Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts: The October 30, 1988 Wiltern Theatre Show

The 1988 Wiltern Theatre Cohen Concert Program

And, no, the image atop this post is not the program for the Cohen concert at the Budapest Wiltern or the Paris Wiltern or the Munich Wiltern or …

It’s the program for the Cohen concert at the Los Angeles Wiltern Theatre – which, in 1988, was located in the USA.

We know this is the program for the 1988 Wiltern show because Valerie Shertzman, who contributed the program, was there on October 30, 1988. In addition to the program, Valerie, who was attending her first Leonard Cohen concert, offers these memories:

The main thing I remember was John Bilezikjian playing the oud with a feather, I had never seen anything like it, and that drew my attention every time it was played. Julie and Perla singing “Who by Fire?” was a show stopper.

I had “Songs” and “Recent Songs” so most of the playlist was new to me, though there was plenty that was familiar to me. I was impressed when he sang “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” dripping with enough irony to let the audience in on the joke. It was greeted with a great deal of laughter. There was some banter with some in the front rows, it was friendly and started by him.

Leonard Cohen – Who By Fire
San Sebastian: 1988

The only other reference to this show I find on the internet (other than a listing of the 1988 Tour venues) are these brief lines from Ali, writing at Blueprint Blue:

… October 30, 1988. My friend and roommate John and I had gone to see one of our idols – Leonard Cohen – perform at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. I still consider it one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

1988 Wiltern Theatre Cohen Concert Poster

While the signage for this concert, shown below, has been previously posted, comparing its block lettered, generic simplicity to the poster for the previous night’s concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco, is instructive.

Poster for Oct 30, 1988 Leonard Cohen Wiltern Concert – Los Angeles

Poster for Oct 29, 1988 Leonard Cohen Fillmore Concert – San Francisco

The Wiltern Theatre

For that matter, the bland poster is also in marked contrast to the brilliantly ornate venue itself.

Caring For & About The Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts: This is the first official entry in the Orphan Cohen Concerts classification. As a Lenny-come-lately who began following Leonard Cohen’s career only a few years before his 2008-2010 World Tour, I’ve been accustomed to the internet-powered flow of information about the Canadian singer-songwriter’s concerts that renders time and geographical barriers irrelevant.

During the recent World Tour, for example, 1HeckOfAGuy.com (predecessor to Cohencentric) routinely composed, on a laptop located in Durham, North Carolina, posts about Cohen’s shows concluded only hours earlier in Belfast, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Bucharest, Glace Bay, Auckland, Philadelphia, etc. that featured high quality photos and videos of the performance and first hand reports by concert-goers. In addition, articles about the shows published in foreign newspapers and magazines are available online and can easily, if not always elegantly, be translated by Google and other internet services.

It was, in fact, not uncommon to post information during concerts of special interest, such as the post, Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Concert In Progress, which published the following immediately after the statement was uttered:

After “Ain’t No Cure” and “Bird On The Wire,” Leonard Cohen addressed the audience in Hebrew, saying, “It is an honor to play here for you here in Israel (…) We are going to give you everything tonight, for peace, for you and us…

Moreover, the immediacy and ease of communication afforded by the internet encourages those attending concerts to upload more videos to YouTube, enter more concert reports in blogs and forums, and post more photos.

Consequently, cognitive dissonance results upon discovering that many Cohen concerts, unless a reporter or critic happened to be in the crowd, escaped notice except by those actually in attendance. Heck, we are still discovering concerts given by Leonard Cohen that have not been accurately memorialized as even a line on a list.

Cohencentric has already published descriptions of little remembered Cohen Concerts. Many of the posts, for example, focus on concerts about which only scattered bits of information were available. Researching those shows, in fact, turned up at least two previously unlisted concerts.

The Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts is now an official Cohencentric project. We’re going to show a little love for these stealth performances, posting whatever can be found about the otherwise forgotten concerts – even if that’s no more than a single memory lovingly preserved in the mind of an audience member.

