Performer Susanna Lee Reveals Why She Filmed the Infamous Michael Brown Parody Song
On Monday, Dec. 15, Susanna Lee arrived at the Glendale Elks Grand Lodge around 4 p.m. The West Hollywood producer of three monthly comedy shows, burlesque performer and host of web series Peeping Comics had been hired as part of the evening’s entertainment for what she thought was a retirement party.
While guests finished dinner, she was ushered to the ladies room, where she soon heard Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” A fan of the song, she noticed the words — though muffled on the other side of the door — were altered, with "Leroy" replaced by “Michael.”
Exiting into the hallway, she began taking video. Lee kept her eyes on her lowered phone as she walked, pretending to look for a cell signal. Her minute-long recording included the lyrics “Two men took to fightin' and Michael punched in through the door/And Michael looked like some old Swiss cheese, his brain was splattered on the floor/And he's dead, dead Michael Brown, deadest man in the whole damn town/His whole life's long gone, deader than a roadkill dog.”
At the time, she only meant to share with a few friends an example of the unsavory situations she finds herself in as a female entertainer.
Improv Open Mic Happy Hour
TicketsTue., Mar. 28, 5:45pm
TicketsTue., Mar. 28, 7:30pm
Crabapples with Bobcat Goldthwait, Caitlin Gill & More
TicketsTue., Mar. 28, 8:00pm
Mic Drop! with Chad Zumock, Christina Walkinshaw & More
TicketsTue., Mar. 28, 8:00pm
Wormhole with David Merheje, Jake Adams & More!
TicketsTue., Mar. 28, 10:00pm
“My intention was selfish,” Lee tells L.A. Weekly. “I posted it to show the reality of the types of jerks I have to be nice to in order to make survival money. I didn't have the greater good of revealing this bullshit in mind.”
She then learned the gathering was a private dinner party following a charity golf tournament organized by retired LAPD officer and Elks member Joe Myers. Though guests weren’t exclusively police officers, both retired and active officers were present, numbering about half of the five dozen attendees.
Though the song, mocking the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. officer Darren Wilson, disgusted Lee, she also grew disappointed in herself. “The song was gross, but I am not at all surprised by how horrible people are,” Lee admits. “I was more upset that I didn’t stand up for what I believe in and walk away from racist assholes.”
Following her scheduled striptease, she left around 8 p.m., later speaking about the experience at a North Hollywood comedy show before returning home. Still angry five days later, she posted the video for a short time under Facebook’s Friends setting before removing it. A day and a half later the video appeared on TMZ before going viral.
As reported earlier by L.A. Weekly, both the LAPD and Elks Lodge launched internal investigations into the song parody, sung by performer Gary Fishell, a P.I. and former federal investigator.
Two weeks after the incident, Lee now understands that her private distress is shared by many.
“I am happy that it went viral,” she asserts. “I think that exposing the truth — which is that not everyone sees the Michael Brown tragedy as a tragedy — is important. The mass population should know that law enforcement agents and officials feel like it's appropriate to mock the unnecessary death of a kid, and that they see the killer as a folk hero, not a cowardly bitch who wasn't made to answer for his extreme actions.
"My grandfather was a police officer, and became one because he was brave enough to protect the people of his city. I feel like all the recent examples of excessive use of force show a distinct change in the motivation to join the police force, from bravery to cowardice, from protecting civilians to hiding behind a gun and badge, using that perceived power to bully people if they don't show someone the respect he or she feels they deserve just for wearing that gun and badge.”
Julie Seabaugh on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Los Angeles.