I’ve seen the future, baby. It is – well, you’ll find out next week: DrHGuy.com & 1HeckOfAGuy.com Changes To Be Announced Nov 3, 2014

seal700

Watch The Leonard Cohen Comedy Video Endorsed By Nick Cave “Beautiful!!!” & Larry Ratso Sloman “Loved your comedic stylings of LC video!”

2lccomedy-900

A couple of weeks ago, my inbox was favored with an unexpected email from Larry “Ratso” Sloman.1 As an aside to the primary business of the message, Mr Sloman noted,

Loved your comedic stylings of LC video!

He went on to explain he had sent the link to Nick Cave, whose response was

Beautiful!!!

These kind words refer to “The Comedic Stylings Of Leonard Cohen,” a video of Cohen humor I put together to counter the grotesquely mistaken perspective that Leonard Cohen is gloom incarnate.

3starring900

The majority of this video is devoted to remarks Cohen makes during his concerts presented here without the annoying interruptions of those songs he insists on performing between comic turns.

1. Acceptance of 1993 Juno Male Vocalist Award & demonstration of Cohen’s golden voice (1988)
2. Warning to audience that he is going to “fire up” his synthesizer & an exhibition of his solo skills on that instrument (2013)
3. Reverend Leo’s Toronto Revival Meeting (1993)
4. Five words Cohen chooses to describe himself
5. Meeting Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel
6. The Saga of Raphael Gayol (2010)
7. Cohen’s Zen names
8. Everybody wants a long stem (2012)
9. Cohen’s six stages of man’s allure to women (2013)
10. Cohen announces plan to resume smoking at age 80 (2013)
11. Leonard Cohen – Just a kid with a crazy dream (2009)

The Video:

The Comedic Stylings Of Leonard Cohen
Video by Allan Showalter

Note: For another celebrity-sanctioned video from Heck Of A Guy Studios, see “I Really Love It!” Don Was Endorses Heck OF A Guy Video Of Elvis’s Rolls Royce Performed By Was (Not Was) & Leonard Cohen

________________________________

  1. For the uninitiated, Larry “Ratso” Sloman has written for several decades about music, counter culture, and, on occasion, Howard Stern and the New York Rangers. As Wikipedia has it, “Larry “Ratso” Sloman is a New York-based author best known for his collaboration with Howard Stern on the radio personality’s two best-selling books, Private Parts and Miss America. He also appears in all of Kinky Friedman’s mystery novels as the Dr. Watson to Kinky’s Sherlock. Sloman wrote an account of Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, On the Road with Bob Dylan. He has also penned Reefer Madness, a history of marijuana use in the United States, Thin Ice, an account of one season with the New York Rangers hockey team, Steal This Dream, an oral biography of Abbie Hoffman.”Bob Dylan referred to Sloman’s account of the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, On the Road with Bob Dylan, as, ‘…the War and Peace of Rock and Roll.’ He has written about and been a friend of Leonard Cohen’s for 40 years. Most recently, he authored the foreword for Sharon Robinson’s “On Tour with Leonard Cohen” to be released December 2014. []

“Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

lcjukebox

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

- Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Heck Of A Guy feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

oldmanriv

“Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles

When people ask me, ‘What’s your favorite song?’ I say “Blueberry Hill.”1 “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill / The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.” That’s as good as it gets, as far as I know. You know everything about that moment. You know, you’re continually see-sawing back and forth between the secular and the spiritual until from time to time you hit it right. It’s there on “Blueberry Hill,” or “Old Man River” from Ray Charles. And what is that? What is that about? Is it about work? Is it about God? Is it about love? It’s impossible to say; it’s been transmuted into the world, and the song doesn’t invite you to examine your achievements in the realm of piety or religiosity or even love, but the song itself is embracing all those elements! [emphasis mine]
Leonard Cohen2

Ol’ Man River, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, was written for the 1927 musical Show Boat. Ray Charles released his version of the song on his 1963 album, Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul.

