Leslie Cochran on South Congress
Albert Leslie Cochran
June 24, 1951
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 2012 (aged 60)|
Austin, Texas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Head trauma|
|Resting place||Cook-Walden Capital Park Cemetery|
|Alma mater||Florida State University|
Albert Leslie Cochran (June 24, 1951 – March 8, 2012) was an American homeless man, peace activist, cross-dresser, urban outdoorsman and outspoken critic of police treatment of the homeless. Cochran was known in Austin as Leslie.
Cochran was born on June 24, 1951 and raised in the Redland district of Homestead, Florida. He was the third of six children (three boys and three girls) born to Albert and Enid (née Atwater) Cochran, both now deceased, and had an identical twin brother who died at birth. He also has a cousin named Gabriel Lujan who lives in Round Rock, Texas. He attended Florida State University in Tallahassee on an academic scholarship, but never graduated. He lived in the Pacific Northwest and at one time worked as a truck driver frequently traveling up and down the West Coast. Cochran told the Austin American-Statesman that he was briefly married from 1985 to 1986. In his 30s, he suffered a month long coma after a head injury, in which he lost his stutter. He spent nine months in the Naval Reserve in 1974–75, worked for Safeway grocery stores in Seattle, skinned road-kill in Colorado and tanned the hides, worked as a disc jockey near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, lived in a converted bookmobile in Shreveport, Louisiana, Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta, and then took a year to ride a tricycle to Austin in January 1996.
As an Austin fixture
Cochran was typically seen around 6th Street and Congress during business hours, frequently wearing women's clothing. His most popular attire was a leopard thong and high-heeled shoes. Cochran always identified as a man.
Cochran ran for Mayor of Austin three times, most recently in 2003. He earned a second-place finish in 2000, garnering 7.75% of the vote. He said his life on the streets advocating for police accountability was a good background for the job. He appeared with his boa and tiara at mayoral debates, but spoke about real issues. Cochran showed up for a mayoral campaign interview in 2003 wearing a women's business suit. "He looked like a stewardess from the golden age of air travel," said the Austin Chronicle editor. Cochran talked about problems ahead for a city that was creative and fun, but growing so fast that it could become big and bland. "He was talking about issues we are still talking about today, nearly a decade later, as Austin has grappled with change. He had actually thought about real issues that were facing the city, and not all of his ideas were particularly out there. He certainly wasn't the craziest person I ever dealt with running for office, by a long shot." If elected, Cochran promised to plant more trees and wear more conservative dresses to "respect the office."
Cochran was featured prominently in the 2010 book Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. In the book, the author interviewed Cochran at Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse where they discussed such topics as Austin's rapid growth, commercialization, and the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign. He appeared on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, wearing a thong. He did occasional odd jobs for local businesses and appeared in an ad for Pinky's Pagers that aired locally during the 2001 Super Bowl. He also worked as a model, and a local business lent him a three-wheeler bicycle with advertising to pedal around town.
Cochran was featured in a set of collectible Leslie dress-up refrigerator magnets, with outfits like a leopard-print dress, cheerleader uniform and a miniskirt. The magnets were sold in local bookstores beginning in 2006, and Cochran received 20 percent of sales. In 2007, Cochran bought a large storage shed with his magnet earnings. He cut a deal with a woman in South Austin to put the shed in her yard, furnished the shed and moved into it. Ironically, the man known for having "lived outside the box" was now living outside in a box.
In 2009, Costa Systems created the "iLeslie" iPhone application, sold by the Apple iTunes App Store. The application contains an assortment of sound bites by Cochran and two interviews where he recounted select experiences in Austin. Half of all profits went to Cochran.
Around 1:00 a.m. on the Saturday morning of October 3, 2009, Cochran was found unconscious outdoors and was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge in critical condition. Within two weeks he had regained consciousness and was transferred to a rehabilitation center. When he was released, on October 23, 2009, Cochran reported that he had been attacked after commenting to a group of people about the dangers of drug abuse.
On February 27, 2012, St. David's South Austin Hospital confirmed Cochran was in their hospital in critical condition. The circumstances of his illness/injury were not known. Cochran had been in declining health since suffering his head injury in October 2009. On March 4, 2012, he regained consciousness after undergoing brain surgery two weeks prior. However, that was not considered a sign of improvement in his overall condition. Cochran was then moved to a local hospice, where he died on March 8, 2012, aged 60.
