Austin loses an icon of High Weirdness: Albert Leslie Cochran, homeless, thong-wearing, would-be mayor

Photo: Leslie Cochran at rest at an Austin intersection in 1998 (Vernon Bryant, The Austin American-Statesman via NYT)

New York Times reporter and native Texas son John Schwartz writes about the death of Albert Leslie Cochran, 60: "A bearded, cross-dressing, often homeless Austinite who was also an occasional candidate for mayor."

Wearing a cheerleader’s uniform, a tutu or a simple thong, accessorized with a feather boa or tiara, Mr. Cochran was an eye-catching figure in a city where eccentricity is nothing special. A popular bumper sticker, “Keep Austin Weird,” is the rallying cry of a place that resists the civic homogenization that can turn every town into pretty much every other town. “When people see the bumper sticker, they think of Leslie,” said Debbie Russell, a local activist and friend.

In his honor, Austin's *actual* Mayor Lee Leffingwell (who, sadly, does not wear a tutu—at least, not that we know of) proclaimed March 8 “Leslie Cochran Day," just before SXSW 2012 opened. The official proclamation describes Cochran as “an icon in the Keep Austin Weird scene” who provided “an indelible image” in the memories of Austin visitors and tourists over the years.

Do read the rest of John's delightful homage in the NYT. The Wikipedia entry for Cochran includes some additional links of interest, and you know you need the iPhone app.

Video Link to local news report on KXAN-TV.


  1. Which was the first city with the “keep [our city] weird” bumper stickers? We have them here in Santa Cruz and I feel like I’ve seen them for other places, maybe Portland or Boulder.

      1. I think Portland has been using that phrase since the mid 90’s at least. – edit – or maybe not…

  2. holy crap, I was in Austin for half a day sometime in the early 2000s and I totally saw this guy.  (well, either him or some other homeless-looking, thong-wearing guy)

  3. I remember when he first showed up.  Back then, there were still blue-collar workplaces near downtown.   He was not “universally accepted”.  To say the least.

  4. the mid ’90s?  I first saw one in Austin in the mid 80s (replying to Housewarmer about Keep Austin Weird” stickers)

  5. I was in Austin with my ex, and she wanted her picture taken with him.  He said he’d do it for beer money, so we gave him a couple bucks, and while I was waiting for the camera to turn on he unzipped his thong and pulled his twign’berries out, which made for an interesting picture.  He was creepy, wrong, funny, and vagrant, and I’m proud to have known him.  

  6. I have a picture of this guy in an album from my first ever road trip as a teen. It was one of those coming of age defining journeys for my (still) best friend and I and Leslie was definitely a part of it. Sad to see she’s gone.

  7. The first time I saw Leslie was at Breaker and North Lamar in North Austin. He was hanging out on the corner in front of a local grocery store, we gave him some smokes. The next day he was there again and while we were at the stop light. the store’s manager was out there turning the sprinklers on him. This began the first real media coverage of Leslie. From there he grew to be a part of the tangled fabric that is Austin, Tx. 

  8. Boulder had a “3 square miles surrounded by reality” bumper sticker definitely by the mid 80s.  I think it’s Austin and Boulder who had these stickers first. 

    I met Leslie a couple years ago.  He was wearing red ruffled-lace panties, the ruffled lace going across the back in a few rows.  He had on stockings and a garter belt with heels, and I think he was wearing a super tight, cropped-short, black sleeveless spandex top. 

    My sister has known him for a very long time.  I was upset for days after she sent me the text saying that Leslie had died.  Total bummer, to say the very least.  I’m so glad to see people from around the country who knew and remember him, and the articles and photos and videos are so fantastic.  RIP Leslie, we will miss you greatly!!

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