Leonard Cohen & Dominique Boile In Paris: 1993-2013


Leonard Cohen with Dominique Boile & friends (Dominique is third from left)- After 1993 Paris concert. Photo by Dominique Issermann.

Leonard Cohen In Paris By Dominique Boile

Note: The following text was written in 2014 for Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen.1 I’ve added links to pertinent posts and Dominique’s photos.

Leonard Cohen once said:

My songs last about as long as a Volvo — about 30 years.

Leonard Cohen was wrong.

In 1971, when I was 15, I discovered his songs. Now, in 2014, I am 58, and I am still listening to his golden voice. Those first songs of his are nearly as old as I am. The songs Leonard Cohen released since 1967 are played all over the world every day and thousands come to his concerts to hear these songs. How many 1967 Volvos are running these days?

In the years to come, those of us alive now – including Leonard Cohen himself – will not be here. Will automobiles made by Volvo exist a hundred years from now? But Leonard’s songs live on!

I attended my first Leonard Cohen concert on September 7, 1974 in Paris. Since then, I’ve experienced that magic at nearly twenty of his shows, but my fondest memories are the four times I’ve met the man offstage.

On May 13, 1993, Leonard is on stage at Le Zenith in Paris, and I am in the audience. After the concert, there are 13 irrepressible Cohen fans – as many girls as boys – waiting two hours outside where the sweetness of the Parisian night makes us patient …

We see Carole Laure. Leonard, however, has not come out of the concert hall. We convince a member of the security service to let our man know that this group has only one desire: to meet him.

Finally, at 1:30 AM, Leonard, hand in hand with Dominique Issermann, arrives before us. So, Leonard Cohen – at 1:30 in the morning, after a long concert, with his lover and friends waiting for him – devotes half an hour to 13 young fans, talking to us, autographing albums, programs and whatever else we ask him to sign.

It was magic!

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  1. Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen is a book presented to the Canadian singer-songwriter in celebration of his 80th birthday, comprising stories and essays by fans that put their experience of Cohen’s music into words. Kim Gorsuch, who has long admired Cohen, came up with the idea and organized the project, gathering the pieces and photos online for printing into a hardbound volume. []

Look Who Made It Into Sharon Robinson’s On Tour With Leonard Cohen: Mitch, Alex, Roscoe, Hattie, Charley, Neil, Dominique Issermann, Lorca, DrHGuy, Duchess, The Guy Who Carries Leonard Cohen’s Guitar…

I continue to be delighted by the images in Sharon Robinson’s On Tour With Leonard Cohen, which Vogue described as “a book of photographs, 92 percent of which were shot on an iPhone, which gives them a curious sense of intimacy, spontaneity, and complicity, echoing, in a way, the particular closeness of Ms. Robinson and Mr. Cohen’s relationship.”  Now, most folks buy this book because of the photos featuring Leonard Cohen, but there are other treats: many, many shots of other members of the Unified Heart Touring Company (past and present), family, strangers, local scenes, and the occasional hangers-on who show up at soundcheck in Austin.

On Tour with Leonard Cohen By Sharon Robinson (PowerHouse Books: December 9, 2014). Originally posted Dec 11, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Suitcases, Trains, & The Pied Piper of Hamelin – Dominique Issermann On Making Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan Video

Interviewer: You have made clips for … “First We Take Manhattan” …

Dominique Issermann: [Leonard Cohen] had asked me. I first tried to understand what this last song was saying – “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin” – and I imagined this guy, a kind of charismatic leader who could lure the crowds, as the Pied Piper of Hamelin. This clip is a bit like that: he draws them after him, everyone drops their suitcases. In the end, he leaves them on the beach and these people go to nowhere, without anything.

