1989 an eighty-one-year-old white woman died in a car accident on
a highway to Durban, South Africa. A not altogether uncommon occurrence
- except for the fact that the victim was in reality neither white,
a woman nor eighty-one.
Leonard Malcolm Christian Du Plooy was born on the 18th of March
1919 to a mixed race ("coloured") family he embodied all the contradictions
of a country ruled by racism and hypocrisy. The first part of his
life was spent in his small hometown of Kimberley, the diamond capital
of the world, teaching and becoming the dandy about town. Renowned
for his dancing, piano playing and his curious habit of knitting
Lee was accepted by the ladies of Kimberley but viewed with suspicion
by the men.
in his thirties he'd had enough of the small town mentality. He
left for Durban where he taught once again briefly, but really began
to throw himself into the city's gay seaside subculture. Soon the
flamboyant Lenny was running a brothel. He was also suffering from
a skin condition, which was slowly turning him white.
his fifties, tired of the constant harassment by the Durban police
he moved to Johannesburg. Here in the thriving gay clubland, during
the height of the apartheid system, he was accepted as a white man,
which allowed him to go where he wished. The transformation into
Granny Lee began when a liberated Lenny started wearing woman's
clothing when going out. Soon the persona of Granny Lee became a
full time occupation.
any sense of restraint Granny Lee, now a pensioner, soon became
the city's most famous club goer and drag queen. Her outrageous
antics, sharp tongue, constant boozing and self-made outfits became
a staple of the city's nightlife. Lee was now an Icon, claiming
to be in her eighties, who drew the crowds to clubs, bars and parties.
He was living dangerously as a white woman in a country ruled by
the racial and sexual repression of Calvinist Apartheid.
she died at the age of seventy she was still a notorious party animal.
But Granny would still have the last laugh. At her wake the many
mourners were shocked to hear the voice and laughter of Granny Lee
insulting them all. She had recorded a farewell message to be played
at her wake, resulting in confusion, elation and horror at the event.
She became the first non-white person to be buried in Johannesburg's
Westpark whites-only cemetery.
in death Granny Lee continued to break all the rules.