How I (Finally) Met Leonard Cohen

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Lissen- I lived up the street from the Seven Steps bookstore. Yes, that's what it was called in 1968.
Not the Rainbow Bar and Grill, which didn't open until he early '70s.
If you had been in that particular "bar" in 1968, (it was then call ed the seven steps bookstore) you MAY have seen Bob Dylan playing there. Oh wait- he was there in 1966.
And downstairs was the Penelope, run by the late Gary Eisencraft, before he moved it to the bigger newer NEW Penelope on Sherbrooke street where the Fugs and Mothers Of Invention played a few times..
Anyhow the only time I ever saw Leonard Cohen in the vicinity back then was either in the Chez LouLou bistro on Mountain street or in the Boiler room, which was infrequent. He was too busy in NYC then.
Your memory is faulty. Or perhaps you are given to excessive artistic license. Or...

Tony Q. more than 9 years ago

Yes, really

My memory is vivid at times, but not perfect. Still, it makes no sense to say Leonard could not have been in Montreal on a night in the fall of 1968 because he "was too busy in New York then." He also moved to Tennessee that year, but he was never too busy not to show up from time to time in his hometown. The reading I attended was in a crowded bar on Stanley Street with a stage on one side, and there had to have been at least 100 people in the audience. Leonard was somewhere in the crowd when Patrick Lane invited him to come up and read a poem. I was 17 -- all this is vivid because it was my first poetry reading, maybe even my first bar, and my first Leonard sighting. It's very possible it happened downstairs in the Penelope, which later was renamed the Rainbow Bar and Grill. The founder-owner of the Seven Steps Bookstore was "Bicycle Bob" Silverman whom I first met in 1972, after the bookstore closed.

Ann more than 9 years ago

I'm certain she met the Man, and more

I can pretty much vouch for the fact that Leonard Cohen must have met Ann Daimond. She did indeed live just a stone's throw away from him. When I met my writer husband-to-be in 1986 he (my intended) was subletting her little flat while she was off in California. Everybody in the neighbourhood seemed to know Ann, knew her cat Bruno, and everyone cared about her. She was and no doubt still is a breath of fresh air and an enchanting, generous and sweetly innocent person. The chances of him not running into her in that little bohemian neighbourhood off the Main are nil, and the chances of him not being utterly charmed by her striking looks and her poet's soul are also pretty much nil. Ergo, the story makes perfect sense, though I did not personally witness any of their encounters. Besides, poets never lie, they simply tell their truth.

Jia-Lin's wife more than 14 years ago

Why I never met Leonard Cohen

My friend reminded me that many years ago when we had attended the Mariposa Folk Festival on Centre Island in Toronto we saw Leonard Cohen play. She said that he had given me the eye and implied that maybe there was still time to do something about it. As an extremely shy and downright insecure person back then, there was no doubt in my mind why I wouldn't reciprocate - in fact I was too naive to take the situation seriously anyway. Why would Leonard Cohen be interested in me? No doubt I was cute enough but all I had read were Nancy Drew novels, some art history books and a failed attempt at Finnegan's Wake.
As for doing something about it now? Well, I may be older and hopefully wiser but I still can't figure out why he would be interested. I am not as cute and all I have read are more detective stories, a bunch more art history books and failed attempts at many others including never finishing Finnegan's Wake. It's not a bad idea all the same though.

ML more than 14 years ago

L. Cohen

I have, in fact Leonard Cohen three times, although I was always too shy to engage him. But on the current "endless tour" I joined about eight thousand souls in the Copps Coloseum in Hamiliton, Ontario and he definitely met me. He met all of us. We left the arena as a blissful flock of varied age and colour floating on the peoples prayer the whole cast had shared with us after two hours and twenty minutes of music and words. "In my secret life" was whispered to us and there was total rapt attention. It's a hackneyed phrase but it is completely justified in this case.

For about forty years I have been meeting Leonard Cohen by singing his sons and leading others singing them. This has been more frequent since my son taught me "Joan of Arc" and then I discovered "Take This Waltz" and "I came So Far for Beauty". Now I meet Leonard Cohen several times a week. I should say Leonard Cohen meets me several times a week. He comes further towards me to make it easy.

Thanks, Ann, for the beautiful storytelling.

