Partner Leonard Bernstein

Tom Cothran (1947-1987) was a musician and music director for a classical radio station in San Francisco when he met Leonard Bernstein in summer 1971. They became lovers. Cothran was a paid assistant for Bernstein, accepted by his family, friend, and associates. Among other duties, he was a research assistant for the Norton Lectures.

By late summer 1976 Bernstein wanted to live as a gay man, leaving his wife Felicia Bernstein and going to California with Cothran. In the fall they returned to New York City and lived in a hotel, with Bernstein seeing his family and traveling as a conductor in Cothran's company. They went to Palm Springs together in January 1977, but by the next month Bernstein had decided that they were unsuited as domestic partners and he began to reconcile with his wife, while still sometimes traveling with Cothran, who remained in Bernstein's orbit and became an important correspondent after Felicia's death in 1978.

They considered an opera based on Lolita with Cothran as librettist but were unable to decide how to treat the title character. Cothran wrote Bernstein letters of advice that revealed that he might have become an important advisor for Bernstein, but he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1980 and then with AIDS. Bernstein visited Cothran in his sickbed in November 1986, which inspired him to raise money for AIDS research. Cothran died in 1987.

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