Leonard Cohen In Paris By Dominique Boile
Note: The following text was written in 2014 for Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen.1 I’ve added links to pertinent posts and Dominique’s photos.
Leonard Cohen once said:
My songs last about as long as a Volvo — about 30 years.
Leonard Cohen was wrong.
In 1971, when I was 15, I discovered his songs. Now, in 2014, I am 58, and I am still listening to his golden voice. Those first songs of his are nearly as old as I am. The songs Leonard Cohen released since 1967 are played all over the world every day and thousands come to his concerts to hear these songs. How many 1967 Volvos are running these days?
In the years to come, those of us alive now – including Leonard Cohen himself – will not be here. Will automobiles made by Volvo exist a hundred years from now? But Leonard’s songs live on!
I attended my first Leonard Cohen concert on September 7, 1974 in Paris. Since then, I’ve experienced that magic at nearly twenty of his shows, but my fondest memories are the four times I’ve met the man offstage.
On May 13, 1993, Leonard is on stage at Le Zenith in Paris, and I am in the audience. After the concert, there are 13 irrepressible Cohen fans – as many girls as boys – waiting two hours outside where the sweetness of the Parisian night makes us patient …
We see Carole Laure. Leonard, however, has not come out of the concert hall. We convince a member of the security service to let our man know that this group has only one desire: to meet him.
Finally, at 1:30 AM, Leonard, hand in hand with Dominique Issermann, arrives before us. So, Leonard Cohen – at 1:30 in the morning, after a long concert, with his lover and friends waiting for him – devotes half an hour to 13 young fans, talking to us, autographing albums, programs and whatever else we ask him to sign.
It was magic!
We asked Dominique Issermann to photograph Leonard and us together.
I do not know what I said to Leonard that night: I was too emotional.
I left Paris that night, after Leonard gave me his autographs and shook my hand.
For the past 20 years, I’ve dreamed about those autographs and shaking Leonard’s hand that night.
And, for the past 20 years, I’ve kept in my office two small color photos, taken by Dominique Issermann, of a broadly smiling Leonard Cohen surrounded by thirteen incredibly joyful fans.
On July 11, 2007, a warm, romantic evening in Paris, Anjani, accompanied by Leonard Cohen, arrives at Le New Morning, a small concert hall with a capacity of 200, to perform songs from Blue Alert, her new album produced by Leonard. I was in the audience, having received two comped tickets. [See Photos & First-Person Account: Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas Appear In Paris 2007]
On stage, four musicians accompany Anjani as she delights us with not only all the songs from Blue Alert, but also two Leonard Cohen covers: The Gypsy’s Wife and The Smokey Life. Now, while we were at the concert to hear Anjani, we all harbored the secret hope to see (and hear) her companion, Leonard Cohen.
The end of the show sets off applause and cries for an encore. In response, Anjani comes back onstage, alone at first and then joined by her musicians. Next, she installs another microphone on stage.
The additional microphone is, of course, for Leonard, who arrives onstage and sings a duet with his companion, Never Got To Love You.
After the concert, Anjani returns to the hall, where she is soon followed by Leonard. For more than half an hour, they talk to us, autograph books, posters, pictures … and pose for photos. Anjani intermittently suggests an end to the requests for autographs to allow Leonard to return to the hotel to rest. Despite her entreaties, however, Leonard remains with us!
Another Night Magic!
On 16 January 2012, Leonard Cohen was at Paris at the Hôtel Crillon for a press conference to promote his new record Old Ideas, which would be released two weeks later. While I am not a journalist, Mr Cohen’s organization graciously arranged an invitation for me. [See Leonard Cohen Photos – Hotel Crillon, Paris: Jan 16, 2012]
I arrived at the Parisian palace at 5:00 p.m. – three hours before the scheduled opening of the press conference. Leonard was sitting with his eyes closed in a beautiful room resplendent with dramatic curtains and gold-gilded decorations. His manager, Robert Kory, was standing a few meters to his side.
It felt very strange – and exciting – for me to be in that huge room, alone with Leonard Cohen and Robert Kory. I made my way slowly and calmly to Leonard and, after we spoke briefly, he autographed the books and records I had brought, and I took some photos of him.
By 7:30, I was sitting in the front row of the chairs set out for the journalists in the conference room. At 8:00 p.m. Leonard arrived, sitting directly in front of me. Then, while his new album, Old Ideas, played, he moved to sit with us in the front row in order not to distract the audience from listening to the songs. So, for the 40 minutes during which the album was played, Leonard was within a few meters of my seat, his eyes completely closed, his head slightly tilted back.
After Old Ideas was finished, the European journalists then asked their questions about the album. Leonard replied to each query with intelligence and humor. I had the honor of offering the final question; I asked him whether he would tour in 2012. He began his response by addressing me in French:
“Merci Dominique pour tout ce que vous avez fait pour moi depuis plus de 40 ans. Vous êtes le meilleur archiviste de mon travail.” [“Thank you Dominique for everything you have done for me for over 40 years. You are the best archivist of my work.”]
Then Leonard spent more than two hours being photographed with each us and signing books, pictures, and albums nonstop.
On June 13, 2013, Leonard Cohen arrived, along with his musicians, in Paris to prepare for the June 18th concert at Le Palais Omnisports de Bercy that would open the 2013 European Tour. To shield him from the public, Leonard was registered under a false name in a room serviced by a private elevator. Consequently, no one was able to approach him during his stay in Paris – except our friend Geneviève, my wife Annie and me!
Alerted by a friend to the location of Leonard’s Paris residence, Geneviève, Annie and I made our way to the hotel late in the morning of Saturday, June 15th, our eyes directed to where Leonard would appear.
At 2:00 p.m. an elegant, thin man, wearing a cap passes only a few meters from me: Leonard!
My wife had stepped away for a moment so I headed out alone to greet Leonard and offer him gifts I had prepared. He chose a table in the hotel’s beautiful covered patio, ordered a cappuccino, and invited me to sit beside him. When he asked me what I wanted to drink, I replied “a café” – although I never drink café!
We talked for a few minutes, and Leonard autographed the three books I had brought. Then, he allowed me to photograph him. These photos were some of the most popular shots of Leonard Cohen ever posted on Allan Showalter’s website, DrHGuy.com [a predecessor of Cohencentric.com. [See 10 Exclusive Photos: Leonard Cohen In Paris – June 15, 2013]
Then, Annie and Geneviève joined us, greeting Leonard and posing with him for photos. Finally, Ed Sanders arrived and, after saying hello to Leonard, I left, albeit regretfully. I had only taken a few steps when Leonard called out, asking if I had his email address. When I replied that I didn’t, he beckoned me. I approached him again, handing him one of the books in which he had already inscribed a note to me. Then, in his famously beautiful script, he wrote his email address on the first page! Since then, I have used that address to send him a few messages – he has replied every time …
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Aug 18, 2018.
- Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen is a book presented to the Canadian singer-songwriter in celebration of his 80th birthday, comprising stories and essays by fans that put their experience of Cohen’s music into words. Kim Gorsuch, who has long admired Cohen, came up with the idea and organized the project, gathering the pieces and photos online for printing into a hardbound volume. [↩]