On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”

The King Eddy Ballroom Of Leonard Cohen’s Memories

While I was gamboling on the beach enjoying vacation, Sally Hunter1 was diligently examining a Toronto landmark with a special connection to Leonard Cohen. Sally writes:

Every year Toronto has an event called “Doors Open”. For a weekend, many places are opened to the public – everything from the subway yards, boardrooms, historic buildings, and even the oldest Jewish Cemetery, which usually has it’s doors locked. Among those on the list this year was the King Edward Hotel – one of the last old grand hotels remaining. The King Eddy has a long and illustrious history, hosting many celebrities and dignitaries – the Beatles did a bed in here, scandalously Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared a suite, though they were not married, etc. The Hotel opened the Crystal Ballroom, on the 17th floor, up to the public. The Hotel is where “I am a Hotel” was filmed, and the Crystal Ballroom was featured as Cohen sang “Memories”. The Crystal Ballroom was used from the early 20’s to the 50’s when it was shut down due to changing fire regulations. It was stripped of it’s chandeliers, fixtures and even the hardwood flooring. This will be the last time the room is opened to the public, as it looks now. The Hotel has now been purchased by another investor who plans to revamp the hotel, refurbish rooms and add luxury condos (the cheapest begin at $400,000). I am sending you a link to several of the pictures, in case you are interested. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingermadd … 168146900/

All of Sally’s photos are interesting and worth viewing.  One of those, a shot of the ballroom, is displayed below a screen capture from the “Memories” performance in “I Am A Hotel” that was filmed in the same spot.

Screen capture of "Memories" from I Am A Hotel

King Edward Hotel Ballroom by Sally Hunter, 2010

I Am A Hotel

The King Edward Hotel - Toronto, from Wikipedia

Leonard Cohen provided the music for and helped write “I Am a Hotel,” a 24 minute video produced in 1983  by Allan Nichols for Blue Memorial Video2 Ltd (the chairman of the company and one of the owners is Cohen) which won the Golden Rose at an international television festival in Montreux.

The concept of this 24 min video is based on the reminiscences of a hotel – or some rooms of the hotel. Leonard Cohen plays a (long term) resident of the hotel. Each song is depicted by a little visual story involving some of the guests. There are no words other than those in the songs. “Memories” is set to a dance (like a prom) with Cohen up on stage leading the band. The two dancers that are featured in this vignette are very good (the bellboy and a hotel maid in the film). Choreography by Ann Ditchburn.3

The making of the film was not without difficulties, as explained in this excerpt from In Every Style of Passion by Jim Devlin:4

Getting the project off the ground and onto the screen ran into severe problems when the original backers, C Channel Pay-TV, went bust six days before shooting began. CBC came to the rescue and the rest is graphic imagery. The stars were Toller Cranston, the skater, in his first acting role and Anne Ditchburn who was also responsible for the choreography. It was set in the luxurious Victorian splendour of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Guests there over the years have included Candice Bergen, Rudolph Valentino, The Beatles, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and Liciano Pavarotti. Filming lasted two weeks in May 1983 under the direction of Allan Nicholls, an associate of Robert Altman, with additional scenes directed by Don Allan. The producers were Leonard’s long-time friends Barrie Wexler and Moses Znaimer, and it was the first production by their new Blue Memorial Video company, so-called in honour of Leonard’s late musician friend David Blue (born Cohen, no relation), who had died the previous year and to whose memory the film is dedicated.

The songs on the soundtrack follow:

  • The Guests
  • Memories
  • The Gypsy’s Wife
  • Chelsea Hotel # 2
  • Suzanne

Videos from “I Am A Hotel” can be viewed in the final section of this post.

The Handwriting On The Wall

Sally Hunter’s note continues:

As I was perusing other photos of the Hotel, I found this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyfen/1496 … otostream/. It was taken in 2006, and unfortunately I did not see this while I was there. It is not signed or initialed, but to me it looked remarkably like Leonard Cohen’s handwriting. Tell me what you think.

I contacted the photographer, Andrew Louis, who has a number of intriguing shots of Toronto scenes at hyfen. He writes that he recalls that the inscription was found “on the same floor as the Crystal Ballroom but on the North side of the building.” He also gave permission to post the photo here (click on image to enlarge).

A Google search of the exact quote, “You have made my heart a garden,” turns up only six  hits (other than the photo reference), none of which have any obvious link to Leonard Cohen.  “You made my heart a garden” shows up a few additional hits, but again there is nothing associated with Cohen.

The handwriting, however, is clearly similar to Cohen’s.  I’ve never seen that calligraphic style elsewhere although it’s certainly possible others use a similar script.

For comparison, I’ve included examples of Leonard Cohen’s distinctive handwriting, only one of which is outrageously self-serving:

lcsketchwoman

Videos From “I Am A Hotel”

I Am A Hotel – 1 of 3

Video from paukuttaja

I Am A Hotel – 2 of 3

Video from paukuttaja

I Am A Hotel – final scenes

Video from ravesjin

I Am A Hotel – 3 of 3

  1. Sally Hunter has been a Heck Of A Guy contributor before; see Our Lady Of The Harbour – Setting For Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” and Leonard Cohen Across The Board []
  2. Blue Memorial Video was named for David Blue, a 1960s folksinger who was a close friend not only of Leonard Cohen but also Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Blue died the year before the film, which is dedicated to him, was produced. David Blue is a reliable source of information about the now nearly forgotten singer-songwriter. []
  3. LeonardCohenFiles []
  4. While the quotation that follows is from Jim Devlin’s book, In Every Style of Passion,” the excerpt was found at Diamonds In The Mine. []

One Response to On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”

  1. Great stuff

    Thanks Sally and Heck!

    We visited the hotel a couple of times (Book of Longing premier, 2008 tour shows) but never made it upstairs.

    Thanks again

    Dick and Linda