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09 February 2011

Donna Lee Parsons (1945 - 2003) recording supervisor, Chaplin impersonator.

Dave Parsons was raised in Boca Raton, Florida. He and his wife, Fish, had three children, and between them authored the South Florida punk rock fanzine, Mouth of the Rat (named after his home town).

After divorce, Dave moved to New York in 1982 and opened Ratcage Records store and also released punk records. The store was initially under 171A Studios and later at 307 East 9th Street. Notable releases were the legendary Real Men Don’t Floss by The Young and the Useless, and Polly Wog Stew 1982 by the Beastie Boys who had been hanging out at Ratcage Records. He also put together an album of his own material on electric ukulele.

In 1986, under personal and financial pressures, Dave moved to New Orleans. He started performing mime and doing Charlie Chaplin impersonations. An Italian film crew found him and asked him to do Charlie at their film premier in Rome. He then ended up in Switzerland making a living as a Chaplin impersonator, and was the official Charlie Chaplin impersonator to the Chaplin family, working with them for 15 years.

By 2001 Dave had become Donna Lee, and back in the US teamed up with Ted Gottfried and Jason Tagg as the ukulele band, Sonic Uke. They played CBGB that December, and put out an album.

Donna Lee was suffering from colon cancer, and was advised by her doctors that the best and only time for gender surgery was as soon as possible after radiation treatments. In 2003 the Beastie Boys paid Donna Lee outstanding royalties for the early albums, and she went to Thailand for surgery with Dr Preecha Tiewtranon.

Her cancer came back, and she died in a Swiss hospital later that same year.
    *Not the Dave Parsons of Sham 69. 

Thank you to Marti Abernathey for suggesting Donna.


    1. Love always for my unforgettable friend. I listen to her music regularly, and think about her often.

    2. Loved Dave. Wish had social media back then so I never would have lost knowing him more

    3. Dave was all of our friend as crazy adolescent punk rockers he gave us a place to hang and listen to music at. I helped Dave get into skating he took to it quickly. I will never forget the site of him skating down the street in a dress and some make up! Dave was one of the most interesting and genuinely cool people I have ever known. Love you Dave.

      Dante Ross

    4. David, my dad, was born in Maryland, and was brought to Florida in the late 50’s early 60’s.

      1. Your Dad was rad. Day Z, to me. I didn't get to meet Donna Lee, sadly.
        Hope all is well your way. So long for now,


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