The Morale-Boosting Leonard Cohen Old Ideas Billboard
Leonard Cohen fans, especially those familiar with the lackluster promotions of his previous albums, were heartened when an impressively large and vivid billboard promoting his Old Ideas album appeared on 42nd street in Manhattan.
This extract from The Harlem River Dispatch – Leonard Cohen Makes “Old Ideas” New Again posted by Wesley at By Way Of Beauty gives elegant expression to the thoughts of many Cohen admirers in response to the advertisement:
Last night on 42nd street in Manhattan, I saw a three-story-high billboard promoting Leonard Cohen’s latest album Old Times, which has been on prominent display beside the exterior of The Foxwoods theater. While most ad spaces in Times Square are reserved for wan and vapid looking models posing in their skivvies, this particular billboard features a 77 year-old beatnik sitting languorously in a lawn chair – surely a sharp contrast to what one usually sees or experiences while scurrying through the crossroads of the world.
Having been a fan of Mr. Cohen’s music for quite some time now, I was as puzzled as I was elated to see an ad for his album in that setting. He always seemed to me an artist you had to seek out in dusty vinyl collections – not one the industry would peddle alongside your Katy Perrys or Cee Lo Greens.
Now that I have finally listened to the album, I’m grateful that its marketing execs believed in Cohen’s material enough to advertise it the way they did, for Cohen’s music and the message it contains truly deserves the attention of our cock-eyed culture.
Or, as the less articulate of us might put it, “It’s about time.”
But, is it simply a case of the powers that be finally recognizing true genius and promoting it at “The Crossroads of the World?”
Behind The Scenes
Now, The New York Post has provided information about what is – literally and figuratively – behind that billboard.
As most New Yorkers already know, the physical space on the other side of the billboard is occupied by the Times Square Theatre (shown above), a building constructed in 1920 which has stood vacant for 20+ years.
So, how did that empty building become the easel for the bigger than life commercial portrait of Leonard Cohen?
Steve Cuozzo, writing in The Long-Dark Times Square Theater Is – Finally! – Getting A Multimillion-Dollar Makeover (New York Post, March 21, 2012), describes the purchase of the Times Square Theatre and the consequent plans for that space:
Climaxing a long effort to find the right user for the 1920s-vintage colonnaded venue, landlord New 42nd Street has signed a long-term lease with Broadway 4D Theatres. What the company calls Broadway Sensation — a 4D Musical Spectacular is expected to launch by late spring or early summer 2013. …
Broadway 4D is the brainchild of Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer Robert Kory, who also manages singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. (A huge ad for Cohen’s latest album currently adorns the theater façade.) … [emphasis mine]
It thus appears that it wasn’t simply a matter of “marketing execs believ[ing] in Cohen’s material enough to advertise it the way they did.” I.e., it seems unlikely that the placement of the billboard was dictated purely by marketing considerations but also had to do with the serendipitous ownership of the Times Square Theatre by Robert Kory, who similarly and simultaneously serendipitously serves as Leonard Cohen’s business manager.
Ah, disillusionment can be a drag. It’s always discouraging to discover that your burning bush isn’t consumed by the flames because it’s actually a repurposed Yule Log video.
On the other hand, there is nothing scandalous or Machiavellian about this story – and it is a heck of a billboard in a great location. And, I’m still gratified that this image was the center of attention just as the Old Ideas album itself caught the attention of the public and hit the top of the charts.
If there is a moral for this tale, it’s something on the lines of
Paying attention to the man behind the curtain
(or billboard) is not a risk-free strategy
Bonus: Broadway 4D
The article also helpfully explains Broadway 4D:
Broadway 4D is described as “a 3D film enhanced show incorporating in-theater special effects” — such as the use of scents, climatic changes and extravagant sound. Songs from Broadway musicals by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Weber will be performed by stars of Hollywood and the Great White Way. …
In an amazing coincidence, it turns out that I’m working on a screenplay for “a 3D film enhanced show incorporating in-theater special effects.” Robert, have your people call my people. We’ll do lunch.
Credit Due Department: Billboard photo taken and shared by Kezban Özcan.
Note: Originally posted Mar 23, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric