Gifting Leonard Cohen1
Today’s post began as an email to Heck Of A Guy from Melanie Joss about her crusade to present Leonard Cohen with a gift – specifically, the bolo tie slide show below. The information and photos are from Melanie and Tom Joss (written with Mel as narrator); DrHGuy contributed editing to the final post.
Click on images for best viewing.
Plan A: The Leonard Cohen Madison Square Garden Intercept
At 0715 on Friday, 23 October 2009, Tom and I arrived at Madison Square Garden to attend “An Evening with Leonard Cohen” – and to present the Canadian icon with a custom made bolo I had stashed in my backpack.
Following standard procedure, we first scoped out the area to locate a stage door likely to serve as Leonard’s exit. Reconnaissance demonstrated that, unlike smaller venues, the Garden lacks an exit door that allows fans to greet the performers. Instead, the the exit doors are located within a gated lot where the performers board their limousines.
After assessing this arrangement, I calculated the probability of successfully achieving sufficient access to transfer the gift-bag to Leonard at less than 1 in 20. We were, however, able to surreptitiously interrogate a parking lot employee who confidently asserted we would be able to establish visual contact with the subject when he exited the building. With that mind, we headed for the concert.
Guards were mounted at the periphery of the stage where the Unified Heart Touring Company crew, easily identified by their black fedoras, completed their assigned tasks. During the intermission, a breach in the security seemed to offer the opportunity to pass the gift-bag to a female member of the World Tour staff. But, just as I left my 6th row seat, the lights dimmed for the second set. I returned to the safety of my assigned seat, my confidence in my ability to transmit the gift to Leonard Cohen waning.
Determined to complete the mission, Tom and I exited the building as the encores began to assure we had ample time to reach the parking lot before Leonard. After 40 minutes spent at our observation post in the pouring rain, we spotted the black limo van Leonard would be using.
Discussing potential courses of actions, I said to Tom,
The only other option would be for us to get a taxi and follow Leonard back to his hotel. I really don’t want to stalk Leonard like that…so forget that idea.
At that point, we were informed by the employee we had previously questioned that Leonard might depart from the other side of the Garden. Circling to the back side of the building, we discovered there was no exit, and by the time we returned to our original position, Leonard’s limo was gone.
As we walked away disheartened, Tom queried, “What are you gonna do?” to which I replied,
It’s not the end of the world. Somehow I’ll find a way to get it to him someday.
Our day ended at 0245 Saturday morning with our arrival at our lodgings at the Warwick Hotel.
Plan B: Invoke Cosmic Forces (aka Sometimes You Get Lucky)
The next morning Tom and I returned to the Warwick after coffee and window shopping. Passing through the hotel’s revolving door, I had my head down, fixing my eyes on the three steps leading into the lobby lest I stumble on the unfamiliar terrain.
On bringing my gaze back to the horizontal, I caught a glimpse, in my peripheral vision, of a man talking to the clerk at the front desk. Despite my extensive preparation, my response to recognizing Leonard Cohen in this environment betrayed my excitement. My hands crossed over my chest as I coolly alerted Tom,
Oh my God, there’s Leonard Cohen! Oh my God!
I immediately approached him, pausing a few steps behind while he finished speaking with the clerk. He slowly turned to his left as if to acknowledge that he knew I was there. The following exchange ensued:
MEL: Mr. Cohen, I can’t believe this is happening! I can’t believe I’m seeing you! [At this point, I was shaking and holding back tears as I spoke with a sense of urgency.] I was at your concert last night and I tried to get a gift to you that I had made for you. I stood out in the rain for an hour to get this gift to you. I even tried to get it to your driver but we never saw him. Would you accept a gift that I had made for you?
With a slow, deep, raspy voice, Leonard replied;
LC: Is it small? [He holds up his index finger and thumb to indicate a size about 2 inches high]
MEL: Yes, it’s small. It’s a bolo that I had made for you.
LC: A bolo?
MEL: Yes. You know…the things you wear around your neck. You have them, you wear them.
LC: Oh yes, of course.
MEL: Will you be here for just a few minutes? I have it in my room. I’ll get it for you right now.
