The Other Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen
The above photo was shot in 1967 (printed in 1968) by Sam Tata. The caption follows: “Leonard Cohen, Poet-Writer, Montreal, Quebec, 1967, printed 1968.” There is, of course, another photo Sam Tata took of Leonard Cohen (see heading below: The Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows)
Leonard Cohen Goes For Broke
While Mr Cohen is characteristically spiffy in his double breasted jacket, black mock turtleneck, and demi-boots, I find myself drawn to the items in the background and the attendant question of where the photo was taken.
Leonard Cohen spent much of 1967 in New York singing his songs, working in the studio, following Nico around town, hanging out with the Warhol crowd, living at at the Chelsea and Henry Hudson hotels, and, well, being Leonard Cohen. He also performed at concerts and festivals in the US and Canada. His time in Montreal that year was, in short, limited.
And, he had not yet purchased his own home near the corner of Vallières and St. Dominique, across the street from Parc du Portugal. He did visit his childhood home on at least one occasion in 1967 (we know because he took Joni Mitchell with him and she wrote “Rainy Night House” about it), but that room doesn’t look like it belongs in his mother’s home. The secretary’s chair in which he is seated and the folding desk, for example, seem unlikely accoutrements for the house in Westmount.
Cohen’s Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, his two guitars, and his cigarettes are easily recognizable. The only books I can identify with certainty are the copies of “Beautiful Losers” that fill one shelf. (The three large drawings directly behind Cohen seem familiar, but I can’t place then.)
The item I find most fascinating, however, is the Go For Broke game (brought to the market in 1965 by Selchow & Righter) in the shelf over Cohen’s right shoulder. Board Game Geek offers this description:
Go For Broke is a roll and move game for 2-5 players [suggested ages: 10 and up]. Players receive one million dollars from the bank and race to be the first player to spend all of their money and go bankrupt. Players can risk money at the Racetrack, the Casino, play the Stock Market or make donations to charity. Outcomes are determined by spend and receive cards and by the spinners that represent the various locations.
It is difficult for me to come up with a scenario in which Leonard Cohen is temporarily using a room (perhaps his publisher’s office?) to write, keep extra copies of his novels on hand, play guitar, and carry out grownup activities that would also explain the presence of a child’s game, the goal of which is to lose all of one’s money and go bankrupt.
Clearly, the only possible explanation is that this game was an omen of the fiscal catastrophe Cohen was to experience some 35+ years later that the young, brash poet-writer ignored to his peril.
The Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows
Sam Tata’s best known shot of the Canadian singer-songwriter is the 1973 photo shown below in its iteration as a CBS Records promotional photo. It has also been used for ads, posters and album cover art. Leonard Cohen provides the location it was taken:1
It’s the upper duplex back-door of the house on Rue St. Dominique in Montreal where I used to live. Morton Rosengarten (Krantz in The Favourite Game), my old friend, lived downstairs and now occupies both floors. We bought the place together around 1970.2
Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post was found at National Gallery of Canada. The CBS promotional shot is from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.
- Source: LeonardCohenFiles [↩]
- Note: According to Montreal homes: Leonard Cohen hangout goes up for sale by Kathryn Greenaway (The Gazette: June 20, 2014) the purchase date is identified as 1973 [↩]