Skip to main content

by Evan Tsouroulis

In October 2023, Keith Coventry, the backbone of the Cape Town Pride organisation, passed away unexpectedly. He was perhaps not as well-known as Tommy Patterson, the CEO of Cape Town Pride and his husband of over 40 years, as he was happy to be in the background and was quite shy until he got to know you. But once he was comfortable with you, he could be flamboyant and a bit extra. Sometimes his persona a party girl hid his intelligence and his commitment to LGBTIQ+ rights.

I met Kitty in Harare in the early 90s when he and Tommy moved back to Zimbabwe. Kitty is how he was introduced to me and that’s what I always called him, although I was told to refer to him as Keith in front of his mother. Well, that didn’t last long. At first, we tiptoed around each other, each one unsure of what to make of the other. But we slowly became friendly, as I was a guest at Tommy’s and Keith’s legendary New Years Eve costume parties, and they used to attend salons at my home. After a while we became firm friends. After we all moved to Cape Town in the mid-2000s, we worked together on a couple of projects. In 2010, Tommy, Kitty and I started up OUT Africa Magazine, of which I was editor for a few years, and most recently we worked closely together at Cape Town Pride. Of course, we sometimes had a difference of opinion, but it was always a pleasure to work with him. He got things done even though in the case of Pride he got very frustrated at the level of bureaucracy he had to endure when submitting applications for event permits and liquor licences. But he had his way of dealing with it and did so without complaint. It is only now that he is not here that we have come to realise how much he did to keep Pride running.

Apart from the two projects where we worked together, I have to mention that Kitty was a Trolley Dolley with South African Airways in the early 80s. He absolutely loved it and would probably still be doing it had Tommy not said, “It’s SAA or me”! Thereafter, he worked with Tommy in their publishing business as well as other notable ventures. In the 80s they owned Club 58 in Johannesburg, and then the Backroom Bar in Cape Town in the 2000s. I recently discovered that he founded the first gay publication in South Africa called Coming Out, which pre-dated EXIT newspaper.

Kitty was fantastic storyteller often regaling us with hilarious stories of gay life in the Rhodesian army and in Johannesburg in the 80s. He loved the theatre, Barbra, Liza and the usual suspects, travelling, reading, entertaining, his personal trainer, his spaniels, over-tipping his favourite bartender at Crew Bar. He enjoyed his life which he left too soon.  Of course, I’m sad he’s gone, but when I think of him, I cannot help but smile.