When Leslie Cochran, Austin's most famous cross-dresser and honorary mayor, passed away in March of this year, Austinites from all walks of life mourned the loss of a true Austin original.
His memory lives on in small facets of Austin life, along Sixth Street and South Congress, where the fearless friend-to-all offered advice to hapless out-of-towners in the day and sipped coffee with drunk revelers stumbling to find their way home at night.
"I'm just an Austinite that misses having Leslie around," says event organizer Brently Heilbron. "I knew Leslie from just seeing him everywhere. He would always bring up that Ausitn was his home, in its entirety, so in that way, he never considered himself homeless."
To recognize his impact on the city for the past 20 years, Austin friends of the legendary figure are throwing a kickass benefit party in his honor called Leslie Fest, which they are hoping to make into an annual tradition. (And if there's anything this city likes more than a weird festival, we can't figure out what that might be...)
The one-day event will feature live music from fourteen area bands, food from Frank Hotdogs, plenty of costumes and even an outdoor swimming pool. The bands (which include Shakey Graves, Mike Dubose and The Dissidents and Befriend the Bears amongst others) will play on simultaneous stages set up inside Lipstick24, Club 606 and the covered Empire Auto lot in between.
Because of Leslie's altruistic lifestyle, the event will also include advocacy booths from Hospice Austin, aGLIFF, Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Texas Mamma Jamma Ride and Crime Victims First to help spread the missions of their organizations.
In addition, Hospice Austin's Christopher House was chosen as the recipient of the funds by Leslie's surviving family. According to Heilbron, Hospice Austin took Leslie in during his final days completely pro bono, and the organizers would like to help pay them back — and then some— for their kindness.
Tickets to the event are $10.00, but if you dress up in your favorite Leslie-inspired costume, they'll knock $3.00 off the admission price. Luckily, with the swimming pool set up in the courtyard, you'll be able to make use of that leopard print speedo.
"That's the kind of spirit we want to capture with Leslie Fest," Heilbron adds. "There were others who knew him on a much closer level than I did. Mike Dubose, for example, took Leslie into his house for a while. And the other band requests came pouring in as soon as we put out the request back in April. I want to make sure we celebrate Leslie without any whiff of exploitation or personal profit."
Although Leslie won't be there in body, he will surely be there in spirit, inciting wild behavior, unnecessary kindness and plenty of butt cheeks. Come join the fun and celebrate what makes our city such an enviable, magical place.
Happy Birthday, Leslie!
Leslie Fest 2012 kicks off June 24 at 4 p.m. and goes all night long at the combined venue of Lipstick24, Club 606 and Empire Auto.