Having just moved to Austin in June of 2010 from the east coast, it did not take me long to realize that the well known phrase “Keep Austin Weird,” was much more than a slogan created to promote small businesses. It’s a mantra. I have never lived anywhere else that not only accepts the people, places and things that embody true weirdness, but actually celebrates it. It’s one of the many awesome things that I love about this city.
It goes without saying that the passing of Leslie Cochran, Austin’s platform heel wearing, attention-loving, scantily clad, icon of weirdness, more lovingly known simply as Leslie, is a great loss. The man was Austin’s unofficial mascot, often referred to as the Ambassador of Weirdness, and unarguably a local celebrity.
In fact, his name even appeared on the ballot for Austin Mayor on more than one occasion. Below are a couple of campaign posters that fellow GSD&Mers, Mike Ferrer and Bill Bayne created in 2001.
KEEPAUSTINWEIRD.COM is a website that refers to itself as a “Collaborative fission of coordinated individualism.” Sounds so sophisticated that way. 🙂 Of course, if you explore the Current Weirdness section, you will find Leslie front and center underneath “People.” This city adored him.
According to an article written today, the Austin City Council was reported to have observed a moment of silence in Leslie’s memory at their morning meeting. And they are expected to declare an official “Leslie” day in the future. I love it.
The true magnitude of this city’s weirdness became very apparent to me on my first day at GSD&M. I was walking back from my “Howdy Lunch,” with two other new hires and Dorian Girard, (head of our People dept/agency mom) when I heard what sounded like a bicycle bell approaching from behind us. I turned, and was immediately stunned, to find a man wearing nothing but a golden bronze tan and a baby blue g-string passing us on his bike. Myself and the other two Austin newbies were clearly amazed by this siting, but Dorian just smiled at us and said “Welcome to Austin!” We realized that this was not unusual,even in the slightest, by Austin standards. The cyclist is well known around here as “Naked Bicycle Man,” and is spotted regularly riding nude around town. But my favorite part about the whole spectacle is that it’s totally accepted.
I’d like to think that Leslie was a role model to Naked Bicycle Man and many other local Austin weirdos. 🙂 God bless him for having the courage to fight conformity and just be. He may not have won the race for mayor, but he was the inspiration to many people’s Halloween costumes (see below: our very own Sean Hayden a few Halloweens ago) and was stopped regularly for photo ops during his time in Austin.
It’s safe to say that the icon of weird will be missed. But I hope that his legacy (this city’s weirdness) lives on. Rest in peace Leslie.