“His Montreal duplex, which he bought for $7,000 in the early ’70s, has its wooden storm windows still in place” Leonard Cohen’s Home Decor

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Although [Leonard Cohen] had to mortgage his duplex in Los Angeles to cover his legal costs [dealing with the loss of his retirement savings] and although the suits and countersuits could grind through the courts for years, Cohen says he’s back in the black through royalties. And emotionally, “I haven’t suffered,” he says. Cohen feels he weathered his financial crisis because he has always lived modestly, even monastically. His Montreal duplex, which he bought for $7,000 in the early ’70s, has its wooden storm windows still in place. Painted white throughout, it is graciously but sparely furnished with old pieces, some from his parents’ home in Westmount. He especially likes his ancient kitchen stove because it includes a small built-in gas heater that keeps the whole room warm in winter. An upstairs bedroom with a laptop and small keyboard serves as his studio; his sound equipment amounts to an old CD player. In Montreal, he has no car; in L.A., he drives a ’95 Nissan. When he discovered his money was gone, “I didn’t have to sell the yacht,” he says with a grin.

From Cohen’s Age Of Reason by Christine Langlois (Zoomer: Sept 6, 2006). Photo of Leonard Cohen’s Montreal home by Lilian Graziani.

Also see Cat Stevens Visits Leonard Cohen’s Montreal Home; He Is Not Impressed

Video: Leonard Cohen Talks About His Neighborhood, Un Canadien Errant & More At His Montreal Home – 1979

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It’s A Beautiful Day In Leonard Cohen’s Neighborhood

This excerpt from Harry Rasky’s The Song of Leonard Cohen was filmed in 19791 at Cohen’s home in Montreal. Leonard Cohen, seated on his balcony,2 translates the demo tape of Un Canadien Errant3 from French to English and responds to Rasky’s leading questions.

Here’s one exchange:

Rasky: Do you feel like the person in that song [“Un Canadien errant”], wandering around, mariachi music?
Cohen: A little bit.

lctapeMy other favorite exchange in this scene takes place when Rasky, who never pretended to espouse a detached, neutral relationship with his subjects and appears eager to present Cohen in the best possible light, if not deify him outright, lobs this softball question (partially framed as a comment), “Some people might say why do you want to live out over all those shacks and old balconies,”only to have Cohen wryly respond “Not very many people.”

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  1. Various references indicate the movie was first shown in 1980 and an approximately equal number list it first being broadcast in 1981. In  his insightful review, Dick Straub notes that The Song of Leonard Cohen “was first shown on CBC in 1980,” which is good enough for me. []
  2. While this structure (see screenshot) is ubiquitously called, within by the film dialog and in the commentary on the film, the “balcony,” were it transported to Chicago, it would become a “back porch.” (The “back porch” designation would be effective until it collapses, after which it would be known as a “deathtrap.”)

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  3. “Un Canadien Errant” aka “The Lost Canadian” is a song written in 1837 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie after the Lower Canada Rebellion of that year in which some convicted rebels were condemned to death or exiled for armed insurrection. The melody is from a Québécois folk tune. To a few, it remains a patriotic song in Canada. Leonard Cohen recorded “Un Canadien errant” on his 1979 Recent Songs album. His original song “The Faith” off his 2004 album Dear Heather is based on the same melody. (Source: Nationmaster Encyclopedia) []

Cat Stevens Visits Leonard Cohen’s Montreal Home; He Is Not Impressed

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Leonard Cohen’s Montreal home. Photo by Lilian Graziani

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I remember Cat Stevens coming into my house in Montreal, which is about twice the size of this [hotel] room, and looking at my record player, which is just a little record player. And I could see just for a moment, this look cross his face, ‘What is this?,’ you know? I’m not trying to make a virtue of my own kind of life, but people do get amused when they see my particular style of life. ‘Cause it hasn’t really changed much since I left home.
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Leonard Cohen

 

Excerpt from Romance at the Broncoburger by Rob Mackie (New Musical Express: April 5, 1975)

“I always loved the people the world used to call mad…” Leonard Cohen on “hanging out at Northeastern Lunch”

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I always loved the people the world used to call mad. I always loved people who were somehow aberrated, who seemed to be aberrated from the alleged normal. I always loved these people. I used to hang out in Philips Square [in Montreal] and talk to those old men and I used to hang out at Northeastern Lunch that was down on Clark Street, or with the junkies. I was only thirteen or fourteen at the time. I never understood why I was down there except that I felt at home, at home with those people.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From an interview by Michael Harris which appeared in the journal Duel, Winter 1969.  The question Leonard was asked which initiated that response was: “Do you consider yourself in any way like Martin, the mad little boy in The Favorite Game?” (Accessed at The RWCN Restaurant Ware Collectors Network: North Eastern Lunch)

Also see

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Leonard Cohen, who alerted me to this quotation and to Marie (see Comments), who identified the source.

Disguises – The Other Leonard Cohen Poem Referencing Northeastern Lunch

firsthitlerWhile the recent stories about the discovery of Northwestern Lunch sign in Montreal point out that the diner inspired Leonard Cohen’s poem, Les Vieux (text and audio recording at Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Les Vieux), it is not the only Leonard Cohen poem to reference Northeastern Lunch.  Disguises, first published in Flowers For Hitler, has a verse devoted to the denizens of that eatery.

Disguises
By Leonard Cohen [highlighting mine]

I am sorry that the rich man must go
and his house become a hospital.
I loved his wine, his contemptuous servants,
his ten-year-old ceremonies.
I loved his car which he wore like a snail’s shell
everywhere, and I love his wife,
the hours she put into her skin,
the milk, the lust, the industries
that served her complexion.
I loved his son who looked British
but had American ambitions
and let the word aristocrat comfort him
like a reprieve while Kennedy reigned.
I loved the rich man: I hate to see
his season ticket for the Opera
fall into a pool for opera-lovers.

I am sorry that the old worker must go
who called me mister when I was twelve
and sir when I was twenty
who studied against me in obscure socialist
clubs which met in restaurants.
I loved the machines he knew like a wife’s body.
I loved his wife who trained bankers
in an underground pantry
and never wasted her ambition in ceramics.
I love his children who debate
and come first at McGill University.
Goodbye old gold-watch winner
all your complex loyalties
must now be borne by one-faced patriots.

Goodbye dope fiends of North Eastern Lunch
circa 1948, your spoons which were not
Swedish Stainless, were the same color
as the hoarded clasps and hooks
of discarded soiled therapeutic corsets.
I loved your puns about snow
even if they lasted the full seven-month
Montreal winter. Go write your memoirs
for the Psychedelic Review.

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