Wild life of ‘CrazySexyCool’ rapper

TRAGEDY ON A ROAD FAR AWAY

Rapper ‘Left Eye’ Lisa Lopes was a beautiful young woman in the middle of a superstar career.

Life and death of ‘Left Eye’

On April 25, 2002, while on a spiritual retreat at a ‘healing village’ in Honduras, she was driving a rented SUV with seven friends on a two-lane country road in the port city of LaCeiba.

A stalled truck suddenly loomed in front of her. She swerved sharply to the right to avoid hitting it and then swung the wheel left to avoid an oncoming car.

The vehicle rolled several times, throwing Lisa and three others out of the windows, and crashing upside down in a ditch at the side of the road.

Lisa died instantly of “a fracture of the base of the cranium.” She was 30 years old.

The seven passengers in the car, including Lisa’s brother and sister, survived with injuries.

A cameraman in the front passenger seat was videotaping at the time and the last seconds leading up to the crash were recorded. [See video below.]

Life and death of ‘Left Eye’

A DYING BOY IN HER ARMS

Just two weeks earlier, Lisa had been a passenger in a van that struck a 10-year-old Honduran boy who was walking on the side of the road.

They stopped and put the boy, Bayron Lopez, into their van. Lisa cradled his bleeding head in her arms as they rushed him to the closest hospital. Lisa and her colleagues watched over the boy, prayed for him and cried for him, but he died the following day.

HOW SHE GOT THAT NAME

Lisa was born in Philadelphia and suffered many ‘whippings’ from her former drill sergeant father. Some years later he would be shot dead in a drunken bar fight.

LIsa started drinking at 15 and battled with alcohol addiction for several years.

She scrambled her way up to the top of a musical career, adopting the rapper nickname Left Eye after rapper Michael Bivins told her he loved the way her left eye was more slanted than the right eye.

She performed with the group TLC (derived from the first initials of its members, Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, ‘Left Eye’ Lisa, and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas). TLC was reportedly the most successful female group in history, selling more than 21 million copies of their three albums: ‘Ooooooohhh,’ (1992), ‘CrazySexyCool’ (1994), and ‘Fanmail,’ (1999).

Life and death of ‘Left Eye’

ROUGH TIME WITH FOOTBALLER

Lisa had a tempestuous relationship with former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison.

In 1994 they got into one hell of a fight after she said Rison beat her up after a night out. To get even with him, she set fire to his sneakers in the bathtub. The blaze got out of control. The flames spread through the mansion they shared and burned it down.

Lisa was arrested and tried for arson. She got off with a $10,000 fine, five years’ probation and time in a halfway house.

THE LAST DAYS OF LEFT EYE

Thousands of mourners attended Lisa’s funeral at New Birth Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia on May 2, 2002. She was buried at Hillandale Memorial Gardens in Lithonia.

A documentary showing the final 27 days of Lisa’s life, ‘The Last Days of Left Eye,’ premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival in April 2007.


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The Next in Paradise

The road I take / to paradise is bright / with flowers. — Japanese death poem by Sokin


From the archives

My journeys across the Pacific are becoming more frequent. For years I have been going to Australia to visit my mother. When she was in her sixties, still relatively youthful and fit for long-distance travel, we used to alternate trips each year, which meant that I went down there every two years. When she got into her seventies and wasn’t up for the long flight, I went down there every year. When she turned eighty it was a different story and I started going down there twice a year.

The flight from New York is a twenty-hour mind trip through six time zones. The Qantas 747 leaves Kennedy Airport at night, stops for more passengers at LAX, and takes off again, flying into darkness all the way. We don’t see the dawn again until the descent into Sydney, fourteen hours later and the sun is coming up over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and reflecting off the shell-shaped roofs of the Opera House. A beautiful sight.

When I was younger and figured I had most of my life ahead of me I would tense up during anxious moments, like when the cabin lights flicker on and off and the captain’s voice comes on the intercom: “We seem to be having a bit of an electrical problem…”; or if the engines begin making strange noises; or if God suddenly reaches out and, for no apparent reason, gives the plane a darn good shake.

As I get older and more resigned to my fate, I sit back and take it easy, in an aisle seat in the center row if possible, where, if I get lucky, I might have three or four seats to myself and can stretch out under a Qantas blanket; or get luckier still and sit next to a pretty woman traveling alone, which has happened more than once. Sweet friendships can be forged at that height and at that speed, especially if God is shaking the plane.

A young dark-haired woman, during extreme turbulence, once gave him a look that said, You can climb under this blanket with me if you like because 40,000 feet of black death terrifies me.

A man answers a cry like that.

My mother believes in heaven; she believes she will be reunited with her husband, who died at fifty, and her first-born son, who died at twenty-four just six months later.

My brother died on the side of the road, the scent of eucalyptus in the air. He was in the passenger seat of a sports car that overturned at high speed on a country road. His best friend was driving. He survived.

“They took the curve too fast,” the bearer of the news told my mother and me at five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. I was eleven. “We don’t think there was any pain.” The death of my first-born is infinite pain, my mother’s eyes said.

The accident was reported next morning on the front page of the newspaper:

FOOTBALLER DIES IN CAR CRASH

The club photo they used was particularly soulful, his eyes staring sadly at eternity.

Barrie

My uncomplicated mother, with her childlike view of life and death, expressed it poignantly in a letter to me some years later: One minute he was here, and the next in Paradise.

After the accident, the best friend who was driving, a fellow footballer, wrote a painful letter to my mother, asking her forgiveness. He sent her a delicate porcelain figurine—a ballerina—an unusual gift from a football player. She put it on the mantel in her living room.

“He didn’t know what to do with his grief,” she says over the years, as she carefully dusts the ornament.

I remember  going to my brother’s football games, and afterwards, in the locker room, the smell of sweat was the smell of a hero. All those years without him. I miss him more with each year, and never more than flying across that sea of darkness.

I would give anything to be met at the airport by my brother. I would get off the plane looking for a tall figure waiting at the gate, a man in his fifties now.

“Good flight?” he would ask.

“It was okay.”

My brother would take one of my suitcases, not an ounce of fat on him, still lean and strong. “You’re looking well,” he’d say.

“You look great,” I’d say, and we’d walk out to the parking lot, the scent of eucalyptus in the air.


Originally published in the Miami Herald

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