Note: Originally posted Apr 15, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Mary Martin On Managing Leonard Cohen & Recording Him In Her Bathtub

In 1966, Martin began managing Leonard Cohen, a successful poet in Canada who wanted make records. She helped Cohen create a demo tape by having him sing in the empty bathtub of her home, making use of the natural acoustics, with a tape recorder in the room with him. Martin helped Cohen sign with Columbia Records, and also introduced him to Judy Collins, the first singer to have success recording with Cohen’s tunes. As an example of how fiercely protective Martin could be of Cohen’s songs, she recalled a story about hearing that Joan Baez had been performing “Suzanne,” a song first recorded by Collins. Only Baez changed some of the lyrics when she performed the song. Martin sent her a terse letter demanding she stop changing the song, explaining, “I don’t think you would take another brush to Andrew Wyeth and his paintings. Therefore, do not alter Leonard Cohen’s poetry.”  [See Leonard Cohen “Couldn’t Care Less” That Joan Baez “Brutally Violated” His Song Suzanne]

From Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum: Mary Martin by Michael McCall ( Country Music Hall of Fame: November 17, 2009)

Martin’s career is impressive, as noted in Country’s Comeback Player of the Year by Robert Hilburn (Los Angeles Times: Feb 26, 2002):

Besides helping singer-songwriter Cohen get his first record contract and then introducing Bob Dylan to the Band in the ’60s, she managed Morrison briefly and signed Emmylou Harris to Warner Bros. Records in the ’70s. She also worked closely with Clint Black and Lorrie Morgan at RCA Nashville in the late ’80s. Other acts she’s managed or worked with along the way range from Vince Gill to cult favorite Rodney Crowell.

Mary Martin Speaks About Leonard Cohen

Credit Due Department: Video courtesy of The Country Music Hall Of Fame’s program “The Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum, November 17th, 2009.” I was alerted to this video by Roman Gavrilin aka Hermitage Prisoner. Originally posted Nov 7, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen on Suzanne: “She’s great but she’s half crazy …”

[The song] Suzanne is about a girl I know. She’s great but she’s half crazy. And the other week I was in New York or Los Angeles or somewhere and a guy came up to me and said he liked my song and that he’d lived with Suzanne for a while. And I asked him if he was still with her. And he said no he couldn’t stand it any more. The girl was half crazy.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen by Ray Connolly. Evening Standard, July 1968

“My songs are poems with a guitar behind them” Leonard Cohen 1968

From Leonard Cohen by Ray Connolly. Evening Standard, July 1968

Credit Due Department: Photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, ASC01709. I was alerted to this article by a post at  I Need A Regular Dose Of Leonard Cohen written by Gordana Stupar Originally posted June 4, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen In 1967 Movie – The Ernie Game

While Leonard Cohen’s music has been featured in more than 50 movie soundtracks,  Cohen himself has rarely been part of the cast (other than in documentaries about him).

In The Ernie Game, however, Leonard Cohen plays a cameo role – as a singer who performs “The Stranger Song.”

The Wikipedia entry on The Ernie Game, a 1967 Canadian film (shot in Montreal) by Don Owen, is instructive:

Called “One of the most innovative examples of personal cinema to come from English Canada in the Sixties” by the Cinematheque Ontario, The Ernie Game was part of a proposed trio of works intended to celebrate the Canadian Centennial. The film centres around Ernie Turner and his attempts to survive in the world after he’s released from an asylum. He grows increasingly alienated and his fragile mental state declines, moving between two women, ex-girlfriend and current lover. “The Ernie Game provides a resonant portrait of mental illness,” writes Steve Gravestock of the Cinematheque, “its pathologically narcissistic protagonist representing Owen’s most nightmarish vision of the artist as fraud and pariah.”  Owen risked his career at the NFB when he surreptitiously turned what was to have been a half-hour educational film into the of the few English-language dramatic features made in Canada during the 1960s.

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, The Ernie Game received the Etrog Awards, now known as Genie Awards, for Best Direction and Best Feature Film in 1968.  It was also entered into the 18th Berlin International Film Festival.


    Jackie Burroughs – Gail
    Anna Cameron – Social worker
    Leonard Cohen – Singer
    Corinne Copnick – Landlady
    Rolland D’Amour – Neighbour
    Judith Gault – Donna
    Alexis Kanner – Ernie Turner
    Derek May – Ernie’s accomplice
    Louis Negin – Ernie’s friend

Leonard Cohen In The Ernie Game

The video is configured to begin at the start of Cohen’s performance.

Note: Originally posted May 7, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric