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Memoir 'The Audacity Of A Kiss' (AUDIO)

By Charlotte Robinson, September 15, 2021

This week I talked with Leslie Cohen about her new must-read memoir “The Audacity of a Kiss: Love, Art & Liberation” published by Rutgers University Press. This is an important read that tells the historic love story of a gay woman who broke through the oppressive roles expected for women in the 1950’s & 1960’s & came out on top in the 1970’s. Not only for women but remember in the 1950’s being LGBTQ was illegal & listed as an illness by the DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). It was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) finally removed the diagnosis of “homosexuality” from the second edition of its DSM. It was at this time that Cohen with three of her friends Michelle Florea, Linda Goldfarb & Barbara Russo created New York City’s first upscale women’s club Sahara that showcased women in art, politics & music. From May of 1976 to December of 1979 on Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side Sahara was the first club fronted by lesbian women instead of being controlled by Mafia Bosses. Creating a safe space for women attracted many celebrities and luminaries of the era including Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Pat Benatar, Ntozake Shange, Rita Mae Brown, Adrienne Rich, Patti Smith, Bella Abzug, Jane Fonda to name a few who performed & held special events at Sahara. This led to Leslie & her partner Beth Suskin becoming the models in 1979 for the iconic sculpture “Gay Liberation” in Greenwich Village that commemorates the Stonewall Riots & was declared a national monument by President Obama in 2016. I talked to Leslie about how Sahara changed the course of her life & her spin on our LGBTQ civil rights. LISTEN  

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