Thursday, November 16, 2017

You Want it Darker: Janis Joplin, revisited

I've been here before, but let's add another layer to this mystery, shall we?

Leonard Cohen interview, backstage, Glasgow 1976.

1976 was the year Cohen began announcing at concerts that Janis Joplin was the woman immortalized in his song(s) Chelsea Hotel #1 and #2.  It was also the year he gave this little interview, much of which is hard to hear because of the background noise, and the interviewer's Glasgow accent.

At around 8:30, the Scottish interviewer asks him to talk about about Joplin.

Leonard answers:

"There was something in her voice that was unmistakable.  'I don't mean to suggest that I loved her the best' ... I mean, I knew her. She wasn't my best friend or anything but I bumped into her often in hotels  around the States ... I love her music ... (sounds of liquid being poured, glasses and bottles clinking) ...

"I remember I was at a hotel with her in Los Angeles ... I think it was the Landmark Motel... and she was being given an award by one of those magazines like Melody Maker or some American equivalent of Melody Maker. I think it was Down Beat.. and I was there when they handed her the prize and she was like a kid, she'd gotten the prize as best woman singer of the year and it was like Christmas.. and it was real... I mean ... She was there..."

There's a lot wrong with that story. It also includes an astonishing confession.

1. The Landmark Motel was where Janis Joplin died. 

She moved into Room 105 on August 24, 1970 and stayed there til the night of her death on October 4, 1970. During those weeks, she was mainly working in the studio recording her second album Pearl.

2. While Joplin was getting settled at the Landmark, Leonard Cohen was far away in Europe.

He was wrapping up his tour in the UK (notably with a concert at the Isle of Wight on August 31). Then Jimi Hendrix died, in London. Leonard flew to America a few days later and recorded Songs of Love and Hate in Tennessee during the week of September 21. So if he 'bumped into her' at the Landmark in L.A., it could only be after September 25, in the ten days before she died.

3. The "award" he says she received - for which he claims he was present - was imaginary. 

She never received an award in her lifetime. The April 4, 1968 issue of Down Beat did feature Joplin on the cover but there's no record of any award. At the 1971 14th Annual GRAMMY Awards she was post-humously nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, for Me and Bobby McGee and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for her album Pearl.  Carole King swept the awards that year. Ironically, it wasn't until 2005 that she finally received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award at the 47th annual GRAMMIES.

Melody Maker's readers voted Joplin "World's Top Female Singer" for 1969 in their readers' poll, according to this front page story from October 10, 1970, which appeared five days after her death.

Melody Maker's 1969 annual reader poll awards were held at the Savoy Hotel in London but there is no evidence Joplin attended to pick up her prize. Her only solo trip to England had been six months earlier when she played the Royal Albert Hall on April 21, 1969, to rave reviews in the press. 

By contrast, 1969 was a bad year for Leonard whose second album, Songs From a Room, went generally unnoticed and unloved. 

In 1976, either he was confused, or he made up a story to cover a serious slip: he'd just admitted to the interviewer that he'd been with her at the Landmark which is associated with her sad end.

According to reports at the time, including in Rolling Stone, Joplin was found dead between the bed and the night table in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel after failing to show up at the recording session on October 5. There were needle marks in her arm. Her mouth was bloodied and her nose was broken. Presumed cause of death: heroin overdose, self-administered.

According to one account, she left the downtown club where she had been partying with band members and friends, and went back to her hotel in the company of a taxi driver and "a fan."

Leonard Cohen's affair with Joplin remains legendary. Meanwhile, Chelsea Hotel #1, the original version, was rarely performed, if at all, after 1972. It's worth a listen. The rambling conclusion, about fishing beside a stream in Tennessee, compares Joplin to the one that got away. It leaves a strange impression: that he was in the room with Joplin as she rode "the Midnight Train' to her death.

On his 1979 "Field Commander Cohen Tour" I listened from the rear of the stage as Leonard retold the story. That time, too, he stumbled: "We fell into each other's arms and -- after she died --" The audience gasped, there were some giggles. Not missing a beat, a smiling Leonard recovered, and quickly had them in stitches. "It wasn't my embrace that killed her. My kiss is poisonous, but it's not deadly."

Good old Leonard. It wasn't the only time he had tantalized an audience with the hint of Kill and Tell. Back home in Montreal, as a young poet in the 1950s, Cohen had gained notoriety with a poem entitled "Ballad" about the ritual murder of a woman in a downtown rooming house, written ironically so as to suggest the poet-narrator was in fact the murderer.

Scholar Ruth Wisse, who studied with him at McGill, commented on this poem in her article "My Life Without Leonard Cohen":

'Leonard Cohen's Montreal ... was my very own, at once familiar and made mythic in marvelous phrases.

