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Geoffrey Lee, 69, Chinatown actor, activist, mentor

BY JAN LEE | Geoffrey Lee, a Chinatown actor and activist who was also a youth mentor, died on Feb. 19. He was 69. The cause of death was cancer.

Geoff Lee loved rock and roll and the blues. An accomplished composer and musician, he played bass guitar in punk and rock bands Fierce Jones and The Heat, which toured the U.K. In New York City, he performed at C.B.G.B. and Max’s Kansas City.

His acting career spanned 60 roles, including Off Broadway, film and television.

As a Chinatown musician, actor and activist, he mentored young people of all races.

Geoff was righteous in his choice of causes célèbre. He was against war and racism and resisted the Vietnam War. He was against building new jails and supported Black Lives Matter, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples and the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community. He was against discrimination in all forms.

Geoff’s spirit of “giving back to community” was born from his involvement with the legendary Chinatown-based Basement Workshop. The 1970s-era Asian American collective produced historic multimedia programs and projects, as well as some of New York City’s most iconic Asian American leaders.

Geoff’s projects included: “Yellow Pearl,” the iconic Asian American anthology. He also established The Sound Studio, Jazz Jams, a photo darkroom and a leather workshop for a summer youth program. He promoted “DANCE!” and embraced the Basement Theater Workshop, inspiring Geoff’s acting career. He Performed in Basement Theater’s 1975 play “The Poolroom.”

As a youth, Geoff enjoyed the Boy Scouts, for which his parents were the local den mother and father. He and his brother Tim were on Brooklyn Tech’s swim team.

Geoff supported Hamilton Madison House for decades. He helped found Chinatown Organization of Media Awakening (COMA), for which he provided training and apprenticeships for the next generation of Asian American Pacific Islander creatives.

To the end, he was against hate and fully encouraged love. May his legacy roll on.

Geoffrey Lee is survived by his wife, Holly Cady-Lee, and his two children, Morgan Cady-Lee and Devon Cady-Lee, a brother, Jan Lee, and sisters, Audrey Lee and Valerie Tom.

7 Comments

  1. susan stetzer susan stetzer February 27, 2022

    Jan, my condolences. So sorry to hear. A beautiful tribute.

    • Jan Lee Jan Lee March 4, 2022

      Thank you, Susan. It’s much appreciated. Geoff certainly made his presence known to Community Board 3.

  2. Lora Tenenbaum Lora Tenenbaum February 28, 2022

    Jan, so sorry for your loss. You wrote such a wonderful tribute to your brother! He will be missed and remembered by many whose lives he touched.

    • Jan Lee Jan Lee March 4, 2022

      Lora, thank you, on behalf of our family, it’s much appreciated.

  3. Evan Dong Evan Dong February 28, 2022

    Jan, my sincere condolences for your family loss of a sibling, older brother, husband, father, & friend to many.

    I love your beautiful tribute to your brother and I would count him as one of many mentors in the early years of my teenage years. I’m glad I experienced his friendliness and kindness while working at Basement Workshop. He was Loved by many and will be missed by all who interacted with him throughout the years.

    • Jan Lee Jan Lee March 4, 2022

      Thank you so much, it is very uplifting to know that he touched so many people’s lives in a positive way.

    • Valentino Rudi, Sifu Valentino Rudi, Sifu March 14, 2022

      Geoff was and is an inspiration to all artists.
      The little time that I knew Geoff, he always was positive and encouraged me to keep going forward. He never had a negative thing to say to me nor about anyone else. Geoff always thought good of people. He was a positive voice in my life. He recommended me to producers and agents. He recommended me highly to people in the film industry. He was a character and great to be around.
      Will miss Geoff for the rest of my life on earth. I will never forget him. He has always been a star to me and a celebrity, greater than the Big Celebrities. Few, if any, will fill his shoes. Be yourself, people, and be compassionate to each other. As Geoff was. I could not attend the memorial because I would’ve broken down and cried a river of tears. Something Geoff probably wouldn’t have wanted me to do as I am doing now writing this. Thank you, Geoff and his family and friends. And the people of NY, who are great people. From Philly, with Love, Valentino Rudi, Actor, Writer, Producer and Sifu.

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