Video: “Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles

________

  1. See “Blueberry Hill” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox []
  2. Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman. Details for Men, January, 1993. Found at Speaking Cohen []

1988 Leonard Cohen Profile Now Online: Profits Of Doom by Steve Turner

Profits Of Doom by Steve Turner
Photo by Michael Putland
Q Magazine: April 1988

This article includes some stellar Leonard Cohen quotes:

  • “There is a whole tradition of music where you just want to hear the man telling a story as authentically as you can. That is why there is a place for singers like me.”
  • “They’re just songs & they’re meant to do what songs are meant to do. To get you through a moment.”
  • “Buddhist meditation frees you from God and frees you from religion. You can experience complete at-homeness in this world.”
  • “I used to be a restless young man but now I’m a restless middle-aged man. You can’t help but change, though I’d be hard pressed to say in exactly what way.”

Click on images to enlarge

page1

page-2

page-3

Credit Due Department: Contributed by Dominique BOILE

The Pictorial Rehabilitation Of Leonard Cohen’s Father, Nathan Cohen

comp

The Nathan Cohen Photo Fallacy

This post sets forth the Nathan Cohen Photo Fallacy without offering rigorous scientific proof.1 I believe the argument to be, nonetheless, sufficiently compelling to significantly shift how one views Leonard Cohen’s father, Nathan Cohen.

The Nathan Cohen Photo Fallacy Thesis: The perception of  Leonard Cohen’s father, Nathan Cohen, held by fans, journalists, and scholars has been significantly and unconsciously skewed by a single photo.

This notion hangs on three postulates:

1. Our assessment of a person’s character is significantly affected by the appearance of that person. Social perception studies repeatedly and consistently demonstrate that we intuitively form impressions of and make inferences about other people largely, albeit not exclusively, from their physical presentation.2 For example, facial appearance has been shown to reliably predict

  • Whom we choose to help, hire, or date
  • Criminal justice decisions
  • Evaluations about which members of a group are more outgoing, socially competent, sexually responsive, and intelligent
  • Assessments of health and power

It is worth noting that this effect takes place whether an individual’s appearance is viewed in person or in a photo. Most social perception studies, in fact, involve the use of photographs rather than live models.

2. For an overwhelming majority of today’s Leonard Cohen fans as well as contemporary scholars, journalists, and authors who write about the Canadian singer-songwriter (anyone, in other words, other than family and friends who can conjure up a mental picture of Leonard Cohen’s father), that image is based on this photograph.

nadel

This photo was published in Ira Nadel’s 1996 book, Various Positions,3 considered the authoritative Leonard Cohen biography in English until challenged by the publication in 2012 of I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. More importantly, it has been, as recently as a few months ago, the only photo of Nathan Cohen easily accessible online. Even today, a Google Image Search for “Leonard Cohen’s father” brings up that same photo as the first two hits. Of the next 200+ hits, only two are actually photos of Nathan Cohen (the remainder are false positives), both of which I posted in July 2014.

In an incredibly unscientific survey,  I emailed five Cohen fans, asking them if they were aware of a photo or photos of Leonard Cohen’s father. If they did, they were also asked to indicate where they had seen the photo(s). Each of the five responded within minutes with a copy or a link to the above photo.

3. This photo makes Nathan Cohen seem cold, detached, and aloof. In a second  incredibly unscientific survey, I asked a dozen acquaintances, half of whom were knowledgeable Cohen fans who recognized the photo of Leonard Cohen’s father and half of whom were not fans and probably wouldn’t recognize a photo of Leonard Cohen, let alone one of  his father, to list the characteristics of the man pictured  (Nathan Cohen). The resulting lists of characteristics were remarkably similar, regardless of whether they were compiled by someone who did or did not recognize the man in the photo as Nathan Cohen.

Characteristics that were frequently mentioned included formal, stuffy, stern, strict, unemotional, distant, firm but fair, aloof, detached, standoffish, reserved, businesslike, severe, rational, and precise.

