Translate

Google+ Followers

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

All Good Things


Adam Cohen's message on the death of his father, Leonard

November 12 at 10:44pm

· My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked. As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work. There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.

Message from the blogger known as Ann Diamond

Although I knew it had to happen someday, I wasn't prepared to hear the news last Thursday night, as I sat reading about Donald Trump's victory in the US elections. First it arrived as a text from a friend but I didn't believe it. A minute later another text arrived, and another, and then there were links to Leonard's Facebook site and Rolling Stone. That's when I started thinking it might not be a hoax after all. Finally, CBC's Peter Mansbridge made the announcement and nothing could be more final for a Canadian. In my shock I received an email Inviting me to talk about him early the following morning on CTV Toronto. I was grateful for the chance to say goodbye. Over the next 24 hours, I got two more requests to talk about Leonard from the perspective of someone who had known him.

I knew parts of him. Death seemed to unify the parts and bring them closer. It was like being back at Zero, where birth and death are one. Or like the shock of our first meeting.

Later I learned he had died on Monday, November 7. I need to check my journal but I believe we met on that day, 39 years ago, 11/7/1977. If accurate, that would be eerie. Thirty-nine is three times thirteen, the number of years I lived next door to him. When I was 39, he took my photo and said "Now you look very much like yourself." That was 26 years ago, or 2 x 13. And I was 26 when I met him so that's lots of thirteens.

In fact I owe my life to Leonard Cohen. That is a fact he never mentioned, as it would have been too traumatic, but it ran in the background of our friendship even through the years when we were no longer on speaking terms. Like many things that are true, it can probably never be proven, but it seems appropriate to mention it here.

That plus the fact that I will miss him, although these days he's hard to miss, being everywhere. He was like no one else, and now that he's gone, there is even less chance that he can be replaced. Let alone captured.

So now we can go on missing him, forever.

*****

I've been shooting phone videos of the crowd at Leonard's house opposite the park. I used to live around the corner, for 13 years, so it seemed like the normal thing to do. It was my old neighbourhood too.

On Wednesday I ended up at the fresh grave on Mount Royal -- I hadnt intended to go there but all my appointments were mysteriously cancelled and I had nothing better to do than climb to the cemetery, a half hour walk in mist and drizzle. At the grave site, three people were standing looking down at a fresh patch of sod, two plastic-wrapped bunches of wilting flowers and a drooping white rose -- forbidden in Judaism and probably left there the day before by unsuspecting Catholics. The three visitors all spoke French. One said "This empty space is really in the image of Leonard."

Someone had pinned a poem to the sod with a rock, in what looked like Leonard's handwriting, describing a wonderful conversation they had and how he 'understood'. There were about two dozen small rocks on the headstone, which was blank, not yet inscribed with his name. I said I had known him personally. The taller man left, and the remaining couple started taking photos of each other beside the modest plot. They offered to take mine. I forgot to look sad -- in fact I look deliriously happy -- this is how farewells affect me. After the couple left I hung around in the fog for about an hour. Leonard's barely noticeable grave directly faces another belonging to someone named "FRAID." I sat on the base of FRAID's tombstone but couldn't think of much to say except "Sorry."

I can't understand why there was no actual funeral. When his friends Pierre Trudeau and Irving Layton died, Leonard became pallbearer. I think people were expecting a procession or motorcade, and a huge crowd at Paperman's funeral home. Instead, nothing happened. They say he wanted it that way. He died suddenly in his sleep after a fall before dawn on Tuesday morning (of the election). They shipped the body to Montreal. There was a report that he was already buried before his death was announced on Thursday evening, but his son Adam issued a statement the following Saturday in which he said they had just come from the cemetery. The Globe and Mail wrote that only 15 close friends and relatives attended.

If this all sounds a bit strange, it's because it is.

In lieu of any public ceremony or state funeral, Leonard's house has become an outdoor shrine with hundreds of flowers and candles filling the sidewalk opposite the little park where there was an impromptu concert last Saturday.

Death is not what it used to be. Death is exactly like birth and triggers a simultaneous expansion and contraction that erases conscious thought. We are back at the moment before anything has begun to be spoiled.

Followers of the way, don't be fooled. As Leonard once said, "Nothing is always happening."

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.

~ Rumi

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

John is Alive, Magic is Afoot


As we all know, Beatle John Lennon was shot in December 1980, at the entrance to the Dakota Apartments in Manhattan. So the man in the above photo, taken in 2008, cannot possibly be John Lennon. Can he? Officially, the Lennon lookalike is said to be a professional impersonator, Mark Staycer, of Travers City, Michigan. Above we see him performing on the set of Let Him Be -- a low budget Canadian mockumentary that went nowhere when it was released, back in 2009.

