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Austin icon Leslie near death after undergoing emergency brain surgery

Austin icon Leslie near death after undergoing emergency brain surgery

Austin Photo Set: News_Leslie leaving town_feb 2012_Leslie Cockran
Leslie Cochran in late February, 2012. Photo by Ed Zavala/ KXAN
Austin photo: Places_Weird_Leslie Cochran
Leslie Cochran in earlier times. Courtesy of Pigskin Palooza
Austin Photo Set: News_Leslie leaving town_feb 2012_Leslie Cockran
Austin photo: Places_Weird_Leslie Cochran

Albert "Leslie" Cochran, who earlier this month said he planned to leave Austin and move back to Colorado, is now listed in critical condition at St. David's South Austin Medical Center after surviving his fourth brain surgery in nearly three years.

Cochran has been in declining health since suffering an undisclosed head injury in Oct. 2009.

Cochran's friend Debbie Russell wrote an open letter to the news media Monday afternoon saying that Austin's king of keeping it weird had been found unconscious on Feb. 16 in a parking lot off South First Street.

"Since his October 2009 medical scare, Leslie Cochran has had a much tougher time of getting by," wrote Russell. "That head injury/stroke/brain surgery/coma didn't come without great costs to his neurological health. He has had many seizures since that time ("aftershocks"), and has many times ended up in the hospital for several days on end."

Russell confirmed that just just two weeks ago Leslie was ready to return to Colorado, where he lived many years ago and where, according to Russell, "his life was a lot easier before the first head injury and coma many years ago due to a motorcycle accident. Leslie was an icon there as well; but he was known as 'Trapper' as he skinned road kill and tanned the hides. He was also a disc jockey."

Leslie never made it to Colorado and now appears to be fighting for his life after surgery.

"He has, since the surgery, been unconscious, semi-comatose, as he is responsive to external stimuli. He lifts his hands and moves his legs. I'm told these are "autonomic" responses, but he did clasp my hand while I was talking to him, so the optimist in me wants to believe otherwise. It's hard to say what the expectations are on his recovery. Right now we are in 'wait and see' mode."

Leslie brought fame and notoriety to himself and to Austin after moving here in 1996, quickly becoming Austin's most famous homeless person. Sporting a full beard and long hair, he was often spotted riding his bicycle or walking along Sixth Street in a bra, thong underwear, high heels and a boa. While not exactly easy on the eyes, he managed to pull it all off while surviving the streets with some help from his friends, like Debbie Russell.

He ran for Mayor three times, most recently in 2003, and has his own iPhone app, iLeslie, as well as a line of refrigerator magnets. But life on the street is hard, regardless of whether you're famous or not, and Leslie's health began to decline, culminating in his 2009 head injury. He has rarely been seen in public since then.

Whether you love him or simply ignore him, his friends now ask that we keep him in our thoughts.