Westbeth Artists Housing and Center for the Arts first shared the heartbreaking news that the founder of NYC’s beloved Halloween Parade, Ralph Lee, has passed away. Lee had apparently died in his Manhattan home on Friday, May 12, 2023.
According to what his wife, Casey Compton, had told The New York Times, Lee had been experiencing health complications for several months.
The visionary first began the annual Village Halloween Parade in 1974. And though it’s a widely loved phenomenon today, that wasn’t always the case. It simply began as a “walk from house to house in his neighborhood for his children and their friends,” explains the Village Halloween Parade website.
In a statement from 98′, Lee told a newspaper: “There were not many people around besides us — maybe bums. And here we were, all holding sparklers, kind of looking at each other.”
However, year after year, the parade grew larger and larger until it reached its success today with an average of 60,000 costumed participants and an estimated 2 million spectators.
According to NBC, Lee stopped running the parade by the 80s.
Beyond his notoriety for starting an NYC annual tradition beloved by millions, Lee was also known for his contribution to SNL for designing the iconic “Land Shark” that ate SNL cast members in the 70s. In addition to his television work, he also worked as the Artistic Director for the Mettawee River Theater Company, with his designs appearing in many productions.
The Westbeth Artists Housing and Center for the Arts, a Manhattan residential complex which Lee belonged to shared to Facebook a statement about his passing.
He was a gentle beloved figure of immense creative vision in the Westbeth community and the world – which is now a lonelier place without him
As per the Facebook post, people can see his Wesbeth Icon profile here and view some photos of him in his studio.