Scrawly more than 14 years ago

How I finally met Leonard Cohen

I've never met Leonard Cohen and most probably never will even though he's presently on tour in Spain, the country where I now live.
I'm an admirer of many of his songs, still have a number of scratched vinyls and a couple of his books of poetry.

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your beautiful and sometimes very moving story. I sincerely hope Your Man has had the
opportunity to come across it, he'd be very happy.

Anonymous more than 14 years ago


How can there be a climax to “a spiralling descent”?

EvL more than 14 years ago

"Every statement a lie, including AND and THE?"

I never said Leonard chased me around Montreal. That would definitely be a “lie.” Downtown Montreal in those days was a promiscuous village where people of different generations, backgrounds, and political persuasions were always bumping into and scraping up against each other.

This story is about me, and some of the times and places in which I did and did not meet a man who — not only for me but for many — was famous for his sudden appearances and aura of mystery.

Isn’t McCarthy’s the sort of fraught overstatement we make about former friends whom we perceive to have betrayed us? Or does Sardarine have a stronger than average investment in the details of this story, which makes him or her a little over-sensitive about perceived undercurrents that others might pardon or overlook?

Ann Diamond more than 14 years ago

leonard cohen called you darling and chased you around montreal

and waited for your call and called his cancer-stricken mother a bore. i believe you. i believe it all. let’s see, what was it that mary mc carthy said about lillian hellman?

Sardarine more than 14 years ago

Leo and Me

I met Leo when I attended the 1991 Juno Awards. Leonard was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the awards. And he came on stage and recited the lyrics to Tower of Song. It was mezmerizing.

I attended an after show exclusive party I somehow got an invite to and who should be sitting there at a table with Jennifer Warnes and Suzanne Vega flanking either side of him? It was Leo. I figured that was as close as I would get to the man who was actually shorter than I had imagined. It appeared there was a bit of a fuss between Jennifer and Vega with Vega looking sullen, stewing. In my mind I imagined she was yesterday’s news with Leo while Jennifer was the new shiny penny. Leonard excused himself and went out of the room. Like a sick puppy I followed. He went to the Men’s. It was just me and him at the urinals. I felt this was not the place to introduce myself. So I froze as he finished up and then followed him back upstairs. I thought he had returned to the private party but he was nowhere to be found. The two ladies were still there and the light had gone out of their eyes. It was like the sun had set on their evening as they slumped in their seats uninterested in the fancy drinks they had at their table. Champagne was offered. They both refused.

I wanderd back out into the lobby thinking about leaving the lttle party. The room fit 50 and had 150 so it was hot and sticky and uncomfortable. As I started for the front door I glanced in the bar thinking about a drink and there he was. All alone. My heart picked up several beats as I casually wandered in and climbed up onto a bar stool. Again I hesitated to interrupt his privacy. He ordered a well known scotch, not my usual brand. I ordered it too. Sipping our scotches we eyed each other across the marbled mile between us. Raised our glasses and took a sip. I took that as my opening and somehow made it down to his end of the bar without falling on my face. I opened up and told him how much I loved his most recent album I’m Your Man. I told him how hilarious I found it. Leonard was very appreciative saying “I didn’t think people got it” referring to the humour in the album. I assured him that myself and a friend of mine certainly did get it. I asked him what what he was doing now and he said living in Los Angeles and working on another Album. (This turned out to be The Future). I asked how he liked LA and he said It was okay. That is where my work takes me”. But he preferred Montreal. He wistfully commented on how he really missed Greece. He was hoping to go there after finishing up the album.

Our own private conversation was interrupted as an older woman and two younger ones walked into the bar and spied Leonard. All three went totally bananas. I could swear their panties fell down to the floor immediately on spotting him. He has that kind of “Tom Jones” effect on women. He greeted them as easily as he had greeted me. They squealed like I had wanted to do in the Men’s when I realized we were alone. I politely excused myself and began to leave. He thanked me for the conversation and continued to chat with the ladies.

I went back to the party. Sitting in the glow of it I realized my evening had been complete and probably one of the most perfect evenings in my life. It remains so. I realized there was nothing else to do but go home. As I was leaving I saw the diminutive hero of song. He was slowly going up the stairs to his room alone. Just like any average single guy in a strange town.