At this point, I should clarify that I am not making the claim that the impression given by photo is necessarily inaccurate. Indeed, it is possible that Nathan Cohen’s traits were coincident with those attributed to his photo: that he was, in fact, formal, stuffy, stern, …  I contend only that the photo under consideration is so pervasive and evokes such strong interpretations that it has inevitably had an impact on how we think of Nathan Cohen. To recognize the significance of this idea, let me introduce you to …

The Other Nathan Cohen

Try this experiment:

First, look at that photo of Nathan Cohen from Nadel’s book. Now, imagine how this guy would appear if you met him with his 7 year old child, Leonard.  (Your knowledge or lack of knowledge about Nathan Cohen and relationship with his son is irrelevant to this exercise.)

OK, time’s up. Did you picture something like this?

lcandfa

If so, congrats, you smug rascal you. Now, take another glance at  that photo of Nathan Cohen from Nadel’s book and imagine how this guy would look if you met him with his son, Leonard, at three or four years old.

Is this what you envisioned?

nathanbch

The key question, of course, is, do you come up with the same behavioral profile for the Nathan Cohen whose photo appears in Nadel’s book and the Nathan Cohen pictured with his kid on the beach? Is the Nathan Cohen in the beach photo formal, stuffy, stern, strict, unemotional, distant, firm but fair, aloof, detached, standoffish, reserved, businesslike, severe, rational, and precise?

How about the Nathan Cohen being gazed upon adoringly by Leonard Cohen’s sister, Esther?

esther-fa

Or these Nathan Cohens?

fa-movie

lake

catch3

bullConclusions

Again, neither the photo of a stern-looking Nathan Cohen from Nadel’s biography nor the photos of a friendlier-looking Nathan Cohen I’ve posted can be labeled the “true” picture of Nathan Cohen.

My point is simply that our impressions of Nathan Cohen have been, at least in part, based on his stuffy appearance in what was – until recently – the only readily available photo of him. Intellectual honesty demands awareness that we have inevitably made inferences and attributed traits to him from that image.  These other photos are a means of spotlighting that fact, which, in turn, promotes a reassessment – hopefully one less skewed by the historical accident of which photo survived and was selected for publication – of the kind of man Leonard Cohen’s father was.4

Credit Due Department: All photos other than the shot from Nadel’s book and the picture of Nathan Cohen and the bull are images contributed by Maarten Massa. The picture of Nathan Cohen and the bull is from Leonard Cohen’s personal collection, in the UK edition of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons (Jonathan Cape, Nov 1 2012). Its photographer, date, and location are unknown.

____________________________

  1. To those readers who find this approach suspect, be assured I am prepared to perform the necessary research and studies immediately upon receiving your certified check funding the project. []
  2. Rather than list dozens of these studies, I offer one often-cited, representative paper: Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters by Leslie A. Zebrowitz and Joann M. Montepare (Soc Personal Psychol Compass. May 1, 2008 []
  3. It is the photo-portrait that hangs in Leonard Cohen’s childhood bedroom in Montreal. []
  4. And this is one reason why I post those – what did that skeptic call them … oh, yes, – that’s why I post those “goofy family photos” on my sites. []

Lunch At Leonard’s In LA – Leonard Cohen & Kezban Özcan Host Nosh For Duchess & DrHGuy

table

Left to right: Kezban Özcan, DrHGuy, Duchess, Leonard Cohen

“It doesn’t suck, Leonard.
DrHGuy to Leonard Cohen after listening to Popular Problems at Casa Cohen

Introduction: Aug 6, 2014 Leonard Cohen Visitation

At the end of the preceding post in this  account of  the sunny August afternoon the Duchess and I spent with Leonard Cohen and his personal assistant, Kezban Özcan, at his home in Los Angeles,1 we had just arrived at Mr. Cohen’s residence to find our musical icon of choice awaiting us in his front yard.