Interviewer: There are also pictures of a train …

Dominique Issermann: Do you think of the trains that deported the Jews? I do not have a lot of Jewish culture, unlike Leonard who was raised in the Hebrew religion, but we did not talk about this train story at all. I was looking for ideas. But in Trouville there is a train. I like the station platforms, and I wanted the girl to be on a train at some  point. All this is very spontaneous, they are layers of images that are superimposed. But that surely makes sense …

Interviewer: The train, the suitcases, the beach, these characters in cloaks with just a suitcase going to nothingness: you could not avoid thinking about the deportation …

Dominique Issermann: You’re absolutely right: that’s what I thought, but I did not know it … When, at the beginning of the shoot, Leonard asked me, “What are we going to do?”, I told him replied, laughing: “Don’t worry, it’s a Jewish program, we’ll take you from Berlin and you’ll go to Manhattan, and we’ll go the other way!” But strangely I never thought precisely: well, we’ll put trains and suitcases. The suitcase is very present in my universe. I did a lot of pictures with people who carry them. Okay, that’s my legacy. But when people tell me, “Oh yes, you’re half Jewish,” I say, “No, I’m half non-Jewish.” But here, I realize that it is not so simple …

Interviewer: These suitcases also referred to the nomadism of your couple …

Dominique Issermann: Leonard is very attached to suitcases, he has an impressive collection. These are always the ones I bought him a long time ago, and that he still carries around. All brand Globe-Trotter, navy blue or black, cardboard or fiber, old-fashioned suitcases, with straps. He was still on his last tour, completely fucked. He said, “Look, maybe we should buy some more …”

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Promo video: 1988

Also See: Then We Take Trouville: Making Of The Leonard Cohen-Dominique Issermann First We Take Manhattan Music Video

From Ma vie avec Leonard Cohen : “Je l’ai entendu travailler deux ans sur ‘Hallelujah’” par François Armanet et Bernard Loupias (L’Obs: Nov 11, 2016). Interview originally published in “Le Nouvel Observateur” of January 26, 2012. Excerpt via computer translation with assistance from Coco Éclair. Images are screenshots from the First We Take Manhattan Video.

“I never fell in love till I was a man of 52. And this new album is for her.” Leonard Cohen On Dedicating I’m Your Man Album To Dominique Issermann

“All These Songs Are For You, D.I.”

My Long-Overdue Love Letter to Leonard Cohen by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring (Huffington Post: July 2, 2012). The quotation is from a June 18, 1988 interview. The Dancing Couple Dedication image was contributed by Dominique BOILE

“I won’t say anything about my relation to the stage and the audience. I never talk publicly about my intimate relationships.” Elegant Photos & Words From 2012 Paris Leonard Cohen Old Ideas Press Conference

Leonard Cohen Presents

The perpetually dapper and debonair Leonard Cohen was in his element at the Jan 16, 2012 Old Ideas press conference held at the elite, elegant Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.

Cohen’s responses to the queries at the press conference were, as one would expect, predominantly based on his classical forms.

He opened, for example, with a reflex genuflection to the country of the venue (for the record, Leonard Cohen has also presented his credentials for a special relationship with Canada, Ireland,  Spain, and several other countries.). Asked if he had a special relationship with France, Cohen responded

I always believed that the tradition in which I speak, the song was particularly well understood here in France.1

Similarly, he again attributed the remission of his many years of depression to the notion that with old age, one loses a certain kind of brain cells responsible for causing anxiety,  he once more  explained the difference between clinical depression and ordinary disappointment, and revealed, for the 30th time, his passion for flamenco.

Dominique Issermann

There was, however, a bit of new material.

The album is called Old Ideas. These are just eternal themes that I have always been treated and that affect us all. Ordinary, everyday questions, nothing more.2

Probably the most significant new expression from the press conference has to do with the inclusion of blues songs on the album:

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  1. Nouvel album de Leonard Cohen: un très bon cru by Olivier Nuc. Le Figaro. Jan 17, 2012 []
  2. Les bonnes vieilles idées de Leonard Cohen by Hugo Cassavetti (Telerama: Jan 16, 2012) via Google Translate. []

Dominique Issermann’s Exes Featured In Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man Lyrics

If you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you
And if you want a doctor
I’ll examine every inch of you

From I’m Your Man
By Leonard Cohen

It turns out that not only is Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album dedicated to Dominique Issermann but the title song is also populated by men from Dominique’s life.

