The Provenance Of The Peter Coyote – Leonard Cohen Story
While researching Leonard Cohen’s relationships with Andy Warhol and his associates,1 I happened onto the description of a brief encounter between Peter Coyote2 and Cohen, which is linked to Warhol only by the coincidental presence of Ultraviolet, one of Warhol’s designated superstars.
While the anecdote is noted at a handful of sites, the source for each is a two paragraph section of Coyote’s memoir, Sleeping Where I Fall (Washington, DC: Counterpoint Press, 1998). Consequently, I cannot offer Cohen’s perspective or confirmation from anyone else that the incident played out as described in Coyote’s book.
And, even if I could verify or refute the account, its significance, if any, is nebulous.
Of course, lack of significance has never been deterred Heck Of A Guy from publishing an interesting story.3
And, not only is the story engaging enough to post but, as a bonus, doing so also adds another Leonard Cohen lookalike to our growing list.4 At least one web site (Anecdotario Del Rock, where the graphic atop this post was found) and one critic have determined that Peter Coyote and Leonard Cohen resemble one another. Lawrence Russell of Film Court wrote about Coyote’s work in “Bitter Moon” in this excerpt from the Peter Coyote web site:
But the film’s power comes from its narrator. Peter Coyote moves through his role as if he is no mere fiction but rather an eloquent subject of cinema verite. His resemblance to that well-known poetic undertaker Leonard Cohen (or even Pascal Bruckner, author of the novel) perhaps helps some of us suspend our disbelief… yet the fact remains that Coyote is utterly convincing as Oscar, an American writer as horny as Henry Miller but without the humanism of his famous precursor. [emphasis mine]
The Story Of Peter Coyote, Leonard Cohen, 10,000 Nonexistent Dollars, And The Leadership Issue
It was the summer of 1968 – a sociopolitical era keenly relevant to the ensuing event.
At the New York apartment of singer Paul Simon, Peter Coyote was to make a pitch to David Padwa, a well-to-do stockbroker Coyote (mistakenly, as it turned out) thought was considering a $10,000 donation to the Diggers, the Haight-Ashbury community-action group with which Coyote was involved.
Padwa arrived accompanied by Andy Warhol superstar, Ultraviolet, and Leonard Cohen, described by Coyote as “a poet and songwriter whose work I admire.”
Coyote and Danny Rifkin, manager of the Grateful Dead, were describing the mission and operations of the Diggers when, according to Coyote,
Suddenly, Leonard Cohen leaped to his feet and announced dramatically, `David, these men are lying. This is not a leaderless group at all. I am a novelist and reader of men. These men are leaders,’ stressing this last word as if it were a communicable disease.
Coyote’s conclusion was that
Cohen … was probably hustling Padwa for something himself and feared competition.
With respect to the potential donation to the Diggers, whatever Cohen did was moot. Coyote goes on to report that Padwa apparently had never committed to or even discussed making a donation.
- See Leonard Cohen, Gerard Malanga’s Poem, And The Andy Warhol Scene and Leonard Cohen And The Andy Warhol Scene – Brigid Berlin’s Cock Book [↩]
- For the youngsters who don’t recognize Coyote’s name, he is an author, director, and screenwriter but is best known as an actor in TV and films such as Bitter Moon, Heart of Midnight, Outrageous Fortune, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. [↩]
- Who else is going to tell you this stuff? [↩]
- A rather lengthy list of folks said to resemble Leonard Cohen can be accessed at Leonard Cohen Lookalikes, Doppelgangers, Twins, Copies, Doubles, & Clones Separated At Birth [↩]