Today’s Leonard Cohen Facebook Post Features His Remarkable Prince Of Asturias Awards Speech

Leonard Cohen's fedora left on chair during his talk

Leonard Cohen’s fedora left on chair during his talk

As ongoing readers may know, I occasionally post at the official Leonard Cohen Facebook Page. Today’s entry features his speech accepting The Prince Of Asturias Award In Letters given in Oviedo on October 21, 2011. Stop by and take a look at Leonard Cohen Facebook.

Mordecai Richler Threatens To Punch Leonard Cohen In The Nose

Mordecai Richler (Nov. 1957)

Mordecai Richler (Nov. 1957)

Mordecai Richler, called “the great shining star of his Canadian literary generation” by Robert Fulford,1 went into full Norman Mailer mode when he learned that Cohen refused to accept his 1968 Governor General’s Award.2

Leonard Cohen Declines The Governor General’s Award

A bit of background is helpful: The Governor General’s Literary Awards, first granted in 1937,  have become Canada’s premier book awards and are viewed as

a significant achievement by both Canadian authors and their publishers. Winning the award has almost always resulted in increased sales.3

In addition, winners since 1951 have received not only medals but also monetary prizes ($250 in 1951; $25,000 in 2007).4

In short, turning down The Governor General’s Literary Award is not a trivial gesture.5

According to the Globe and Mail (28 May 1969, p. 6), Cohen would not accept the honor  for his winning collection, Selected Poems 1956-1968, because

The world is a callous place and [he] would take no gift from it.

He did, however, note, “I would like to be Governor-General.”

Mordecai Richler Responds

According to Mordecai Richler: Leaving St. Urbain by Reinhold Kramer,6 Richler (then 38 years old, three years senior to Cohen), infuriated that Cohen refused his Governor General’s Award when Richler wanted to accept his own GG Awards,7

herded him [Leonard Cohen] into the bathroom and bawled him out.

Ira Nadel, writing in Various Positions,8 provides a more detailed account.  The scanned excerpt below  (click on image to enlarge) begins the night of the award ceremonies:


I’m a tad unclear why “I don’t know,” Cohen’s response to Richler’s query about his reason for turning down the award, would be an answer, let alone the only answer, that  would quell Richler’s wrath but, for the record, I think it a good thing that Richler, who also threatened Austin Clarke, another Canadian novelist and short story writer, with a knuckle sandwich,9 settled for venting his spleen verbally rather than resorting to fisticuffs.

Credit Due Department: The image atop this post is credited to Horst Ehricht / Library and Archives Canada / e002712851

Also see Leonard Cohen has second thoughts about poem threatening Norman Mailer after reciting it to Norman Mailer

Note: Originally posted June 5, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Mordecai Richler: an obituary tribute by Robert Fulford. The National Post, July 4, 2001. Accessed 05 June 2012 []
  2. 1968 was a rough year for the Governor General’s Award; Hubert Aquin also refused the French language fiction prize for his book, Trou de mémoire. Source:  Wikipedia []
  3. The Governor General’s Literary Awards  by John H. Meier, Jr. McMaster University web site. Accessed 05 June 2012 []
  4. Ibid []
  5. Including Cohen’s refused prize, The Governor General’s Literary Award has been declined on five separate occasions. Source: 75 Years of Controversy: The GG’s come to UBC by Faculty of Arts, posted on the University of British Columbia web site, January 3, 2012. Accessed 05 June 2012 []
  6. Mordecai Richler: Leaving St. Urbain by Reinhold Kramer. McGill-Queen’s University Press, April 1 2008 []
  7. Richler won GGs in 1968 for both Hunting Tigers Under Glass and Cocksure.  Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia; accessed 05 June 2012 []
  8. Various Positions – A Life Of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel.  Random House of Canada, 1996 []
  9. Mordecai Richler: Leaving St. Urbain by Reinhold Kramer. McGill-Queen’s University Press, April 1 2008 []

Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench – Report #3


Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench Disappears

Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench Story

In celebration of Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday (Sept 21, 2014), admirers of the Canadian singer-songwriter contributed funding for a commemorative bench to be erected on Hydra, the Greek island where Cohen has spent much of the 1960s.  Although the project was approved  by the appropriate authorities, it was placed on hold when a local homeowner raised objects and threatened legal action.

This past weekend, however, when Cohenites gathered on Hydra, a stealth bench appeared as well. Exotic materials and sophisticated cloaking technology created the illusion to the naked eye and in photographs that the massive facility was little more than a board and a couple of stones, (For more information and photos, see Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench – Report #1 and Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench – Report #2)


Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench as it appears to naked eye & in photographs


Actual Leonard Cohen Hydra Bench with Stealth technology deactivated

Now, Cohenite agent Joy Ezekiel reports:

Reuters: Narrowly avoiding a European meltdown, David Cameron moved quickly to remove a small piece of wood and 2 supports today on a Greek Island. Only hours before Greek diplomats turned up, the scene was returned to normal by a crack team of SAS who came in over night, wore LC t shirts as disguise, mingled at the Roloi bar, and then moved in under the cover of daylight to remove the objects. Euro crisis not expected and Greece may remain part of EU.

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post by Roman Gavrilin aka Hermitage Prisoner. Second photo by Marie Nolan

Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench

bench2As many Cohenites know, the proposed Leonard Cohen Hydra bench project, undertaken in commemoration of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s 80th birthday, has been placed on hold due to objections from a local homeowner. Now, however, Russian Intelligence (in the person of Roman Gavrilin aka Hermitage Prisoner) reports from Hydra that recently arrived Dutch and Irish agents have surreptitiously deployed this stealth bench, constructed of exotic materials and embedded with sophisticated cloaking technology to create the illusion to the naked eye and in photographs that the massive facility is little more than a board and a couple of stones.

Update: See Leonard Cohen Hydra Stealth Bench – Report #2


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The Making Of The Leonard Cohen Closing Time Video: Outrageous Vamping, Go-Go Dancing, Erotic Gazing


quoteup2  That was fun

Leonard Cohen

Rebecca De Mornay’s Offstage Mock Striptease

The roles played in the making of the official Closing Time video, winner of the 1993 Juno Best Video, by backup singers, Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, and by Cohen’s paramour at that time, Rebecca De Mornay, are so delicious as to demand describing. This excerpt is from “Growing Old Disgracefully” by Ian Pearson (Saturday Night, March, 1993):

At the video shoot of “Closing Time,” the joy was starting to flow around 10 p.m., eight hours after the star’s arrival. Cohen and his band were on stage, lip-synching the song while the camera pored over their faces. The band was getting giddy. Cohen planted himself as solidly as a tree in centre stage, clenching his fists, mouthing the lyrics, and staring resolutely into the mid-distance. The back-up singers — Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen — were vamping outrageously beside Cohen, dancing provocatively and shooting delicious come-hither looks at him every time he glanced their way.

“Oh we’re drinking and we’re dancing / and there’s nothing really happening / the place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night,” Cohen sang, and Rebecca De Mornay trapped his stare as she danced seductively behind the camera. He continued: “And my very close companion / gets me fumbling gets me laughing / she’s a hundred but she’s wearing something tight.” De Mornay, who was in her early thirties and wearing a tight green sweater and a snug linen skirt, suggestively started toying with her fingers at the edge of her lips. As his very close companion continued to swoon and gyrate, Cohen broke up on stage. “You guys were really beautiful,” Cohen said in a lounge-singer homily at the end of the take. Unlike a lounge singer, he really meant it.

The director, Curtis Wehrfritz, was pleased, but he wanted a close-up of Cohen putting a bit more emotion into the song. De Mornay had a plan. She asked for a pair of wooden crates to be placed in front of the stage beside the camera. The camera started rolling and the tape began playing. Cohen started a deadpan delivery of the song, more in his prophet than in his playboy mode. De Mornay and Perla Batalla kicked off their shoes, climbed onto the crates, and started gyrating like go-go dancers. A metre or so away from his face, De Mornay fixed her blue eyes on Cohen and pumped her hips. “The women tear their blouses off / the men they dance on the polka dots…/ it’s closing time,” sang Cohen, and De Mornay took the words as cue for a mock striptease. She pulled out the front of her sweater from under her skirt and then tantalizingly gestured with her hands in front of her chest.

The singer responded with an intensely erotic gaze. He sang every word to De Mornay, and came up with a true performance under the most artificial of circumstances. The song ended, and De Mornay turned to Wehrfritz and laughed, “We really put a sparkle in his eye.”

Cohen climbed off the stage. Ever the gentlemen with Old World manners, he bent down to put on De Mornay’s shoes for her. The gloomy-poet-turned-bard-of-the-bedsits looked up at his friends and the crew and pronounced, “That was fun.”

Leonard Cohen – Closing Time
Official Video: 1992

Note: Originally posted Feb 20, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Witty, Touching 1991 Canadian Music Hall of Fame Induction Speech

junovidUpdate: Video: Watch Complete 1991 Induction Of Leonard Cohen Into Canadian Music Hall of Fame including the introduction by Moses Znaimer, the tribute performances by Jennifer Warnes (Joan of Arc), Suzanne Vega (Who By Fire), and Aaron Neville (Bird on the Wire) and, of course, Leonard’s acceptance speech.

Leonard Cohen’s acceptance speech includes numerous moments of graciousness and gratitude, sparkling wit, and exquisite phrasing.  A couple of examples follow:

After saluting a bevy of Hall Of Fame members, including Hank Snow, Glenn Gould, The Diamonds, The Four Lads, Neil Young, The Band, Paul Anka, and Gordon Lightfoot, Cohen ends the list with Joni Mitchell and Maureen Forrester, going on to remark,

Two women of genius among all that exuberant, masculine prominence … It’s going to be hard to get a date in the Hall of Fame.

Commenting on the timing of this honor Cohen explains

If I had been given this attention when I was 26, it would have turned my head. At 36 it might have confirmed my flight on a rather morbid spiritual path. At 46 it would have rubbed my nose in my failing powers and have prompted a plotting of a getaway and an alibi. But at 56 — hell, I’m just hitting my stride and it doesn’t hurt at all.

Leonard Cohen Inducted Into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame
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