I should point out that stepping out of our parked car marked the commencement of the second part of our two-step plan we had painstakingly constructed for our visit:

  1. Show up
  2. See what happens2

The details of our anticipated audience with the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon were – oh, let’s go with “ambiguous.” Or, we could, with more exacting precision, go with “Once we arrived, we had no clue what to expect.”

In addition to the stress inherent in launching oneself into the abyss of an agendaless get-together, I have always harbored a certain apprehensiveness about meeting Leonard Cohen because our connection is my web sites that feature him and, while those sites have promoted his performances, described the honors he has received, and featured bits of his philosophy and humor, the quality that makes my blogs unique is the not infrequent use of the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon to induce a cheap laugh.

For example, I began writing about Leonard Cohen by publishing a discussion with Anjani, Leonard Cohen’s romantic partner, proposing she dump him in favor of hooking up with me and certain other female vocalists in a three-way or four-way (the numbers and the selection of the other participants were pat of our online negotiations).3 Not long afterward, I posted 10 Unbelievable Secrets About Leonard Cohen, one representative entry of which follows:

The inspiration for the Leonard Cohen song, “Suzanne,” was actually Dolly Parton. Her service as Cohen’s muse was kept secret because of her personal respect for and professional dependence on her partner at that time, Porter Wagoner. Also, the line from “Suzanne” that reads “And she feeds you tea and oranges” was originally “And her breasts are big as melons.”

While others applauded Cohen’s entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I chose to focus on the difficulty he and the other candidates had finding the route to the stage for the induction ceremony.4 I’ve also offered to fix his problematic lyrics, improve his poorly staged concerts, and salvage his incompetently managed merchandising (one solution: The Leonard Cohen Bobble Head). There’s more, but you get the idea.

Not every superstar, I’ve become aware, reacts to such japery with guffaws and knee-slapping.5 Concert-goers have been removed, admirers have been threatened, and fan sites closed for little more than cracking wise. And, certainly more than a few Cohen admirers have taken me to task for poking fun at an artist who personifies dignity and gravitas. Consequently, while Leonard himself has always professed himself a fan of of this brand of humor, that history has made me a tad edgy prior to our meetings. Like the old saying goes, “Live by the Leonard Cohen Bobble Head, die by the Leonard Cohen Bobble Head.”

But, both Duchess and I had met Leonard before – and he had inevitably been, as one would presume, exceedingly Cohenesque – engaging, entertaining, charming, and, according to one of us, sexy. Most of all, he has been gracious. After my first face to face meeting with the man,6 I wrote,

I confess to being unaware of the most elemental musicological knowledge, I am ignorant of the basics of songwriting, and I haven’t a clue about iconicity. I do, however, know graciousness when I’m overwhelmed by it.

And, Leonard Cohen may be the most aggressively gracious person on the planet.

And it turns out, proponents of personal growth will be pleased to learn,  the cumulative graciousness of Leonard Cohen over the years had finally overcome my (arguably deserved) concerns, leaving me delighted rather than distressed about the prospect of spending time with him.

Welcome To The Neighborhood

We had read about the modesty of Leonard Cohen’s home and the iffiness of his neighborhood. Pico Iyer’s characterization is representative of descriptions that can be found in a number of such articles :

It’s an extraordinary thing. He lives in this tiny house in central Los Angeles that’s so dangerous I’m scared ever to visit it, an area where everyone has barred their windows, you can almost hear sirens and breaking glass. Out of all my friends in California — normal people, struggling writers — he lives in the single most modest place. I and my friends seem rich next to Leonard Cohen. He shares a house with his daughter and he might as well be in the monastery and he’s been there for almost 30 years.7

And the fact is that Leonard viewed the 1992 L.A. riots up close and personal from this same house:

“I live about 8 minutes drive from South Central & the local shops were going up. My 7-11 grocery store went up, Goodman’s Music where I buy my musical supplies, Radio Shack, where I buy my electronics, they all went up. From my balcony I could see five great fires. The air was thick with cinders.”8

Well, Leonard Cohen’s home will not be mistaken for Graceland or Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch or, for that matter, Joni Mitchell’s digs in Laurel Canyon. It’s a medium sized duplex (albeit significantly larger than the house in which I spent my childhood) with an exterior stairway one climbs to reach Leonard’s second story apartment. His daughter, Lorca, lives on the first floor. His son, Adam, has a home within a few blocks, as does Anjani Thomas.

