Click on link to view Leonard Cohen’s childhood home in the Westmount section of Montreal on interactive Google Map
This is a companion piece to View Leonard Cohen’s Montreal Home On Interactive Google Maps.
In December 1959, Leonard Cohen moved into a London boarding house at 19b Hampstead High Street (see photos of 19b Hampstead High Street). His long-time friend, Morty Rosengarten, had lived there previously. Another childhood friend, Nancy Bacal, was a resident there at the same time as Cohen. The house was presided over by Jake and Stella Pullman (along with the Pullmans’ cat, David).1
Cohen describes the living arrangement in his own words:
I lived at the corner of Gayton Road and Hampstead High Street in 1959. I lived with my landlady, Mrs Stella Pullman. I had a bed in the sitting room and I had some jobs to do, like bringing up the coal to start the fire every morning. She said to me, ‘What do you do in life?’ and I said ‘I’m a writer.’ She said, ‘How much do you write?’ and I said, ‘Three pages a day.’ She said, ‘I’m going to check at the end of every day. If you haven’t written your three pages and you don’t bring up the coal, you can’t stay here.’ She did that, Stella Pullman, and it was under her fierce and compassionate surveillance that I wrote my first novel, The Favourite Game.2
Credit Due Department: Photo courtesy of Leonard Cohen
Note: Originally posted Oct 27, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
“It doesn’t suck, Leonard“
DrHGuy to Leonard Cohen after listening to pre-release Popular Problems at Casa Cohen
At the end of the last post in this account of the sunny August afternoon the Duchess and I spent with Leonard Cohen and his personal assistant, Kezban Özcan, at his home in Los Angeles,1) we had just arrived at Mr. Cohen’s residence to find our musical icon of choice awaiting us in his front yard.
I should point out that parking our car marked the commencement of the second part of our two-step plan we had painstakingly constructed for our visit:
The details of our anticipated audience with the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon were – oh, let’s go with “ambiguous.” Or, we could, with more exacting precision, go with “Once we arrived, we had no clue what to expect.”
In addition to the stress inherent in launching oneself into the abyss of an agendaless get-together, I have always harbored a certain apprehensiveness about meeting Leonard Cohen because our connection derives from my web sites that feature him and, while those sites have promoted his performances, described the honors he has received, and featured bits of his philosophy and humor, the quality that makes my blogs unique is the not infrequent use of the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon to induce a cheap laugh.3
Not every superstar, I’ve become aware, reacts to such japery with guffaws and knee-slapping.4 Concert-goers have been removed, admirers have been threatened, and fan sites closed for little more than cracking wise. And, certain Cohen admirers have taken me to task for poking fun at an artist who personifies dignity and gravitas. Consequently, while Leonard himself has always professed himself a fan of of this brand of humor, that history has made me a tad edgy prior to our meetings. Like the old saying goes, “Live by the Leonard Cohen Bobble Head, die by the Leonard Cohen Bobble Head.”
But, both Duchess and I had met Leonard before – and he had inevitably been, as one would predict, exceedingly Cohenesque – engaging, entertaining, charming, and, according to one of us, sexy. Most of all, he has been gracious. After my first face to face meeting with the man,5 I wrote,
I confess to being unaware of the most elemental musicological knowledge, I am ignorant of the basics of songwriting, and I haven’t a clue about iconicity. I do, however, know graciousness when I’m overwhelmed by it.
And, Leonard Cohen may be the most fervently gracious person on the planet.
And it turns out, proponents of personal growth will be pleased to learn, the cumulative graciousness of Leonard Cohen over the years had finally overcome my (arguably deserved) concerns, leaving me delighted rather than distressed about the prospect of spending time with him.
Casey: Technically, I have a plan.
Dan: What’s the plan?
Casey: It’s Napoleon’s plan.
Dan: Who’s Napoleon?
Casey: A 19th century French emperor.
Dan: You’re cracking wise with me now?
Casey: He had a two-part plan.
Dan: What was it?
Casey: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Dan: That was his plan?
Dan: Against the Russian army?
Dan: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Dan: Almost hard to believe he lost. [↩]
Leonard Cohen’s inspiration for the song, “Suzanne,” was actually Dolly Parton: This explains not only why the opening line in the earliest drafts of “Suzanne” (then, of course, called “Dolly”) was “Dolly takes you down to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry,” but also why the line from the final version of “Suzanne” that reads “And she feeds you tea and oranges” was originally “And her breasts are big as melons.”
While others applauded Cohen’s entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I chose to focus on the difficulty he and the other candidates had finding the route to the stage for the induction ceremony. I’ve also offered to fix his problematic lyrics, improve his poorly staged concerts, and salvage his incompetently managed merchandising (one solution: The Leonard Cohen Bobble Head). There’s more, but you get the idea. [↩]
Leonard Cohen has lived for significant periods in his hometown of Montreal, the Greek island of Hydra, and Los Angeles (and the Zen monastery on nearby Mount Baldy). Because of the interest in these places, the Leonard Cohen Online Directory has now added sections featuring descriptions, photos, and maps of these areas: