So, this awesome photo-op happened the other day. If you don’t live in Austin you might be wondering what I’m doing cozying up with a statuesque guy in a bra and thong undies. Hell, if you DO live in Austin you might be wondering the same thing. Or you might be wondering…why does Liz get to do ALL OF THE COOL THINGS?
Well, in this case it boils down to being in the right place at the right time and being an aggressively friendly neighbor. (I can’t help it—and by the way would you like to help me organize the next block party?) It started a few nights ago when my husband and I were out walking the dog. We took our usual loop and passed a white-haired neighbor as he was climbing out of his truck. He flagged us down and asked, “Hey, do y’all remember Leslie?” Because we’ve lived in Austin for nearly 20 years, we didn’t return his question with a blank stare.
Of course we know Leslie! Well, knew him. Or rather, knew of him. Everyone did.
Leslie Cochran was a local legend—a cross-dressing homeless man who was especially fond of barely-there thongs, sparkly tiaras and feathered boas. He ran for mayor three times and claimed to have coined the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan. He certainly embraced the motto and was adored all over town. Leslie spent a lot of time on 6th Street, flashing skin and entertaining the party-going masses with his stories and his charm. For a tip, he would pose for photos and usually give unsolicited advice. When he died in 2012 a large crowd gathered at Auditorium Shores—many wearing thongs and boas—to celebrate his very large life.
Now the party lives on. It turns out that our neighbor Bob was collecting signatures to “Put Leslie back on the streets” with a sculpture that would reside on a downtown bench near Leslie’s old stomping grounds. Bob is a retired architect and current sculptor. He told us that the Leslie project was not just a petition, but a reality in the works. And by in the works, I mean Leslie was in his backyard right at that moment. I didn’t hesitate: Can we see him??
Bob was happy to oblige, and we got an impromptu tour of the lush garden that his wife maintains. We spotted Leslie’s arms and legs lounging on the covered porch, and we learned that at this stage of a project, Bob stores most of his larger sculptures as disassembled pieces. Looming nearby was another half-built masterpiece: an imposing depiction of Stephen F. Austin. From the waist down, The Father of Texas stood with one leg bent powerfully in front of him, the tail of his frontiersman coat blowing behind him with bold authority. And in a perfect moment of too-awesome-to-be-true, there was Leslie’s armless body…propped up against Austin’s thigh, wearing a bra and smiling as big as Texas.
Bob assembled Leslie with care so that my husband and I could take turns posing with him. As you can see, I was downright giddy by this point. There’s just something magnetic about Leslie, even in statue form. Bob captured it all, right down to his stilettos.
If the project gets approved and funded, Austinites and tourists will always be able to hang out with Leslie and grab a photo with the legend. I can’t think of anything weirder or greater.