by good subjects- and Lee was a unique character. Makes my job easier, but thanks for saying so. x

  6. Eray at 2:24 am

    Blimey stew, how did you manage that? I’ve been trying to write a poem for two days but can’t see through the tears. Love hearing all the stories of how people came to be a part in what for many a night was the Lee lee show. I revelled in his joy, envied his front and laughed at the joyously intelligent but always mired in truth way of putting that Lee lee spin on things. He saw things that others didn’t and never ceased to Amaze, inspire and loved the way he could make you feel part of a bigger, funnier exclusive little club that was his friendship. We didn’t start off on the best footing as he thought I was after his boyfriend but be was impressed with the fact that I wouldn’t take no for an answer one night in the joiners and that I wanted to straighten things out and we talked for nearly 3 hours.

    I don’t know why we got such crossed wires and we laughed in ironic bliss as we realised that he was actually guilty of trying to bag my fella who worked at ff 10 years previous. Not many people got to meet the real Lee and I feel honoured, humbled and proud to be able to include myself as one of his friends. I always said to him you don’t realise what an absolute star you are to people around you and how naturally talented and special he really was. When I write my life story (don’t hold ya breath) Lee will have to have a chapter all to himself.

    He made me question my own life and how fabulous it could be, if I just believed it and I honestly feel I will never meet anyone like him ever again. The unimitable lady blackberry was a joy and I realised that (as I helped him with his lines from pump up the jam) at bistroteque one-night I felt truly honoured. Nice chatted to his mum and dad that night and thanked them for bringing such a joy into so many people’s lives. Even as I asked them “aren’t you proud” as his confidence built and I was able to go, it was a little wink he gave me that melted my heart and I’d never been so proud to be his friend but you could see the pride in his parents eyes as they saw the unashamed love that people had for him. Never forget that night, it always brings a smile to my face as I ask myself “now what would blackberries partner in crime be called” I asked him one night and he said probably “an old dog” if it’s gonna be you girl but he this amazing way of making you feel special whilst cussing off your shoes or those “jeans”!!

    I remember the Suzanne and trinny I got one night as he tore through my wardrobe flinging items left or right….”no” “never” “mutton” “where the fuck did you find these girl, Shocking.” But I could spend all night remembering good times. It’s just a little less colourful in my world now. Goodbye love. You’ll be in my heart forever. X

  7. Ian M at 2:47 am

    Stewart, thank you for writing this and telling the world what Lee was all about. I am still in a state of shock over Lee’s passing and can not believe it’s happen. He will be really missed from this quarter of Leicester. Lee & myself would always have a quick “bitch match” to each other before going into the club which set you up for the whole evening. He was always fun.
    I can not write and express my feelings at the moment because it upsets me too much. So thanks again for showing the world there was a lot more to Lee than just standing at a door.

    • stewartwho Author at 12:28 pm

      Thanks Ian- lovely of you to say so.

      As you know, because you were part of THAT family, we were tight, joined by a certain madness and will all be forever linked by Trade & our experiences there. You were a huge part of that narrative- and still are. Stay strong- he loved you lots. x

  8. Dreamz at 12:57 am

    so many memory, thank you for always making me smile, being the amazing soul u was, many happy memory from joiners! Crazy Nite with the gang eray Tony chrissie paul Jojo Simon my brother aggie and many more, sleep tight leelee, xxx

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