Don’t tell me that saying ‘I’m Your Man’ is a complicated thing, but who said it before and like [Leonard Cohen]? I can tell an anecdote that will make him laugh if he reads it. In this song, all the men who are mentioned are friends of mine, maybe exes more or less… ‘If I wanna be a boxer:’ I had a boyfriend boxer; ‘If I wanna be a doctor:’ another was a doctor… We laughed a lot at that.quotedown2

Dominique Issermann

From Ma vie avec Leonard Cohen : “Je l’ai entendu travailler deux ans sur ‘Hallelujah'” par François Armanet et Bernard Loupias (L’Obs: Nov 11, 2016). Interview originally published in “Le Nouvel Observateur” of January 26, 2012. Thanks to Coco Éclair for the French to English translation.

Thanks go to Cohencentric viewer, Uli, who, accompanied by her Swiss sidekick, attended the 2009 Leonard Cohen Colmar Concert where she shot the stellar photo of Leonard Cohen wearing boxing gloves and a stethoscope that were flung onto the stage during his performance of I’m Your Man.

“‘An overseas relationship,’ That’s what I called our life then.” Dominique Issermann Talks About Her 7 Years As Leonard Cohen’s Lover And About Marianne & Suzanne Elrod

When did you meet Leonard for the first time?

At Hydra, in 1982. Carole Laure and Lewis Furey introduced me to him. They knew each other well since their years of “Bohemian” Montreal.

When you lived together, what was your biggest common denominator?

Work. I did not stop working, nor did he… He wrote all the time. When I met him, he had just finished Various Positions, and then he wrote I’m Your Man. We lived at one or the other in Los Angeles, in Montreal, in New York at the hotel, in Paris, a little in Trouville or Hydra. “An overseas relationship,” that’s what I called our life then …


You had other men before him, he had other women before you, that he evokes in his songs, Suzanne, Janis Joplin for whom he wrote “Chelsea Hotel” or Joni Mitchell, the “Winter Lady” …

You forget Marianne. Suzanne, Marianne, Issermann, it rhymes …

Did you know them?

I met Marianne once, in Hydra, I think. A very beautiful woman, a bit more buxom than the photos. I think he had a beautiful relationship with her. I knew Suzanne, of course, since she was the mother of their children, whom she raised in Paris. Leonard took them on weekends, on vacation. When I met him, his daughter was 10 years old and his son 8 years old. It was a kind of gift to me, who did not have children. They were very charming; they still are: Adam is now a singer, and Lorca a wonderful young woman who lives half the time in Paris.

Leonard also spoke a lot about Marianne, whose son he raised. He lived on Hydra with her for years that were quite dazzling for him. He had just left Canada, the snow, McGill University. He had earned some money, and he went to the sun. He bought a house there. He went to the beach to soak up the sun and returned to the terrace. And then Marianne came with her blond hair, her sarong. It was an easy life, they were young, it was quiet, no cars, donkeys going up and down the hill, cats …

I have the impression that he was quite happy in Greece. He has never been unhappy anywhere. Of course, he goes through terrible ups and downs, but there is still in the depths of him a creativity so beautiful. Besides, among all the singers, who claims his happiness? Charles Trenet, maybe … and then again I’m not sure. But, for the most part, it’s “I can’t get no satisfaction,” as the Stones would say.

From Ma vie avec Leonard Cohen : “Je l’ai entendu travailler deux ans sur ‘Hallelujah’” par François Armanet et Bernard Loupias (L’Obs: Nov 11, 2016). Interview originally published in “Le Nouvel Observateur” of January 26, 2012. Excerpt via computer translation.

Photo by Dominique BOILE