"My lady was found mutilated / in a Mountain Street boarding house...." Rushing to meet a friend at Ogilvy's, at the corner of Mountain Street and Ste. Catherine, I wondered behind which familiar door the lady's purple blood was staining the sheets.'  

Ruth Wisse avoids directly stating what, at the time, must have been a haunting suspicion: how did the twenty-something student know so much about a grisly murder on the street where he lived? The fact is, Leonard Cohen had a reputation for being dangerous and crazy, that ran alongside his growing fame as a musician.

We should all wonder at the way he fooled us with "marvellous phrases" -- and why we let him get away with it. He still stalks the streets of downtown Montreal, but now he's even larger than life, than he was when he was alive. 

Kelley Lynch, his former manager, described to me how, in 1988, Cohen would ask her to lock him in at night, after work, when she left his Montreal house. This, he said, was because he had an uncontrollable urge to "go out and kill people."

Of course, I'm not accusing him of murdering Joplin - there's no proof, and he had no motive. Unless he was some sort of contract killer, working for the CIA. A distinct possibility.

But no one nowadays would think of accusing Leonard Cohen (post-humously) of sexual abuse, violence against woman, or worse. Least of all his obsessed fans. After all, Leonard is now our heavenly guide to living in an 'imperfect world.'  That clever cliché disguises the reality: we're struggling to survive in the aftermath of a program of mind control designed by the very same crowd that gave us Leonard Cohen as our flawed Messiah. It's pop psychology for the brain-dead and those too lazy to think. 
Speaking of "crack":  The 'crack in everything' that we now celebrate as some divine gift, is a religious-sounding euphemism bandaging a gaping wound. It's a kabbalist metaphor for the controlled schizophrenia of modern life in a world dominated by organized crime.  It can't be healed with more drugs.

This is not the human condition - it's slavery built on a lie.  And it's not our mission unless we choose to accept it.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Meet Leonard Cohen's Mystery Double

Just when I thought I'd reached the end of the trail in my quest for 'truth and closure", yesterday I stumbled on this LIFE Magazine image purporting to be of Leonard on Hydra in the fall of 1960. The caption states: "Leonard Cohen walking on a street near his vacation home in Hydra, Greece, October 1960. James Burke/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images."

In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the terrace of Leonard's house on Hydra - with the front door on the left and the library door on the right. However the man holding the keys is not Leonard. He looks like an actor hired to impersonate Cohen for the LIFE feature with the photo spread that was shot in October 1960, but never actually ran in the magazine. Longtime Hydra resident and Australian novelist George Johnston had written for LIFE, and allegedly was about to be interviewed, but for unknown reasons the feature was cancelled. Or so they say at the Leonard Cohen Forum where the photos were first unveiled in 2011.

Many photos were shot on Hydra, all dated October 1, 1960. Very few that I have seen are of George Johnston. Many, on the other hand, show Leonard playing his guitar, standing at the wharf in Kamini with Marianne and a group of friends, or riding a mule up the trail to the monastery of Prophitis Ilias. You might be forgiven for thinking LIFE travelled to Hydra to document the world of Leonard Cohen, who at the time was an obscure young poet with only one book to his credit, published by a small press at McGill - whereas George Johnston was an internationally acclaimed novelist and former war correspondent, who also happened to be a friend of Cohen's.
George Johnson on Hydra.

Marianne on mule-back, but that's not Leonard behind her.

The real Leonard Cohen, with Marianne, George, Charmian (R-L)

The real Leonard with Charmian Johnston.

That mule-back photo above is fake, but not very clear. So here's one that's even more fake, supposedly of Marianne and Leonard on that same outing in 1960. Absolutely fake. It's not either of them. Were they making a bio-pic with actors? What was going on?

The road to Prophitis Ilias. The Double rides ahead of an unknown woman.

Doesn't quite make sense, does it? Many of the LIFE photos of Leonard Cohen taken that day are of him, but others are of the unidentified Doppleganger who, to my knowledge, has never been outed until now. Just take a look and see for yourself. 

In the first place, this interloper is handsomer than Leonard. He's also slightly hairier, better built, with a less expressive face. His hands - particularly his thumbs - stand out as thicker and less elongated than Cohen's. He reminds me a bit of Keanu Reeves - in his facial blankness, that is. Taken altogether, he looks like an upgraded version more in line with standards of male perfection.

This raises lots of questions, but the biggest one is what's he doing on Hydra pretending to be Leonard Cohen in 1960? Why would a Canadian poet who isn't famous yet be gifted with a Double? What were they thinking and planning back then, that we've never been told about? What agenda had come into play?

More than anything I've come across so far, this Double demolishes the official Life Story that has built up around Leonard, as propagated by  biographers like Sylvie Simmons and Ira Nadel. That narrative goes that Leonard wrote and sang his way, slowly, step by step, to gradual fame that first blossomed in the mid-sixties and then, through a combination of lonely discipline, devotion to his craft and a winning personality, made it to the heights of the music world, becoming one of the great composers of the last century. All true, up to a point -- but some of it isn't.

No one who is not famous has a double who stands in for him for photos in LIFE Magazine - and Leonard, definitely, was not famous in 1960. But he had powerful friends, like Jacob Rothschild, and CIA director Allen Dulles. So who was this handsome mystery man holding the keys to Leonard's house? He appears to have come for the shoot, after which he is never seen again. Except on Leonard's Greek drivers' license (which according to Marianne Ihlen also served as a residence permit) where he appears in the characteristic military-style shirt and haircut we associate with our poet. And there's "Leonard Cohen - Kanadas" and the date of birth 1934 - for all to see.

If this were a real Greek residence permit, it would need to have an entry and exit date -

Sorry, but that's not Leonard - that's the Man with Keys on the Terrace. His ears are too flat, his features too regular. Even in his most flattering photos, Leonard never looked like that. 

Leonard, early 1960s.
The real Leonard never needed a Greek driver's license because he lived on Hydra, which had no cars, only donkeys, horses and mules. When he travelled into Athens by boat, he took cheap local taxis to get around; buses or trains if he wanted to travel to places like Delphi or Epidaurus.

False Leonard -- let's call him "Flennard" -- needed a car in the autumn of 1960 - if only to drive Marianne back to Norway where her 9-month-old son was parked with his grandmother. Marianne recounts this long trip north, through Yugoslavia and across the Alps and over to Paris, in her memoir So Long, Marianne. It's almost like a scene in a movie, with the lovers traipsing around Paris, at one point Marianne even threatening leap to her death from a window, until Leonard (or Flennard) embraced her, and she "cried herself out." On arrival at Marianne's mother's house, he did the "gentlemanly" thing by checking himself into a hotel for the night. 

Where was Leonard? I'm guessing he took off sometime after the hootenanny photos were shot, and spent time in the CIA training camps where Allen Dulles' CIA Cuban invasion team were training for the Bay of Pigs fiasco the following April.

I'm also guessing the unwanted publicity Leonard received in April 1961 may have had something to do with why the LIFE feature and photo spread never saw the light of day.
Different impostor? Note the 'hidden hand." 

Leonard told a friend, "I have a double who does all the bad things." 

I'd go on to speculate that a Double was created in 1960 for at least two reasons. One, because someone at LIFE headquarters had decided to invest in Leonard's future career as a pop star and they wanted a better-looking image for their pages.

Two, because he was heading off on a dangerous mission and, in case he was killed during the failed coup, arrangements had to be made to deposit his pay in some offshore bank account and compensate his loved ones?

The real Leonard was often elusive, but having his own Doppelganger at age 25? He wasn't even famous. Had he signed up for secret work that required him to disappear?

Think of this: he'd only been on Hydra six months when the LIFE magazine crew arrived. His date of arrival was April 13, 1960. By May, he'd established a cover: he'd met Marianne and her five-month old son, Axel Joachim. By August, Leonard was babysitting baby Axel, while Marianne was away in Athens. Then, in a strange sudden move, Marianne put her 8-month old son on a plane to Oslo. On September 27, Leonard bought the house at the top of Donkeyshit Lane for $1500, paid for with an inheritance from his grandmother. While he wrote, Marianne says she divided her time between his house  and her own place behind the port in Kala Pigadia. But three days after the house was bought, on October 1, LIFE Magazine shot photos of Leonard playing in a hootenanny at Douskos' Taverna. The double shows up in the series, with Marianne riding mules up Kala Pigadia. 

That's definitely Marianne at the head of the mule train in the photo - she was there, yet nowhere in her memoir does she mention being there when those photos were shot. Why the secrecy? And why was LIFE creating a fake story around a group of artists on a Greek island?

There's the double, holding the key, coming out of Leonard's front door on Hydra, wearing Leonard's trademark clothing.  Had Leonard already left for America on October 1? .

Instead of the LIFE shoot, Marianne Ihlen describes an uneventful autumn together with Leonard on Hydra that year - minus her baby son, who was with her mother in Oslo. What was the point of sending her baby away, just as life had settled into a comfortable routine? She says she and Leonard left the island in November and drove north to Paris in the Karmann Ghia she and Axel had bought the year before. But the face in the photo on his Greek driver's license is not Leonard -- it's the double. 

Therefore he, not Leonard, probably drove Marianne back to Norway in November.  It would be easy to introduce the stranger to her mother as 'Leonard.'

Otherwise, that autumn, there would have been two Leonards on Hydra -- needless to say, it would have aroused suspicion.

That's weird, to say the least. It's not what we have been told. Marianne must have gone along with the whole charade, including the trip north with the faux Leonard. An unpublished poem in her memoir appears to describe the real Leonard's sudden departure by night:

For M.

I stayed awake to see you sleep
Some faces die of sleep
Mouths go limp
Gone eyes leave a corpse behind
Maybe I could say goodbye
But you were perfect
You were whole
Your mouth was saying
I won't ever hurt you
Eyelids saying
Be live be still
I got as far as the window
Something was wrong
The houses were too white
Cliffs too steep
What were the yards doing so clear
I wheeled around
I knew I had made a mistake
I tried to walk I ran
Everywhere I bumped my head
I was picking up prayerbooks
I kissed your sleep


(Previously unpublished poem by Leonard Cohen)


Leonard Cohen had landed in London for the first time, in December 1959, moved into a boarding house where he began to write a novel, and soon got introduced to Jacob Rothschild.

That same autumn, Lee Harvey Oswald, future alleged assassin of John F. Kennedy, defected to Russia where he would remain for two and half years. Oswald likely was a double agent employed by the CIA to spy on the Russians. He arrived in Moscow on October 16, 1959.

This card, which connects Oswald to the CIA, was used to forge a selective service card for Oswald's double, Alex James Hidell, while Oswald was in Russia as an American civilian defector. Later he worked in New Orleans, posing as a left-wing Castro supporter, while hanging out with anti-Castro extremists. While Oswald was in Russia, in 1960-61 his alleged double was involved with activities connected to the Bay of Pigs invasion, including collecting armoured vehicles for CIA-sponsored landing on Cuba in April, 1961,

In April 1961, almost exactly a year after he had landed on Hydra, a bearded Leonard Cohen was arrested in Havana, Cuba, as a suspected CIA agent. This must have been the real Leonard Cohen, because he wrote a poem about his experience. He was released and escaped the country on a plane he managed to sneak onto at the airport. The incident got into the newspapers, embarrassing for Leonard. He claimed to have been in Havana as a tourist - although at the time he was short of money and could not afford to live on Hydra. His arrival in Cuba just happened to coincide with the American invasion.


H.P. Albarelli Jr. on Oswald's childhood in MKULTRA 

Two Went to Sleep

Two went to sleep
almost every night
one dreamed of mud
one dreamed of Asia
visiting a zeppelin
visiting Nijinsky
Two went to sleep
one dreamed of ribs
one dreamed of senators
Two went to sleep
two travellers
The long marriage
in the dark
The sleep was old
the travellers were old
one dreamed of oranges
one dreamed of Carthage
Two friends asleep
years locked in travel
Good night my darling
as the dreams waved goodbye
one travelled lightly
one walked through water
visiting a chess game
visiting a booth
always returning
to wait out the day
One carried matches
one climbed a beehive
one sold an earphone
one shot a German
Two went to sleep
every sleep went together
wandering away
from an operating table
one dreamed of grass
one dreamed of spokes
one bargained nicely
one was a snowman
one counted medicine
one tasted pencils
one was a child
one was a traitor
visiting heavy industry
visiting the family
Two went to sleep
none could foretell
one went with baskets
one took a ledger
one night happy
one night in terror
Love could not bind them
Fear could not either
they went unconnected
they never knew where
always returning
to wait out the day
parting with kissing
parting with yawns
visiting Death till
they wore out their welcome
visiting Death till
the right disguise worked

Leonard Cohen ~ 1964





Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Liminalist # 134: Comparative Mythologies (Leonard Cohen’s Deep Background, with Ann Diamond)



Part one of a return conversation with Ann Diamond, on the second part of her Leonard Cohen book, Jasun’s book about John de Ruiter, being entwined with one’s subject, working towards forgiveness, Leonard Cohen celebration month, a Silvie Simmons event, Cohen wall murals and Masonic hand signals, hero worship & scapegoating, Hollywood pedophilia, erasing Kevin Spacey, a systemic reaction, removing the “bad apples,” comply or die, examining our conscious motives for writing an exposé, setting the record straight, breaking the trance state, the emperor’s clothes, the appeal of getting close to power, Cohen’s unknown dark side, the allure of mystery, putting the good side forward, concealing the shadow, metaphors that reveal and conceal, a perfect man, deep background, the Cohen archives, looking for clues in the discards, erasing traces, Cohen’s advancement through secret society ties, an unpublished novel, a trophy collector, a CIA cult, the Process Church in Montreal, John Roland Stahl and pedophilia, ritual murder on Mount Royal, the Op Café, Italian clean-up crews, a series of inflammatory charges, intuition vs. logic, the essence of contradiction, putting down the dark side, a heap of slag for the alchemical process, programmed to self-sabotage, tipping one’s hand to the handlers, narrative reversals, the limits of journalism, a useless source, the question of credibility, choosing one’s target audience.