Lee Harris, St. Louis Nightlife Fixture and Former RFT Photographer, Remembered

Categories: EDM, This Just In

Photo submitted by Megan Harris.
Lee Harris.
Even in a crowded, dimly lit dance club, Lee Harris was an easy figure to spot.

He would be "the guy with the perfect hair and perfect V-neck shirt, with the camera around his shoulder," remembers one friend. He'd be making newcomers feel part of the group -- and making his friends laugh when the occasional straight guy mistook him for a woman and tried a few pickup lines.

"If you go to a bar where there is music or DJs, you feel like, 'I just walked into somebody else's party,'" remembers friend Billy Brown, who DJed many of the parties where Harris could be found, either on assignment for the RFT or otherwise. "He brought people together. I have so many friends because he brought [us] together."

Harris was found dead on Tuesday morning in Wood River, Illinois. He was in his mother's car, about a mile from the house where he lived with her, says his younger sister, Megan Harris.

Lee Harris was 28.

Megan Harris, who is 361 days older than her brother, said on Friday that "he was the wittiest person, and he took no shit from anyone, ever." She adds that the two were often mistaken for twins.

"Lee said what he thought, regardless of what other people would think of him for it," Megan Harris says. "I always admired the courage he had to be himself so completely. In one word, he was fearless. He loved music, fashion, horror movies, dancing and partying with his friends."

Brown befriended Harris via club nights like 2Legit and events at the now-closed SOL Lounge.

Harris' photos "helped us make connections outside of Friday and Saturday nights," remembers Brown.

"After a party or an event or whatever, everyone would be so excited to go back and look through Lee's pictures because he always captured what it was like," Brown says. "I have tons of photographer friends, and Lee is the only one who, without seeing the watermark or credit, I know that he was the one who took it."

Both Brown and Harris' sister recalled Lee Harris' sense of humor.

"I just keep thinking I'm going to get a text from him with some ridiculous YouTube video link," says Megan Harris. "What I hope people remember about Lee is that he loved to laugh and loved to make others laugh."

Megan Harris says the cause of her brother's death is pending a toxicology report but "it will either be from a heroin -- or what he thought was heroin -- overdose, or from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

"We don't want to lie about what happened," she continues. "The fact is, this could happen to anyone. If his story can help someone else, he would've wanted it to be told."

Friends will gather at 8 p.m. today at Blueberry Hill to remember Harris, and from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, a memorial will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall (3305 North High Street) in Jackson.

Click for larger version.
Brown and fellow DJs Corey McCarthy and Matt Leach have organized a party to remember Harris on March 15 at Molly's 808 Lounge (816 Geyer Avenue) in Soulard. Brown, who is a production assistant for the RFT by day, is suggesting a $20 donation, which he says will go to Harris' family.

I hired Lee on as a nightlife photographer for the Riverfront Times when I served as Web editor at the paper, after (easily) spotting him one night. He was engaging his friends and people whom he didn't seem to know, and taking all of their photos. I remember Harris as a passionate young photographer who took direction well, put his subjects at ease and hit his deadlines. We shared a few mutual friends, and I will miss him on my return trips to St. Louis.

Harris was a photographer for the RFT from 2009 to October 2011.

See a sampling of Lee's work for the RFT:
Slideshow: I Am Music at the Atomic Cowboy
Slideshow: The Friday Night Resurrection at Rue 13
Slideshow: Space Junk Dance Party at the Gramophone
Slideshow: Get Serious.ly Murdered at the Atomic Cowboy
Slideshow: U Can Dance at Rue 13

Follow @RFTMusic on Twitter.
Folllow me, @nicklucchesi, on Twitter, or e-mail me here.

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Glad the family has had the guts to talk frankly about the cause of death. Haven't seen any of his friends doing that. I guess it's understandable but the only good that might come out of Lee's death is that it might scare a few people out of the notion that heroin is a cool thing to do. It kills people, even bright vibrant people like Lee. And usually it scars recovering addicts so bad that they aren't bright and vibrant anymore.

