Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The Prom Version From I Am A Hotel

ihogelThis is the third post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

I Am A Hotel: Memories

Within “I Am A Hotel,” the Memories video depicts a high school prom held at the hotel’s ballroom. Cohen not only appears as a resident of the hotel but also as the singer-bandleader providing live music for the dance from an elevated stage. A stylized dance performed by a bellhop and hotel maid is Interspersed with the prom scenes.

The sequence is too artsy, too fartsy for my taste, but hey, as the American Bandstand kids would point out, the song has a beat and – apparently – you can dance to it (at least after a few years of professional training). On the other hand, the brassy sax solo does grab me in an indecent way, and Leonard as the sunglasses-clad implacable singer coupled with Leonard as the leering hotel guest encouraging the bellhop and maid toward the (titter) climax is as creepy-nasty-exciting as ones first illicit sexual liaison with someone a lot more experienced and adventuresome in bed.

Video: Memories From I Am A Hotel

Leonard Cohen – Memories
From I Am A Hotel

I Am A Hotel: The Film

Scored by Leonard Cohen who also wrote the screenplay with Mark Shekter, directed by Allan F. Nicholls, and choreographed by Ann Ditchburn, “I Am A Hotel” consists exclusively of five loosely associated videos, each based on a Cohen song:

  1. “The Guests” from the 1979 album Recent Songs.
  2. “Memories” from the 1977 album Death of a Ladies’ Man.
  3. “The Gypsy’s Wife” from Recent Songs.
  4. “Chelsea Hotel #2” from the 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony.
  5. “Suzanne” from his 1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

The lyrics of the songs are the only dialog in the movie, described by Cohen as “light entertainment,”1 with the video vignettes linked to each other by the recurrent appearance of Cohen’s character, a resident in the titular hotel, in each segment. The strengths and weaknesses of “I Am A Hotel” can be summarized by the observation that it is the kind of film that wins first prize at the Festival International de Television de Montreux – and has rarely been shown since (other than online).

On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”

Diamonds In The Mine, provides more details about “I Am a Hotel,” quoting Jim Devlin, who writes in Every Style of Passion,


Getting the project off the ground and onto the screen ran into severe problems when the original backers, C Channel Pay-TV, went bust six days before shooting began. CBC came to the rescue and the rest is graphic imagery. The stars were Toller Cranston, the skater, in his first acting role and Anne Ditchburn who was also responsible for the choreography. It was set in the luxurious Victorian splendour of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Guests there over the years have included Candice Bergen, Rudolph Valentino, The Beatles, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and Liciano Pavarotti. Filming lasted two weeks in May 1983 under the direction of Allan Nicholls, an associate of Robert Altman, with additional scenes directed by Don Allan. The producers were Leonard’s long-time friends Barrie Wexler and Moses Znaimer, and it was the first production by their new Blue Memorial Video company, so-called in honour of Leonard’s late musician friend David Blue (born Cohen, no relation), who had died the previous year and to whose memory the film is dedicated.

Down Memories Laine Posts:

  1. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man
  2. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories
  3. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & I Am A Hotel
  4. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The 1979 ZDF-TV Droll, Deadpan Version
  5. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

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  1. Romantic Despair Still Lives In Leonard Cohen. Toledo Blade: June 2, 1985 []