The Half-Sister Of Mercy, Leonard Cohen, & DrHGuy


Introduction: This post is part of The 2009 Beacon Theatre Show Detour in the saga of How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen.


On The Sidewalk In Front Of The Beacon Theatre Before The Leonard Cohen Concert, I met …

among others waiting for the theater doors to open on that cold February night,

  • A thirty-something entrepreneur so intent on seeing Leonard Cohen perform that he had flown from South Africa to New York that afternoon with the return flight scheduled to depart only hours after the end of the show
  • A mother and daughter, both of whom eagerly confessed to harboring lurid aspirations vis-a-vis Mr. Cohen
  • A native New Yorker who asked me if Leonard Cohen was indeed performing at the Beacon that night and, following my confirmation of the announcement on the marquee, promptly engaged a scalper in an animated and easily overheard conversation which concluded less than a minute later with her purchase of a balcony ticket for several hundred dollars over the original price
  • The Girl With The Leonard Cohen Tattoo

and, as the perceptive reader might deduce from  the title of this post, I met The Half-Sister Of Mercy (HSOM).

An Aside On Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters Of Mercy”

Leonard Cohen has told the back story of his song, “Sisters Of Mercy” man times1 This rendition is an excerpt from a December 4, 1974 interview quoted at Diamonds In The Lines: Leonard Cohen In His Own Live Words:

… like a lot of my material it’s [the song, “Sisters of Mercy” is] just completely documentary. It doesn’t concern high metaphysical questions but an accurate reportage as authentic and precise as I can make it, a description of exactly what happened on the interior landscape. And I was in Edmonton during a tour by myself of Canada, I guess this was around 67. I was walking along one of the main streets of Edmonton, it was bitter cold ; and I knew no-one and I passed these two girls on a doorway. They invited me to stand in the doorway with them. Of course I did. And some time later, we found ourselves in my little Hotel room in Edmonton and the three of us were gonna go to sleep together. Of course I had all kinds of erotic fantasies of what the evening might bring. … And we went to bed together and I think we all jammed into this one small couch in this little Hotel and it became clear that it wasn’t the purpose of the evening at all. And at one point, in the night, I found myself unable to sleep, I got up, and by the moonlight – It was very very bright, the moon was being reflected off the snow, and my windows were very bright – I wrote that poem by the ice-reflected moonlight while these women were sleeping and it was one of the few songs that I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision . The words flowed and the melody flowed and by the time they woke up the next morning, it was dawn. I had this completed song to sing to them.

To those readers who know me and are now beginning to panic, be assured that, mercifully, in the story of the HSOM and me, I do not write nor do I sing a song.

DrHGuy Gets Lucky

More accurately, several instances of good luck were required for me to attend the New York concert. In addition to Leonard Cohen’s and Anjani’s unsolicited and unanticipated offer of a comped ticket, an acquaintance, someone who was by no means obliged to do so, proved willing to cover my family obligations during my absence. Even so, as late as 20 minutes prior to my departure, impending crises threatened the trip. Nor do I take for granted the nonspecific good luck of car services that transported me to the right place at the right time, uneventful passages through security checks, airplane flights which took off and landed when and where they should, hotel reservations that were not lost, … .

Such mundane good fortune, however, does not make for an intriguing narrative.

No, to engage the reader, a story needs an event that opens the door to future plot development – something believable but unexpected and something a tad more ambiguous than winning the lottery. Something, say, like the discovery that, because of a miscommunication, two tickets rather than one are in the envelope awaiting me at will call.

DrHGuy Gets Really Lucky

An extra concert ticket in hand 45 minutes before the show named on that ticket begins invokes a forced choice. Event tickets, as we learned in 8th grade Economics, have time value.  Regardless of the desirability of a Leonard Cohen concert, the value of a ticket to that concert decreases precipitously when the show starts and approximates zero when it’s over. A decision must be made.

My first thought, transforming a scalper into my personal Broadway ATM by selling the ticket to him, held substantial allure. Given the markups, the profit generated would be enough to take care of that operation Mom has been wanting, pay off the mortgage, or fulfill my dream of purchasing the entire supply of $6 Diet Cokes and $9 Heath Bars, and $11 almonds from the mini-bar in my hotel room.

Unfortunately, I apparently have moral qualms about cashing in on a ticket gifted me by a musical icon and his backup singer/main.2

As I’m puzzling over my alternatives, the folks next to me in line are exchanging information of the sort  I’ve  heard numerous times that night: where are you from, how did you hear about the concert, what songs do you think he’ll sing, … .

Then, the round of conversational icebreakers is interrupted by the arrival of a young (mid-twenties), tall, lovely, vivacious, companionless woman, who is a long-time Leonard Cohen fan and who is, as one might imagine, most desirous of attending the concert.

Yet, doing so is no easy decision. It turns out that once one subtracts the expenses entailed in living in New York from the subsistence level wages paid yoga instructors, “splurging on entertainment” comes to mean picking up a sack of microwave popcorn to go with the video from Blockbuster, not buying tickets for Leonard Cohen’s first US concert in 15 years.

See what I mean – sometimes  the good luck just keeps on coming.

The Half-Sister Of Mercy Predecessor

While the primary focus of this post is the Half Sister Of Mercy, the delightful woman I met just prior to the Leonard Cohen Beacon Theater Concert and with whom I spent the evening, I must  point out that this is by no means the first time I’ve convinced a good looking woman I’ve never before met into accompanying me for a night’s festivities.

It’s the second …

in 35 years.

There are similarities in these cases. Both women were lovely, animated, funny, and knowledgeable.

Both were also in their 20s.

And both met the primary criterion of  acceptability – they  could have done better than me.3

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two episodes is the accessibility, in the first, of liquor. As a medical student, I was the guest of the Missouri  Academy Of Family Practice at their annual weekend meeting at a lakeside resort. After the Academy’s Award Dinner, there was live music and dancing. More accurately, given that 90% of the medical students attending this shindig were male and that our hosts had unaccountably failed to provide escorts, there was live music with the potential for dancing.

goldfinger_by_gert_frobeAnd, in the main dining room, one young woman was notable for two features – she was extraordinarily attractive and she was seated next to a man, whom we assumed to be her father, with a disconcertingly precise resemblance to the James Bond villain, Goldfinger.

Fueled by equal parts ethanol and desperation, I strategically approached her table from her father’s blind side and spoke the four words she wanted to hear, “Uh, you wanna dance?”4 An evening of merriment ensued.  While my liaison with the vixen did not survive the weekend, I enjoyed enhanced esteem in the eyes of my male peers for some time until they finally concluded that my success was only a one-time fluke.

They were, of course, wrong.

That phenomenon would prove to be a two-time fluke.

That’s the cue for the scene to fast forward 35 years and shift from the Ozarks to Broadway, where we watch as …

DrHGuy Lays The Smooth Patter On Half-Sister Of Mercy

See The Half-Sister Of Mercy, Leonard Cohen, & DrHGuy – Part 2


Credit Due Department: Photo of marquee by Donald Gibson. Photo of Goldfinger Fair use, via Wikipedia

Note: Originally posted Feb 25, 2009 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Sisters Of Mercy Lyrics

    Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
    They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
    And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
    Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been traveling so long.

    Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
    It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
    Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:
    When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

    Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
    They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
    If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
    they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

    When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
    Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
    And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right
    . []

  2. I know. I’m disappointed in me, too. []
  3. Like Groucho Marx, who famously refused to belong to any club that will have him as a member, I would be loathe to date any woman who couldn’t do better than me. []
  4. It was only much later that I realized that Half-Sister Of Mercy #1, faced with the choice of sitting with her Goldfinger-clone father and the rest of her  family (none of whom, disappointingly, resembled any of the James Bond villains) for the rest of the evening or joining the throng of increasingly raucous  med students, would no doubt have responded in identical fashion to any number of four word combinations, including “Please come join us,” “You’re gorgeous; let’s dance,” “Is he really Goldfinger?” and “Boogety, Boogety,  Boogety,  Boogety.” []