Yesterday Austin’s own Leslie passed away. For those of you who don’t know, Leslie was a popular downtown staple, a homeless man who along with many other things, loved to cross dress, dance around downtown, and was a great person to talk to.
Leslie first came to Austin in January of 1996 from Colorado. He had visited the city before, and when he came that year he decided to stay. It didn’t take long for him to find his way to downtown, and there he stayed until February of 2012. His eccentric ways quickly catapulted him to local celeb status. Not only for being an off the wall personality, but for also having a real heart of gold. Going downtown and having your picture made with Leslie was just something you had to do! He loved to pose for pictures, and would be out on 6th street for hours in the same spot with a crowd around him. But He had seen some things, been through situations you wouldn’t wish on your enemy, and he was quick to warn of the dangers of bad choices. With no family in the area, and none that have ever come forward, Austinites often offered Leslie places to stay. Rumors have been going around for years that he owns a huge house somewhere in the area, and isn’t really homeless but a crazy millionaire just out for a laugh. We would all like to believe that’s true, but the story is much more grim.
Homelessness comes with many dangers. Around 1:00 a.m. on the morning of October 3, 2009, Leslie was found outdoors in a vegetative state and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. Within two weeks he had regained consciousness and was transferred to a rehabilitation center. When he was released, on October 23, 2009, he said that he had been attacked after commenting to a group of people about the dangers of drug abuse. He was simply trying to tell them that the choices they were making could land them in his shoes. Just speaking from experience.
Then in February of 2012 Leslie was found in a parking lot near South 1st street, unconscious from complications related to his previous brain injury. This just so happened to be the day before he was scheduled to move back to Oak Creek, Colorado, where he once lived over 25 years ago. After undergoing brain surgery he awoke for a brief moment on March 4th 2012, and was then moved to hospice care where he passed away March 8, 2012.
It is sad to see him go. We moved to Austin in April of 1997, and I remember my mom telling me about him. We had moved from a small town in East Texas, where people like Leslie didn’t exist. When I finally met him it was awesome!! My mom then had to explain to her 13 and 8-year-old daughters why some men want to wear ladies clothes!! Then when my friends and I started going downtown, you always had to go see Leslie. Get your picture taken with him, buy him some pizza, or the occasional few beers!! He was fun to be around!! Austin’s motto is Keep it Weird, and he definitely did. Austinites will know what I mean when I say, downtown will never be the same. There will always be a void that can only be filled with a cross dressing, loud, funny, sweet, genuine, mean if he needed to be, old man, and I don’t think anyone will ever be like Leslie.
Heres to you Leslie. Keep Heaven Weird!