Phil Menger more than 14 years ago

The Lord of Song

“You folded your distance back into my heart. You drew the tears back to my eyes. You hid me in the mountain of your word. You gave the injury a tongue to heal itself.”

-Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy

In a society of instantaneous gratification, these thoughts needed to steep awhile. It is this rainy morning that greets me, pulls me from my bed sheets and dusts off my tongue. On blindingly bright sunshine-filled mornings I tend to oversleep, occasionally I wake in the afternoon – slightly hungover and lethargic. These are bold thoughts in damp times.

Some moments blur and fuse into realm of unofficial history, while others rattle your centre. These defining moments toss your heart like salad and spook the moths. The prehistoric beaten pseudo-butterflies have been fluttering ever since Leonard Cohen’s performance at the Cohn last week. It was a Monday reborn; a May day revisited.

The classics were sung and the French poems recited. He lifted us up, let us sing and gave our souls a beam to travel on. Cohen was almost Christ-like with his fragile frame and shrinking bones, but what a voice – deep, smooth, speckled.

Si vous voulez un amant/ Je ferai n’importe quoi que vous me demandez à

We sipped him like an expensive bottle of Pinot Noir, swooned and romanced by his character and soul wax swishing around in our mouths. By his third encored we were drunk on his hymn-book spill, his full-bodied discography – “Dance Me to the End of Love,” “Anthem,” “Democracy,” “Everybody Knows,” “Suzanne,” “I’m Your Man,” “Tower of Song,” “Hallelujah,” “So Long, Marriane,” “Closing Time” and “The Future.”

The following day my lover took her lunch outside the art supply boutique. She noticed his striking Italian leather shoes, trench coat and brittle hands. With the memory of Elisabeth Bellievau’s scribbled wintry thoughts, she too, walked in Cohen’s footsteps. Without snow there wasn’t a trace, an imprint or scar, just the scent of his skin and the psalms and poems remembered like a father’s voice.

Shannon Webb-Campbell more than 14 years ago

Not meeting Leonard Cohen

A very fine piece of writing!

And yes, I did have at least one non-meeting with L.C. It must have been circa 1967 or 68 in London.

A very good friend of mine called Kate Heliczer, who had the misfortune to be married to a whining character called Piero Heliczer [but perhaps not yet then] and a long time later was moderately involved with the Andy Warhol scene in NYC, was “secretary” at that time to a TV personality/folk-singer called Julie Felix; the latter had invited LC to her TV show.

One day I called Kate to have lunch and since we were both Chelsea dwellers we met on the Kings Road. Nowhere special and I don't remember the name of the place. She showed up there with “the” Marianne - I don't remember her last name, perhaps she even used Cohen's - and it was a very odd lunch. They both had hepatitis and for some reason that meant that they should only eat an ice-cream and fruit desert. Well that's what they started with as I ate my soup. However hunger defeated “medical” dogma, so effectively they ate a 3=course lunch backwards, while I ate mine more traditionally. They did NOT drink wine, its true…

Anyway to come to the point - obviously we could have hung out some more and I'd have met Leonard then, HOWEVER it was the very specific invitation that I was given - and turned down - that is the real nub of this story.

Marianne invited me to their Greek Island and - out of the shyness that at that time in my life sabotaged many other equally incredible potential surventures [meaning surprise adventures - a word which my young daughter invented many decades later to describe her manifold meetings with extraordinary and brilliant people - e.g. getting kissed on the cheek by the Dalai Lama in Vermont and up her arm, finger to elbow, by Ram Dass in Prague but which also, retrospectively, defined being 'OHMMMMED' by Allen Ginsberg on 2nd Ave in NYC as a very tiny baby or helping to protect RD Laing from the bottle for a 12 hour shift when he came to New York to give a talk. It also described crossing big lakes in tippy-tippy canoes to visit islands in Maine and astonishing our hosts there that we had survived the crossing in THAT canoe and almost everything about post-Communist Central Europe, which was my home-coming.]

So I declined! And was never mistaken for him - though I was for a remarkable variety of other people, including Eric Clapton [that little guy!!] but did eventually, out of curiosity, spend 1 night in the Chelsea Hotel with the roaches the size of small soup plates, but no Leonard in sight and no ghost of Nancy Spungen either. [A couple of years before we'd been living next door to Malcolm McLaren and Lauren Hutton in very derelict Noho.]

gamahuche more than 14 years ago