It was almost like a thong, but it was much too thad to write

I’ve been carefully following the updates on Leslie Cochran’s injury and subsequent hospitalization. I’m very happy that the original grim predictions have moved to being cautiously optimistic. But still, word is that Leslie may never get back to the point where he’s out on the streets of Austin, where his sister says he wants to be, entertaining us, and being such a key part of the local social fabric.

I share a couple of important attitudes with my fellow curmudgeonly Austinites:

1. Austin was exactly the right size the day after I got here; and

2. Change is bad.

In keeping with the spirit of both, I’m sad that Leslie Cochran isn’t up to his old tricks these days.

For readers not as familiar with Austin, Leslie is a local icon. He’s reportedly homeless most of the time. He’s a cross-dresser who prefers to identify as a male. He ran for public office several times, and got a lot of votes. They sell refrigerator magnets of Leslie in stores here, complete with mix-and-match outfits, which I proudly own (the magnet, not the outfits – puleeze). He used to frequently protest against the local police, who harassed him incessantly before they finally realized he’d won the P.R. war. He serves as city-wide comic relief, but also as frequent reminder of our societal shortcomings, all in one package. A deliberately-outrageous and somewhat slinky package, complete with both stiletto heels and scruffy beard. His public shtick may well provide him some respite from dark personal calamities for all we know. But for the most part, the people of Austin laugh with him, not at him.

Around Austin, one sees Leslie often and everywhere. His main headquarters is near the corner of 6th Street and Congress, and his modus operandi is to wear the smallest amount of clothing possible, in the most outrageous way. Every spring, the Leslie thong collection re-appears, modeled by him live and in living color on Congress Avenue. In fact, on at least two occasions I can remember, I was driving South on Congress, approaching Leslie as he faced away from me a couple of blocks down the street, and after a startled glance I would think to myself, “wow, who is that woman with the fine ass wearing nothing but a thon….oh DAMN IT LESLIE YOU DID IT TO ME AGAIN!”

One of the first pieces ever written on this blog was about Leslie, after I spotted him at the Pecan Street festival wearing a high school cheerleader outfit (on him, not me – STOP THAT). I snapped a picture and wrote a story around it. What I didn’t write is that I had to wait several minutes until I could take the picture, because of the crush of the crowd already taking pictures and getting his autograph. It’s like that all the time for Leslie. Everybody wants to say hello, get a picture, or buy him a drink (he prefers high end single malt scotch), so they can tell all their friends they met Leslie Cochran. Sandra Bullock and Lance Armstrong are out and about in Austin all the time and most people don’t bother them, but Leslie always gets mobbed. In fact, at some point I bet he’s been mobbed by Sandra Bullock or Lance Armstrong (who may well have been mobbing above his station. But I digress).

Austin always seems like it’s getting less Austiny. And now with Leslie in the hospital, followed by a lengthy rehab, it’s going to be even less Austiny around here for a while. His absence is our loss.

I hope he thinks he’s had a pretty good ride so far, all things considered. It’s not just anybody who gets to be famous merely for being the person they are. Leslie has always been easy for the Austin community to embrace.That he lives so outrageously and with such good humor certainly makes him impossible to ignore, like other homeless people usually are. We might want to stop and think about that a bit.

So Leslie please get well soon, and get back to the antics we’ve grown to fondly depend on. Meanwhile, if you’re bored in rehab and reading this, I will leave you this thought, which is one you might personally value highly:

 Leslie, I don’t care what anybody says — at least from a distance…that’s one great ass.

[Contribute to the ARCH/Frontsteps]

[photo credit: Shawn McHorse]
[H/T to Whiskeydent, whose rantings inspired the headline]



2 Responses to It was almost like a thong, but it was much too thad to write

  1. Jack Josey Newman October 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Leslie lived in a duplex I managed on West Mary, near S. Congress. We had a couple of conversations while he was there, including his declaration of complete befuddlement that his North Carolina (?) Mother did not approve of his clothes! I expressed astonishment, and told him ‘you just can’t please everyone’, and he sadly agreed. And yes, Austin is losing whatever that essence of difference was that most of us of long residency remember.

    Crazy Carl Hickerson took his wife’s name to become Mr. Hickerson-Bull, which didn’t seem to hurt his flower-twirling any on the sidewalks of downtown. Virginia’s Cafe closed, and with it her terrorizing frats who didn’t follow house rules. The old woman who ran the Dry Creek Saloon, where I took Judy on our first date (classy!), was even harder on frats who broke beer bottles or just didn’t bring them back downstairs, and she’s gone.

    So many real, strong personalities, none stronger than Bicycle Annie’s who gave me the distinct privelege of the best cussin’-out I had enjoyed since my Navy days, because I had the temerity to hold the door open for her at the Old Kash Karry on W. 24th St. Anyone remember passing babes earning the high praise of a long, drawn-out ‘Sweeeet-cakes’ from the pastry vendor on the drag? Where did he go? … Read More

    There remain few like these, and Leslie is the genuine article. I hope he gets better soon. After all, when he ran for mayor, out of 5 or 6 candidates, he came in about number 3 in my evaluations. Just think what the Austin bumper-sticker- makers could have done with a Mayor Leslie. Weird just wouldn’t have fully covered the situation.

  2. Anonymous October 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    That’s quite touching, FUBAR. You old softy. Here’s to Leslie’s health. May he recover fully.
    Don’t Mess w/ Pink

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