And it is sparsely furnished, in keeping with his aesthetic,

I find the simple life voluptuous. I like … a good chair and a good table.9

Nonetheless, once inside, we immediately felt at ease.  Leonard Cohen’s home is a handsome and undeniably pleasant household. (Of course, one has to factor in that my judgement may be skewed by growing up in a part of the Ozarks where gated communities are inhabited exclusively by cattle and upper-class is spelled “d-o-u-b-l-e-w-i-d-e.”)

Nor did we pick up any menacing vibes from the neighborhood.  For my part, I could attribute this to being jaded from those years training at a medical center on the south side of Chicago (aka “the baddest part of town” according to Jim Croce’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown), but Penny, who grew up a valley girl, also thought it unremarkable – “just an older Hollywood neighborhood.”

Is is, in short, the kind of place that would have met Aunt Thelma’s highest standard: “Good enough for Jesus to visit.”10

Today’s Specials At Cafe Cohen

Of course, we should have known there would be food. Leonard Cohen feeds family, friends, his musicians and road crew, Zen monks and teachers, and his interviewers.

Heck, he even makes sure his backstage visitors partake:

The next thing I recall [backstage in Chicago in 2009] is Leonard (note we’re on a first name basis now) urging me to have something to eat from the crew’s buffet. This is accomplished by him taking my arm to lead me through the line of covered dishes, opening each of the 6-8 main offerings, describing the contents, and adding his recommendations.

Should I ever awaken in a post-apocalyptic desert with starving mobs battling over any edible morsel, my plan is to track down Leonard Cohen. If there is food to be had, he will, I am convinced, find it and insist that his guest, even if the status of guest is self-appointed, dine from the bounty.11

And, in fact, following the initial exchange of greetings,12 Kezban began laying out an outrageously splendid buffet: figs, dates, walnuts with aguave & cinnamon, baklava, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, blue cheese, celery, cheese, börek, watermelon, … while Leonard uncorked a bottle of chardonnay.

Leonard and Kezban described the dishes with Leonard heavily promoting the celery and blue cheese. Because my experience with Turkish cuisine is sadly deficient, I asked Kezban about a couple of the offerings:

The name for the savory pastry is börek and pide in Turkish. The one with the elongated shape had ground beef and spices in it. And the round one had feta cheese in it. These savory dough pastries come in so many different shape and flavor, but Leonard and my family love these two the best. And the desert we had was baklava with pistachios sweetened with honey, I got those in New York just recently.

Left to right: Duchess, DrHGuy, Kezban. Photo by Leonard Cohen

Left to right: Duchess, DrHGuy, Kezban. Photo by Leonard Cohen

It wasn’t just the food in front of us that captured Leonard’s interest. When he discovered we were traveling to Victoria later on our trip, he lavishly praised the afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel as a not to be missed event for visitors.

After the chardonnay was emptied, our host urged popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. When I demurred, protesting that I have to remain sufficiently sober to drive home, Leonard Cohen made the most extraordinary offer – open the champagne, spend the night here, and drive home after breakfast.

See what I mean by “Leonard Cohen may be the most aggressively gracious person on the planet?”

The Entertainment

Much of that day’s conversation has already been posted at Calling On Leonard Cohen & Kezban: The Cat, The Cane, The Conversation. One item, however, couldn’t be published at that time. Shortly after we arrived, Leonard told us “I’d like you to listen to my new album and tell me what you think.”

