Peter Bergman and Leslie Cochran, R.I.P.
A couple of deaths to report today – you may not know either of these gentlemen. First, Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theatre has died. He was a founding member of the comedy troupe which attracted a huge following in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Firesign Theatre was formed as a result of Bergman’s show “Radio Free Oz” on KPFK-FM in Hollywood. According to Bergman, “I started July 24th, 1966 on KPFK … I had some very interesting people around me, which those folks became The Firesign Theatre. David Ossman was connected with the station, Phil Austin was connected with the station, and Phil Proctor came out to do a show and that was really the genesis of that whole happening.”
The Firesign Theatre are certainly the American answer to Monty Python, but they dwarf their British counterparts in terms of surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness comedy. Bergman was 72 years old when he died.
The other death, we are sad to report – Leslie Cochran, the cross-dressing icon of eccentricity from Austin, Texas, died late last week after numerous health problems. He was 60 years old.
Pretty much everyone who attended a large music event in Austin, or who visited the city’s lively Sixth Street after dark, knew Leslie. He frequently wore a thong, a packed brassiere and high heels, but he wanted to be known as a man. Leslie ran for mayor of Austin and in 2000, he finished in second place after appearing in a boa and tiara at debates. But Leslie was no lunatic – he was a peace activist and during his mayoral campaigns he often made more sense than the more traditional candidates.
Leslie personified the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan that many Austinities are proud of. During the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) festivals we will certainly experience a number of tributes to Leslie Cochran.