"It’s important to stay visible and it’s important to be out there. Write your books, tell your stories, make sure that we are part of history and people can refer to it, especially young people. It is so important for young people to see that there are many gays and lesbians who fought for their rights and have found joy and happiness."
- Leslie Cohen
#LeslieCohen #LesbianIcon #LesbianAuthor #LGBTAuthor #GayWriter #GayActivist #NightclubOwner #Stonewall #Feminist
Photo Credit: Jamie Robinson
Leslie Cohen is the author of the memoir The Audacity of a Kiss (Rutgers University Press 2021). She grew up in Queens, New York, and attended Buffalo State College and then Queens College, where she received her Master’s degree in Art History. She worked at Artforum magazine and as the curator of The New York Cultural Center in Manhattan.
In 1976, she and Michele Florea, Barbara Russo, and Linda Goldfarb opened Sahara in New York City, a groundbreaking, elegant women’s nightclub which hosted, at different times, Pat Benatar, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Jane Fonda, Adrienne Rich, Patti Smith, and many others. After Sahara closed, she became a nightclub promoter and then went to New York University School of Law in 1989.
Leslie is also, along with her wife Beth, the model for the sculpture Gay Liberation by George Segal, which resides in Christopher Park in Greenwich Village, across from the Stonewall Inn. After years of controversy (it was created in 1979 to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion), it was finally unveiled in 1992. It has become an international icon for the LGBTQ+ community and part of the Stonewall National Monument, the United States’ first national monument designated an LGBTQ+ historic site.
She retired after many years at her own law firm in Miami. Leslie and Beth have been together for forty-five years and live in Miami Beach with their cat, Birdie.
"Beth and I met in 1965 in college when she was straight and I was still too unaware or ashamed to confront my sexuality in a world that considered gays and lesbians perverse. By the time we met again in 1976 ten years had passed. She was still straight but I was now a lesbian on the verge of opening the women's nightclub Sahara. We fell madly in love. She left the man she was living with and we have been together ever since."
- Leslie Cohen
"I was flying being with Leslie. There was no way, just because she was a woman, I was going to listen to what the world said about that."
- Beth Suskin
Video Credit: Karen Song, Director; Elaine Gold, Producer 2015