Leslie Cochran, Austin's unofficial king of weird, opened his eyes Wednesday night to the applause of friends who gathered in his hospital room to pay homage. Thirteen days had passed since Leslie underwent his fourth brain surgery in almost three years. He had not regained consciousness in all that time according to his friend Debbie Russell.
"Several of his close friends were summoned to the hospital believing they were about to be helping Leslie pass on," Russell wrote in an email Thursday morning. "The doctors had opted to remove Leslie's respirator which was merely supporting him as he was breathing on his own...but still a risky proposition in Leslie's situation.
"He responded with hand squeezes to questions. He looked at people as they spoke to him. He held our hands (with his right one, his left is still mostly asleep). Then when we explained they were preparing to take the breathing tube out, he lifted his arm and gave us a big "thumbs up!"
The tube was removed and Leslie began breathing completely on his own. He will be moved out of the intensive care ward today according to Russell, but remains in critical condition.
All of this comes as friends plan to gather and honor Leslie in an event they are calling "Wish You Were Here, Leslie!" to be held at Goody Two Shoes on South Congress, one of Leslie's favorite haunts. They say they'll have a giant Get Well card for all to sign along with a giant Leslie painting and a candle-lighting.
There is now also a Facebook page called simply Love for Leslie where friends and fans are posting best wishes and prayers for his recovery.
"Leslie has a long history with BookPeople, beginning when Leslie started using the store as a place to keep some of his things while he wandered around town delighting everyone with his somewhat weird behavior,” said BookPeople CEO Steve Bercu on the Bookpeople blog. “His magnet sets have been bestsellers here. Over the years, the craze for Leslie has seen us in a television interview together discussing the nature of his popularity and general ‘weirdness’ in Austin. He’s a friend. We want to do what we can to help him.”
Leslie's condition is still tenuous writes Russell, "PROGNOSIS: There isn't one at this juncture. There are too many variables. It's up to Leslie in many respects."
The "Wish You Were Here, Leslie!" gathering happens on Thursday, March 1 from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. in front of Goody Two Shoes at 1111 S. Congress. All of Austin is invited to attend.