Anthony Jerome Lee, better known to the South Florida gay community as the sharp-tongued Wanda, was fatally shot in East Tampa on Tuesday. Wanda’s sisters mourned their fallen fellow queen the way she probably would have wanted it: by opening the public library and sitting down for a good read.
Lee was cooking dinner at a friend’s home when a knock came at the door. He opened the door to a gunman who shot Lee five times. A friend believes Lee was a victim of mistaken identity though the case is still under investigation by police. Recently, they recovered a car believed to belong to the suspect.
Known for her Whitney Houston impression, Wanda — 44 or 49 depending on whom you ask — stood 6’6″ and towered even taller in heels. She got her start in her native Tampa before relocating to South Beach where she won both fans and enemies with her over-the-top persona.
“I’ve thrown people in fountains, I’ve pulled women’s breasts out, I’ve ruined people’s clothes,” she told the Miami New Times in 1998. ”I’m a comedian. Don’t sit in the front row if you don’t want to be picked on. I’m different. There’s nobody on the Beach like me.”
Queens from around the country remembered Wanda for her ferocity and also for being a big ole Creative Unique Nervy Talent.
Describing her as a “certified bitch with a capital B,” longtime friend, Henry Williams, also known as South Beach drag queen Tiffany Fantasia, regaled the Tampa Bay Times with one of Wanda’s more memorable moments.
“She would always get into a fight. I remember one time she was at Twist. I don’t remember the details, but it involved a Bud Light and a bottle going over somebody’s head,” Tiffany said. ”Security walked her out. The next thing, security was on the floor and she got up and walked away, her wig in her hand.”
Adrenalyn Demornay, née Lazaro Leon, admitted that Wanda was “always crazy” but one could always depend on her “when you needed her.” Meanwhile, Dave Wilson, aka, Power Infiniti, got a sense of that caring personality when she met Wanda 17 years ago.
“She thought I looked a hot mess,” Power said. They eventually became close friends, however.
A funeral is still being planned but Ybor City’s Hamburger Mary’s, where Wanda used to host talent night on Thursdays, will hold a fundraiser to help with funeral costs. The event is planned for June 6, fittingly, on talent night.