LC: Well, I might not be here, but you can give it to Mike.
MEL: That’s fine. I’ll be right back with it.
I moved with all possible haste to the elevator, ascended to the 7th floor, and instructed Tom to hold the elevator no matter who wanted to use it. “Tell them it’s an emergency and it can’t be used right now!”
On the elevator trip back down to the lobby, we were delayed by passengers entering on the 3rd floor, precipitating a jump in the already intense anxiety.
When the doors finally opened to the lobby, I approached Mike and showed him the gift explaining,
It isn’t anything dangerous to Mr. Cohen
…to which Mike replied,
I can tell it wouldn’t be just by looking at you.
I opened the box and showed it to him. He responded and said,
That’s really nice, I’ll see that he gets it.
I asked if Leonard had left the hotel. Mike answered,
No. If you hang around here you’ll probably see him.
About 6-7 minutes later, Mr. Cohen showed up in the lobby again and I approached him with my license plate, which reads: LNRDCOHN
MEL: Mr. Cohen, would you please sign my license plate for me? He smiled when he read it and just looked over at me.
LC: I don’t think this pen will write on this.
MEL: Yes, it will…I’ve tested it already because I’m very organized like that.2 [OK, it wasn't the most profound of explanations.] Anyway, I’m not putting it back on my car.
LC: Okay. [He signs his name]
LC: And what is your name?
LC: How do you spell that?
MEL: M-E-L [He writes ‘To Mel’ above his name]
LC: I’ll even write ‘Love’ on it for you.
I thanked him and sat at the couch in the lobby which was about 40’ from him. Not wanting to be that stalker, I just watched him saunter about sipping his coffee. My shaking hands sabotaged my repeated attempts to photograph Leonard. As I snapped one last picture of him looking directly at the camera while drinking his coffee, I imagined him thinking, ‘This poor old star-struck woman.”
That thought transformed itself into my next words to Tom,
Let’s go, I don’t want to pester him.
Positioning myself behind a pillar that effectively blocked Leonard’s view of me, we waited for the elevator to arrive.
Of course, within seconds of pushing the elevator button, who else was suddenly standing next to me but Leonard Cohen.
Mustering my courage, I turned toward him in time to hear him say,
LC: Thank you so much for the beautiful gift. I will wear it with honor.
MEL: You’re very welcome. It was a privilege to give it to you.
Getting into the elevator to go back to the room, I said to Tom,
You’re a witness. HE came over to ME. Can you believe that?
A man riding the elevator said, “I’ll attest to that.” 3 I asked him if he worked for Mr. Cohen; he told us he was Leonard’s financial manager. During the conversation that ensued, he commented that Mr. Cohen was a very humble man. I told him he was fortunate to have boss like that.
My personal belief is that this whole event was of God…the impeccable timing of God. I will never forget that day and the moments I stood next to Leonard Cohen!!
25 October 2009
The Bolo Tie Slide Gift
DrHGuy asked Mel why she chose to give Leonard Cohen a bolo tie slide.4 She responded with the following:
- This is a Heck Of A Guy Confessional post. For the description and background of this format, see Meet The Confessionals. [↩]
- As it turns out, Mel is not the only one who is very organized with regard to writing instruments used for autographs. Avi Elkoni reports, I have witnessed two items emerge from the outer pocket of Leonard’s guitar case: A sharpie, for those fans that desire an autograph but are hopelessly unprepared for it, and (get this): a white magic marker (one of those paint-type markers) for those autograph-seeking fans who want their autograph on the dark blue cover of the “Live in London” CD/DVD set. After seeing that, I added to the list of things I thought I knew about LC “well prepared”. [↩]
- After examining photos provided by DrHGuy, Mel and Tom identified the man riding the elevator as Joseph Samuel Carenza III, aka Joey, the Leonard Cohen World Tour Road Manager. [↩]
- One of the slides Leonard Cohen routinely wore during the Tour is shown below:
For those now enthralled with this issue , the investigation of the bolo tie slide is part of a larger discussion of Cohen’s apparel which can be found at Clothing Time. [↩]