Leonard Cohen Advises Terence Trent D’Arby On Aging, Women, Sex, & Wagging

trent

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I had dinner with [Leonard Cohen] and we hit it off well. He’s beautiful. The way he attracts women, man, is just incredible. There’s a very priest-like vibe about him. I said to him, As I get older I find regarding women and sex that the dog is wagging the tail now rather then the tail wagging the dog like it used to. That I now have some control over these things and it makes the situation all the more enjoyable when it happens. He said, ‘Enjoy it, my friend, because when you get to my age you can’t choose any more, just as long as something wags.’quotedown2

Terence Trent D’Arby

 

From Terence Trent D’Arby Interview by Adrian Deevoy, Q Magazine, June 1993.

Note: Originally posted July 31, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Lists His Pleasures At Age 82

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Morning coffee on the balcony
of this old duplex,
the cat at my feet,
and a couple of biscuits.
Notebook near by.
No one coming over.
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Leonard Cohen

Le Dernier Empereur by J.D. Beauvallet and Pierre Siankowski (Les Inrocks: Oct 19, 2015) [from interview transcript]

More Information About You Want It Darker

Information about You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, including reviews, is collected and updated at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker

“Putting your house in order…is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable” Leonard Cohen

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At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)

“This particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity…” Leonard Cohen On Writing At Age 82

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In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father. Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)

“More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.” Leonard Cohen

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I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich. What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol. [The divine voice] You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)

Leonard Cohen On The “Third Act” Of Life

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I don’t think much about [death], but in a certain stage in your life it becomes very clear that your time is not unlimited. Tennessee Williams said: ‘Life is a fairly well-written play, except for the third act.’ I’m maybe at the third act, where you have the benefit of the experience of the first two acts. But how it ends is nobody’s business and is generally accompanied by some disagreeable circumstances.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From ‘I never discuss my mistresses or my tailors’ by Nick Paton Walsh (The Observer: Oct 13, 2001)

The posting of Leonard Cohen’s Third Act – The Must-Read You Want It Darker Album Review brought to mind the “third act” quotation featured above in this entry first published Apr 24, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.  But, there is more to the story.

 

I thought this an appropriately pithy expression to warrant its publication as a “Words By Leonard Cohen” post, and as I am wont to do, checked the source of Tennessee Williams quote.

And I indeed found several references to  that Tennessee Williams quote, but, oddly, every example save one mentioned not only the epigram itself and Tennessee Williams, but also Leonard Cohen offering the quote.

It turns out that the quote is actually worded a bit differently:

Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.

It also turns out that the source of the quote is significantly different; it was produced by Truman Capote rather than Tennessee Williams.

But pointing out a  mistake made by Leonard Cohen – while great fun – is not my primary mission.

Even at my most pedantic, I find it difficult to view attributing a clever remark made by Truman Capote to Tennessee Williams a signal of the end of civilization as we know it. 1

The remarkable thing, it seems to me, is that none of the interviewers or their publications checked the source of the quote.

Cohen, who is known for repeating successful phrases and anecdotes in interviews, has, true to form, used the third act line with other interviewers:

A Happy Man by Mireille Silcott. Saturday Night, Canada: September 15, 2001

“Tennessee Williams had this famous quote: ‘Life is a fairly well-written play except for the third act,'” says Cohen, flicking an ash off the table. “And I’m at the beginning of the third act. The end of the third act — nobody has a handle on that one. But the beginning — there is a certain relief for me here. It is palpable.”

Leonard Cohen returns to music by Robert Hilburn. Chicago Tribune: October 18, 2001

I remember something Tennessee Williams said about life being a fairly well-written play except for the third act. By this point in my life, we have the experience of the first two acts, but we haven’t really encountered what is in store in the third.

Even worse, this has become a popular quote writers have recycled, misattribution intact, into articles about the Canadian singer-songwriter.

The godfather of gloom lightens up for third act by Barry Egan. Independent.ie: March 23, 2008

Asked about death a few years old, Bono’s favourite poet answered with a wisdom that suggested that perhaps he was descended from the Kohanim after all. “I don’t think much about [death],” Laughing Lenny said, ” but, in a certain stage in your life, it becomes very clear that your time is not unlimited. Tennessee Williams said: ‘Life is a fairly well-written play, except for the third act.’ I’m maybe at the third act, where you have the benefit of the experience of the first two acts. But how it ends is nobody’s business and is generally accompanied by some disagreeable circumstances.”

‘I’m blessed with a certain amnesia’ by Jian Ghomeshi. The Guardian: 9 July 2009

In 2001, you said to the Observer that you were at a stage of your life you refer to as the third act. You quoted Tennessee Williams saying: “Life is a fairly well-written play except for the third act.” You were 67 when you said that, you’re 74 now – does that ring more or less true for you still?

The same line is also quoted in, among many others, the following pieces:

Still worse, the exact line as misquoted by Leonard Cohen and credited to Tennessee Williams, has almost certainly been lifted from a Cohen interview and been used in an article about Michael Jackson.2

So, now you know Truman Capote is responsible for “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act,”  that, as far as I can determine, Tennessee Williams did not come up with his famous quote “Life is a fairly well-written play except for the third act,'” that Leonard Cohen makes the occasional error, and, that, apparently, one can’t rely on interviewers and publications to check the information they receive before presenting it to the reader.

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  1. For one thing, the two are easy to confuse. Capote and Williams not only shared many qualities but also knew each other and occasionally hung out together. []
  2. The boy in the bubble, the man in the mirror by Peter Murphy. Hot Press: July 3, 2009 []