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






Ann Diamond said...

Just a note re: the face on the driver's permit i residence permit. If it's a residence permit, it seems strange that it has no entry/exit date, but Greece often seemed to make its own rules.

Since the 'double' seems to have arrived on Hydra for the LIFE shoot (October 1960) - which is likely when he was issued this permit, which ended up in Cohen's archives, I guess. Or was it in Marianne's possession and is that why it seems to have surfaced only recently?

Either way, it's the wrong face in the photo. Another odd thing: until I read Marianne's memoir, SO LONG, MARIANNE (2013) I had never heard that she and Leonard drove to Norway from Hydra in the fall of 1960. It seems he would have mentioned that trip to his biographers, but as far as I know it has never come up.

Could it be that Marianne's chauffeur on that long trip home was the man whose face appears on the driver's permit? Could it be that Leonard left Hydra for America right after the LIFE photos were taken, while Marianne headed north with the Double? That makes her some kind of accomplice in covering up Leonard's true whereabouts: I would guess a CIA training camp somewhere in Florida as a likely location.

Could that be where he met Marita Lorenz?

Ann Diamond said...

Makes sense, that the driver's license would end up in Marianne's files - since it was no longer needed once she reached Oslo. Certainly the impersonator would not have kept it --

Ann Diamond said...

More and more images are now turning up of Leonard - this modest soul certainly posed for hundreds of photographs! Some of the new ones feature doubles while others seem to have been airbrushed or otherwise doctored at the time. Others might be photoshopped to subtly change our memories of what he really looked like.

A woman who knew him well has publicly stated he told her he had a "double" who did the bad things, and that he had no control over that.

We know the intelligence agencies are very involved in all kinds of fakery, including the deployment of doubles. John Lennon had one, so does Mick Jagger. Leonard apparently had one before he was famous. Remember the story of folksinger Phil Ochs, who hanged himself at the Chelsea Hotel -- he appeared to have been replaced by someone whose personality and political views were totally opposed to the original.

There's a huge effort going on to whitewash Leonard's past. Leonard was often an unwilling slave to the people who controlled him -- and continue to try to package his posthumous legacy, even going so far as to vandalize his archives.

The process of sanctification is something he would have strongly opposed.

isdisasystem said...

He might've been referring not to a literal other physical self but to another personality within himself. Reference to a doppelgänger (dybbuk ? double ?) would seem appropriate for a Jewish seeker/poet. Also, the Chelsea Hotel was well known as an artist junkie hideout which might very well have been the reason they we're spending time together in the first place. Both we're known for occasioning the opiate. Hence ", We are ugly but we still have the music."

Ann Diamond said...

I agree that having different 'alters' acting beyond one's control is one of the traits of a mind controlled person, or 'Manchurian candidate' - and the programming techniques are derived from Kabbalistic practices, which Dr. Mengele borrowed and used on his subjects at Auschwitz and later when he allegedly was working for US intelligence agencies.

Drugs including heroin were definitely part of this long, involved tale - and the scene at the Chelsea.

I think there are parallels with contemporaries Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson. Oswald also apparently had a double, and Manson was in Scientology and the Process Church. I think Cohen had characteristics of both: he was in London in 1959, and went to Cuba in 1961 as a double agent. He was probably being groomed as a future cult leader - which in fact he became to some people.

I think what saved him was writing ie "keeping a record" -- and his inborn sense of balance. Nevertheless, he was also prone to extremes. "Everybody is an extremist now" he once said.

This video provides some background not just on Manson, but the "programming scene" based in London which produced much of the counterculture and its excesses.

Ann Diamond said...

Also would refer you to Mae Brussel's 1971 interview on Charles Manson.

"In this world, in this strange world of covert overthrow of the governments and clandestine armies and secret operations, the problem we're facing is that you are working with two realities: you're working with what we assume is the real way to function and move, and we are working with a system of what we call power: exchange of power, economic power, power over people; controlling their lives. In order to do that you disguise certain persons and send them into roles to influence; they become actors on a stage and they influence our minds in a way that is not real but effect a reality that will touch us later."

Note that Manson appeared on the cover of LIFE: the CIA-controlled opinion-maker that created "reality" for millions of Americans. Whereas Leonard never made it to the cover: he was an also-ran, which also may have been his salvation.

Charles Frith said...

Deplorable Suzy Que said...

Two things:
Personally, I Had(have?) a doppelganger, in 1983, who murdered a close friend of mine in an attempt to imprison me for said murder, where the satanists who hunted me would have ended my life.
Two: Paul McCartney was allegedly killed and replaced with a not-very-good doppelganger, apparently because the real Paul was uncooperative with the powers that be.
Final note~I saw a photo of a woman who looked exactly like me back in the late 90s. We were living in the same state at that time. I wonder if she is my identical twin....
There are more. Many more. And not just famous people. I think we all have doubles for various reasons.

Ann Diamond said...

There are probably myriad ways doubles can be used: to frame and blackmail individuals, to provide alibis when crimes are committed, as replacements of public figures as in the case of Sir Paul McCartney, or just for security or as standins eg when a celebrity is ill or disabled (as in the case of Hillary Clinton). I'm sure there are more than I haven't thought of.

I find it interesting that LC appears in photos making the hand-on-heart gesture which signifies "loyalty" while his double brazenly displays the hidden hand salute - almost like taunting LC with exposure, reminding him that his nice guy image can be demolished at any time --

What is amazing is that the public prefers to ignore all this and just trust in their rulers - calling those who notice "conspiracy theorists"

Unknown said... - he tals of the drive to Oslo

Driving the Trance Canada said...

Yes, and elsewhere he talks about the visit to Paris. I now think it more likely he and Marianne really did drive to Oslo before he flew home to Montreal in December - while the double remained on Hydra.