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Queer Icon Leslie Cohen Passes (AUDIO)

By Charlotte Robinson, March 16, 2022

We have lost a true lesbian pioneer in the passing of Leslie Cohen. Whether opening the first upscale lesbian club Sahara in NYC in 1976 or becoming the models with her partner/wife of 45 years Beth Suskin for the iconic National Monument sculpture “Gay Liberation” in Greenwich Village commemorating Stonewall, Leslie was a mentor & icon for our LGBTQ community. After leaving NYC in the early 90’s she pursued a stellar career as an attorney in Florida & then thankfully she finished & published her memoir “The Audacity of a Kiss: Love, Art & Liberation” available on Rutgers University Press that has been nominated for a 2022 Lambda Literary Award. I first met Leslie in 1978 at Sahara that she created with three of her friends Michelle Florea, Linda Goldfarb & Barbara Russo. 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. Thursday & Saturday nights the line extended around the block waiting for Paula the door manager to welcome you. Inside there were two floors of lesbians dressed to the hilt & disco blasting. For lesbians Sahara was our Studio 54 & like Studio it ended with the doors chained & locked because its success was ahead of its time. After Sahara Leslie, Beth & Michelle continued to have pop-up lesbian parties throughout Manhattan that I actually even once worked & in the Hamptons until they moved to Florida in the early 90’s. You will be missed my friend. In this intimate chat last September I talked to Leslie about her must-read memoir & her spin on our LGBTQ issues. LISTEN:  

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