Cochran's death produced an outpouring of strong emotion and condolences. The Austin City Council observed a moment of silence in his honor. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell proclaimed March 8, 2012 and every March 8 forward Leslie Day in Austin. The official proclamation called him "an icon in the Keep Austin Weird scene" who provided "an indelible image" in the memories of many Austin visitors and tourists over the years. "He was an icon for the homeless in Austin, he represented them in so many ways. We will observe a moment of silence in his honor," said Leffingwell. "He represents just so much that is good about Austin. We're going to miss it and that little part of Austin is now gone forever," said Austin City Council member Mike Martinez. A "Love For Leslie" parade and public service march was held on March 8 from City Hall to 6th Street. Public visitation took place on March 9 at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, followed by a private funeral mass and burial. A public memorial service in his honor was held on March 11 at Auditorium Shores, attended by hundreds. Several editorials have since eulogized Cochran's death, painting a legacy that reflects upon his homeless advocacy as well as Austin's known tendencies toward eccentricity and tolerance.
Plans are currently underway to install a statue of Leslie in downtown Austin at the corner of 6th and Congress.
- Patrick Beach (March 9, 2012). "Leslie's friends say eccentric Austin celebrity had big heart". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
- Austin Icon Leslie Cochran Dead, KEYE-TV, March 8, 2012 Archived May 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Beach, Patrick. "Austin icon Leslie Cochran dies at age 60". Austin American Statesman. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- Schwartz, John. "Austin, Proud of Eccentricity, Loses a Favorite". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
- Wear, Ben (May 25, 1999). "The trouble with Leslie". Austin American-Statesman. Austin, Texas. p. A1. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010.
- Banta, Bob (June 18, 1999). "Downtown fixture 'Leslie' arrested for public camping". Austin American-Statesman. Austin, Texas. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010.
- "Local". KXAN. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Clark-Madison, Mike (May 28, 2004). "Austin @ Large". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- Clark-Madison, Mike. "Austin @ Large: Austin at Large", The Austin Chronicle, March 14, 2003
- "Paying Pizza Forward: Leslie Cochran". yearofthepizza.com. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Nicole Raney. "Heaven just got a little weirder: Leslie Cochran passes away, publi... - CultureMap Austin". CultureMap Austin. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Wells Dunbar. "In Memoriam: Leslie Cochran, 1951-2012". kutnews.org. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- "Austin's cross-dressing, often homeless icon dies" Associated Press, March 8, 2012.
- Long, Joshua. Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press, 2010.
- "Kelso's Cranky Corner". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- iLeslieBy Costa Systems, Apple.com, accessed January 7, 2011.
- "Leslie thanks the community for support". News 8 Austin. 2009-10-25.
- "Local". KXAN. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Leslie is conscious, in hospice care (KVUE, March 4, 2012) Archived March 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Austin remembers Leslie (KVUE News, March 8, 2012) Archived March 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- "Local". KXAN. Archived from the original on 4 January 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Austin's cross-dressing icon, Leslie Cochran, dies, KHOU-TV Archived 2012-03-10 at the Wayback Machine
- Austinites remember local icon Leslie with memorial parade (The Daily Texan, March 9, 2012)
- "Obituary: Leslie Cochran". Cook-Walden Funeral Home. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- "Leslie's friends say eccentric Austin celebrity had big heart". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Friends, admirers gather to remember Leslie, KVUE-TV, March 8, 2012 Archived January 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- "Hundreds remember eccentric Austin icon at memorial". WFAA. 25 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Long, Joshua. Honor Leslie by Helping End Homelessness. Austin American Statesman (March 13, 2012).
- Schwartz, John (March 9, 2012). Austin, Proud of Eccentricity, Loses a Favorite. The New York Times.
- Graupmann, Michael. Friends throw 1st Annual Leslie Fest in honor of the Austin icon. Austin Culture Map (July 13, 2012).
- Ura, Alexa. Friends of Leslie to organize fundraiser benefitting Hospice Austin Archived 2012-06-27 at the Wayback Machine. Daily Texan (April 20, 2012).
- Cinelli, Carla (2004). "Homeless Cross-Dresser - 'Leslie - The Queen of Austin'". Photogallery. Retrieved 2006-04-17.
- Clark-Madison, Mike (March 14, 2003). "A Little Respect: All hail Leslie Cochran, Austin's queen of political soul". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-04-17.
- Kelso, John (March 8, 2012). "Leslie's left the building, but we can't forget him". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
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