You can watch the full movie here, and I recommend you do. It opens awkwardly with a scene narrated by Tim Bennett, a young documentary filmmaker who just happens to stumble on a home video that his dad bought at a garage sale somewhere. The video was shot at a house party somewhere in rural Ontario, and features a short segment of a guitar-playing guest who -- to Tim's astonishment -- is a dead ringer for the late John Lennon. Of course, he has aged about twenty-five years since the last time we saw him, back in 1980 prior to getting shot.

If you can get past this opening premise -- or blatant narrative device -- Let Him Be is a watchable little movie that starts out as a quest to track down the lookalike glimpsed in the video. In fact, I'm surprised it seems to have been taken out of circulation soon after it premiered in Hamilton, Ontario and later at a film festival in Vancouver. Oh, and it also played in Liverpool, England - birthplace of John Lennon. Very little was written about it at the time, although the few reviews I've found were positive. Peter McNamee, the first-time director, set up a Facebook page for it, but otherwise seems to have done almost no promotion or distribution. And then wham, it disappeared.

Under normal circumstances, a film like this would have got more mileage, especially as books and movies about John Lennon's life and death tend to do quite well. Let Him Be had all the makings of low-key Canadian success. So why was it pulled from distribution before anyone got to see it, and not even available on YouTube until recently?

I got interested in the possibility that Lennon was still alive back in 2014 when someone alerted me to an article by the brilliant researcher and writer Miles Mathis. You can download it here and read all about how Mathis, with typical zeal and sarcastic flair, decoded the forensics and arrived at the conclusion that Lennon had faked his death, mostly based on his investigation of Mark Staycer, a Lennon impersonator, who plays "Noel Snow" in the movie. Snow, we are led to believe, has been hiding out on a rundown farm with his buddy Stanley Fields, played by the late Graham Wignall. In a memorable pub conversation, Stanley lists all the reasons Noel Snow cannot be John Lennon. Of course this only persuades young Tim that he is closing in on the fugitive rock star -- who only wants to be left alone to impersonate himself in peace.

The last thing Noel Snow needs is exposure -- if he's really John Lennon, that is. The film teases the audience with brief glimpses, culminating in another performance where Noel plays songs that really sound like Lennon could have written them. Mark Staycer just happens to look and sound like you might expect a 67-year-old Lennon to sound and look. What right does the nosy filmmaker have to reveal Noel's whereabouts, thus alerting the Powers That Be who may want Lennon to stay dead?

Let It Be plays with these possibilities, never really showing enough of Staycer to answer the obvious question: is this really John Lennon playing himself playing an impersonator? Seems like the kind of story only Lennon himself could have come up with. And obviously some people take this quite seriously.

Having watched it all the way through just once, so do I. Here is a list of all the reasons Let Him Be does not make sense as what it claims to be -- a quirky fiction. Like Miles Mathis, I think it was made by an undead John Lennon to send a message to his fans and play them his new songs. Several things about its pre-and post-production history are suspicious.

(1) If it's just whimsical fan fiction, why include the very serious assertion that Mark Chapman could not have shot Lennon, only to drop it, without either proving or disproving it?

(2) Why did it receive so little publicity when it came out? Although not a great film, its subject matter made it a likely candidate for interviews and journalistic articles, yet very little was written about it at the time, and almost no reviews.

(3) Why was it pulled from theatres and festivals soon after its release, even disappearing from the internet?

(4) Why do the professional actors involved not include it on their IMDb pages?

(5) How did the director Peter McNamee and lead actor Graham Wignall think up the concept that John Lennon was still alive, based on the 'conspiracy theory" (shown in the film) that Chapman was not the real shooter? That's quite a leap, when you think about it -- and raises questions like "So who really killed Lennon?" that never get answered. In writing and marketing such a far-fetched scenario you would need to present some rationale. Unless you just happen to KNOW Lennon is alive, because you are part of a network of cronies going back to Liverpool -- and you were handed this story on a platter, with instructions to go ahead and shoot it.

(6) What made the neophyte director choose this small town Ontario locale when he is from Liverpool, and practically grew up with the Beatles and Lennon.You would think if two Liverpudlians were making a fiction film about Lennon, their first thought would be to set the action back in their birthplace. "Write what you know."

(7) If Peter McNamee had no previous track record as a filmmaker, and Graham Wignall had never acted before, how did this project get Telefilm funding? Telefilm only works with established director/producers.

Everything seems to point to John Lennon having played a role in initiating this project. No easy feat to pull off from beyond the grave.