In March 2012, Austin lost one of its most famous and loved residents: Leslie Cochran, a 60-year-old cross dresser who pedaled into ATX on a tricycle back in 1996 and soon became the figurehead of our favorite saying: “Keep Austin Weird.”
Though most homeless folks in the United States are looked upon with scorn and fear, Leslie struck down that stereotype with his quick wit and educated opinions. He even ran for mayor several times, and actually did pretty well considering his situation.
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But Leslie is gone now, and Austin has inevitably changed since his passing. To honor his memory, and remind you to support the forthcoming “LESLIE” documentary we recently wrote about, Austin.com poured through hours of Leslie’s video nterviews to extract nine nuggets of wisdom that remind us of his weird character and unique soul.
Many of these things seem obvious when taken out of context, but coming from Leslie each word becomes profound.
1. “Dallas is not a place you want to go.” — 2009, video
2. “It’s not how you dress. It’s what’s in your heart.” — 2000, video
3. “If you’re gonna complain about something and a venue opens where you can deal with it, if you don’t take that opportunity, then you stop being a protester. You stop being an activist. All you do is become just a complainer.” — 2003, video
4. “Freedom should be given to all people, not just to a few people because of their dominance.” — 2000, video
5. “Let’s keep Austin Austin.” — 2003, video
6. “I just gotta learn how to say yes more often.” — 2003, video
7. “In a way, I’m a rebel because we’re all taught to conform… I’m very normal for who I am, but I’m not normal by other people’s guidelines.” — 2003, video
8. “No matter what you do in life, be happy where you’re at. Even if you get to the bottom of the rung, find ways to enjoy that.” — 2003, video
9. “I’m very happy with how people see me and I know that, when I’m not around anymore, they will still see me in this way and I’m very comfortable with that.” — 2003, video
There you have it, folks: Words to live by, from a man who perfectly embodied the free-spirited nature we all love and flaunt here in the Texas capital. Leslie was a man who taught us to see our homeless neighbors as exactly that: Our neighbors, due the same respect and affection as anyone else.
He is missed.
Featured photo: Flickr user Jason McELweenie, CC licensed.