And, after we finished lunch, Duchess and I moved to Leonard’s desk and heard, via his computer, the nine tracks that comprise Popular Problems. (Incidentally, the food service continued during this portion of the program. Leonard prepared a latte and served it to Penny while we listened.)

While the odds against a negative review from us approximated infinity and beyond,  it was clear that there was some tension attendant to the event and that the four of us were distinctly relieved once we revealed – each in his or her own way – our enthusiasm for the album. Duchess gushed superlatives, especially lauding “Slow,” while I opted for the more austere yet heartfelt “It doesn’t suck, Leonard.”

Popular Potables

In celebration of our approval of the album, Leonard, who had already plied us with chardonnay, dosed the Duchess with latte, and twice offered champagne, shared a glass or two of  his Lagavulin whiskey.13

That’s The Way To Say Goodbye

After quaffing the drinks, taking a few more photos, and saying our goodbyes, we departed.

As Porky Pig would put it, “That’s all folks.”  There were no philosophical exchanges requiring heavy intellectual lifting, I didn’t dig up any previously unrevealed historical curiosities, we didn’t compare religious backgrounds …

We chatted about our kids, the weather, and travel plans, we ate and we drank, and we listened to some music.  We’re OK with that.

Credit Due: The photo atop this post was taken by Kezban Özcan via her way cool selfie iPhone app.

_____________________________________

  1. See Directions To Leonard Cohen’s Home … Then turn right & drive until you see a house with the Lord Byron Of Rock ‘n’ Roll waiting in the front yard []
  2. This two-step plan is a strategy I’ve repeatedly used throughout my adult life. I first heard it articulated on Season 1, Episode 22 of Sports Night, the brilliant comedy which ran on ABC from 1998 to 2000. In the dialogue between the Casey and Dan, the sportscasters, the plan was attributed to Napoleon:

    Casey: Technically, I have a plan.
    Dan: What’s the plan?
    Casey: It’s Napoleon’s plan.
    Dan: Who’s Napoleon?
    Casey: A 19th century French emperor.
    Dan: You’re cracking wise with me now?
    Casey: Yes.
    Dan: Thanks.
    Casey: He had a two-part plan.
    Dan: What was it?
    Casey: First we show up, then we see what happens.
    Dan: That was his plan?
    Casey: Yeah.
    Dan: Against the Russian army?
    Casey: Yeah.
    Dan: First we show up, then we see what happens.
    Casey: Yeah.
    Dan: Almost hard to believe he lost. []

  3. See Anjani And DrHGuy []
  4. See Inductees Enter Wrong Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hall []
  5. One wonders how other famous singer-songwriters might have responded to ongoing mockery of this ilk. As a mental exercise, consider the likely reactions of these entertainers: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler, Morrissey, and Bono. And, let’s not even ponder what might happen with rappers. []
  6. See []
  7. Pico Iyer on the strange connection between the Dalai Lama and Graham Greene by Jeff Baker in The Oregonian (April 06, 2010) []
  8. Melancholy Baby by John Walsh. The Independent Magazine: May 8, 1993 []
  9. Leonard Cohen On His Poems, Zen, Hallelujah, His 6 Good Songs, Money, America, And The Squirrel []
  10. In the Bible belted-and-suspendered Ozarks, we heard the following question repeatedly proposed from the church pulpit and the Sunday School lectern: “What would you do if Jesus came to your house today?” Well, the truth is I would have been creeped out, especially if he didn’t call first, but I understood the message underlying this query: we should live our lives in such a Christian manner that we would be prepared if Jesus dropped in for a visit such that the only change required would be frying up an extra pork chop for dinner. Aunt Thelma, however, viewed living in a Christian manner only the starting point. She certainly wouldn’t risk our Lord and Savior stopping by unexpectedly to find her place a mess. []
  11. See []
  12. The highlight of these salutations took place when Leonard Cohen a fait la bise à Duchess (that’s the fancy-schmancy way of indicating bi-cheekal smooching.) []
  13. See Leonard Cohen On Smoking & Drinking In 2014 []