Kevin Warnock

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Richard Lefrak

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee with Richard Lefrak

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee with Richard Lefrak


Yesterday, August 9, 2015, I attended the memorial service for Richard Lefrak, a man I met while I was still in college. I met Lefrak only two times, but I remember him well. He was the best friend and husband of Dee Dee Russell. I photographed Russell while I was studying photography in school, and Lefrak came along to the two shoots I did, both at my parents’ house in San Francisco, California, USA.

Russell introduced Lefrak as her business manager, not her boyfriend, but eventually they began dating, and after a couple of decades they married last year in 2014.

I have only seen Russell a handful of times. She used to go to the same nightclubs I went to, including DNA Lounge, which is still in business and is thriving, and the I-Beam, a shuttered notorious dance club on Haight Street.

But since Russell is a celebrity in San Francisco, and had her own public access television show on cable TV for some twenty years, I have been aware of her all these years. I started following her on Facebook perhaps two years ago. I saw her wedding pictures. I was so happy for her. Then, just a short while later I saw Russell’s sad post that her husband had died! I was shocked as there was no indication he was not well on her two profiles on Facebook. Facebook is the leading social network for much of the world at the moment.

I was so impressed with Russell and Lefrak that I attended the service for Lefrak. Even though I am currently sporting the caveman look with long hair and a full beard, Russell recognized me, but perhaps only because I told her my full name. She had only seen me as a clean cut young college student.

Here is the obituary for Richard, as published in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, the main paper for San Francisco, on August 2, 2015:

“Richard “Rick” Lefrak passed away in San Francisco, Sunday July 26, after a courageous three-summer battle with mesothelioma. He was born in New York City and graduated from Stony Brook University. He was a legendary, innovative lighting designer working with The Who, Lou Reed, Jeff Beck, Ian Hunter, Mott the Hoople and many others then switched careers serving remarkably in executive retail at Ross, Target, The Luggage Store, HMS Host and Emporium Capwell. Some of his proudest moments were creating art and mentoring others. Richard was preceded in death by his parents, David and Loretta. He is survived by his wife and long time arts collaborator, Dee Dee Lefrak nee Russell; sisters, Jeane Petro, Virginia Lefrak, brother Harry Lefrak and loving nieces, nephews, in-laws and many long time friends and co workers. Family will receive friends at a visitation from 3pm until 5pm and a time for reflection from 5pm until 7pm on Sunday, August 9, 2015 at Halsted N.Gray -Carew & English, 1123 Sutter Street., San Francisco CA.

Lefrak was clearly in love with Russell when I met them. They were together for some three decades. Together they created amazing art and entertainment. My heart goes out to Dee Dee, now a widow without her business partner, best friend and husband.

Written by Kevin Warnock

August 10th, 2015 at 12:38 pm

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