Much respect to Megan Harris for her candor in what must be an unimaginably difficult time for her.

Nikki Vacant
Nikki Vacant

I also really admire the family for being so open about what caused his death - there's nothing to be ashamed of.


i really commend his family for being so brave and opening up about what happened to him.

this is never how i imagined it all would end but we all have demons and secrets, so let this serve as a reminder to be kind and gentle to one another every single minute of every single day. hearing a little bit about what he probably went through in his last moments i am brought a weird sense of peace and comfort. i imagine his beautiful face just slowly going to sleep. i just hope he wasn't scared and wasn't in pain.

about two weeks ago for the first time ever in our friendship lee confessed to me he was doing heroin. i was so mad at him. i told him to get his ass out of saint louis to clear his mind and come stay with me for a while. one of our last conversations he told me he was tying up loose ends and would be out to california by summer. now i wish i had done more. i guess hindsight really is 20/20.

i hope the way he died is not how we choose to remember him, because the way he lived was so much more powerful than some stupid drug. his smile, his laugh, everything about him got me higher than any drug ever could.

i seriously can not even begin to express how grateful i am that he let me share his life with him. this is not the lee i knew but please let this be a lesson for us all. if you need help of any kind, ask for it. tell those around you how much they mean to you. and always always dance like lee is watching. 

Nikki Vacant
Nikki Vacant

I hate when people say "nothing is being done about it," because that typically means they want more laws against something that is already illegal. Laws and the legal system do nothing. More outreach and detox that is actually affordable or free may help, but it's a personal choice. And a choice that's often made due to depression or desperation, which leads to a physical addiction that's nearly impossible to quit without assistance. Of course, I do wish that more people would choose to put down the junk, it's killed so many people that I know.

Janet Noe Rhoads
Janet Noe Rhoads

I feel the same as Kristan ^. Heroin is such a monster. My deepest condolences to his friends and family.

Hammer & Hand Imports
Hammer & Hand Imports

We didn't know Lee but he sounded like a well respected and loved person in St. Louis. Our

Byron Nichols
Byron Nichols

Dope is killin more and more people. And not a damn thing is being done about it.

Kristan Lieb
Kristan Lieb

I never knew Lee, but I couldn't help but know of him and his work. I'm so sad for everyone who loved him.


@Anon. out of respect for his family, we his friends did not have a comment until after his family was able to come forward and talk. none of us are hiding anything, we all loved this person more than words and talking about such a painful thing is hard. but if you read a few comments down (written before you wrote this) i talked very frankly about what happened and my saddness over it all.

JamesMadison topcommenter

@Byron Nichols , what do you want "done about it"? More individuals arrested for using dope? Deny personal freedoms and more overcrowding of jails/prisons? Or more arrests of drug dealers? Causing a shift in the supply-demand lines, so that the fewer drug dealers get more profit and increase violent methods of retaining control over their territory? Or should we have Michele Obama tell kids, "Just say, No!"? 

I believe is someone is stupid enough to use drugs, even if you remove all drugs from them, they will find another way of killing themselves slowly, like excessive booze.


@JamesMadison First off "if someone is stupid enough to do drugs"? Really? Disrespectful, you don't know every person's struggles. ACTUALLY I think we need to educate HONESTLY about drugs. That some aren't so bad but there are some that most definitely are. This kind of ignorance is makes a kid think when he tries pot "ohh this isn't as bad as they made it out to be, maybe everything else isn't either." Heroin is a demon, I've watched it claim both friends, like Lee, and family members. 

JamesMadison topcommenter

@jesikicks, so a kid that tries pot and thinks it isn't that bad and proceeds to do heroin is intelligent? smart? Well informed? Or should we say he is ignorant of what he is putting into his body? What do we call people that are ignorant and do harm to themselves? Everyone has personal struggles. It is called life. Some deal with it better than others.

My question remains, what does Bryon want "done about it"?

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