Jo Meul alerts us that a new, improved video of Leonard Cohen – I am a Hotel sans subtitles is now available on YouTube. Information about this movie is available at On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”
This is the third post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.
I Am A Hotel: Memories
Within “I Am A Hotel,” the Memories video depicts a high school prom held at the hotel’s ballroom. Cohen not only appears as a resident of the hotel but also as the singer-bandleader providing live music for the dance from an elevated stage. A stylized dance performed by a bellhop and hotel maid is Interspersed with the prom scenes.
The sequence is too artsy, too fartsy for my taste, but hey, as the American Bandstand kids would point out, the song has a beat and – apparently – you can dance to it (at least after a few years of professional training). On the other hand, the brassy sax solo does grab me in an indecent way, and Leonard as the sunglasses-clad implacable singer coupled with Leonard as the leering hotel guest encouraging the bellhop and maid toward the (titter) climax is as creepy-nasty-exciting as ones first illicit sexual liaison with someone a lot more experienced and adventuresome in bed.
The King Eddy Ballroom Of Leonard Cohen’s Memories
While I was gamboling on the beach enjoying vacation, Sally Hunter was diligently examining a Toronto landmark with a special connection to Leonard Cohen. Sally writes:
Every year Toronto has an event called “Doors Open”. For a weekend, many places are opened to the public – everything from the subway yards, boardrooms, historic buildings, and even the oldest Jewish Cemetery, which usually has it’s doors locked. Among those on the list this year was the King Edward Hotel – one of the last old grand hotels remaining. The King Eddy has a long and illustrious history, hosting many celebrities and dignitaries – the Beatles did a bed in here, scandalously Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared a suite, though they were not married, etc. The Hotel opened the Crystal Ballroom, on the 17th floor, up to the public. The Hotel is where “I am a Hotel” was filmed, and the Crystal Ballroom was featured as Cohen sang “Memories”. The Crystal Ballroom was used from the early 20’s to the 50’s when it was shut down due to changing fire regulations. It was stripped of it’s chandeliers, fixtures and even the hardwood flooring. This will be the last time the room is opened to the public, as it looks now. The Hotel has now been purchased by another investor who plans to revamp the hotel, refurbish rooms and add luxury condos (the cheapest begin at $400,000). I am sending you a link to several of the pictures, in case you are interested. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingermadd … 168146900/
All of Sally’s photos are interesting and worth viewing. One of those, a shot of the ballroom, is displayed below a screen capture from the “Memories” performance in “I Am A Hotel” that was filmed in the same spot.
I Am A Hotel
Leonard Cohen provided the music for and helped write “I Am a Hotel,” a 24 minute video produced in 1983 by Allan Nichols for Blue Memorial Video1 Ltd (the chairman of the company and one of the owners is Cohen) which won the Golden Rose at an international television festival in Montreux.
The concept of this 24 min video is based on the reminiscences of a hotel – or some rooms of the hotel. Leonard Cohen plays a (long term) resident of the hotel. Each song is depicted by a little visual story involving some of the guests. There are no words other than those in the songs. “Memories” is set to a dance (like a prom) with Cohen up on stage leading the band. The two dancers that are featured in this vignette are very good (the bellboy and a hotel maid in the film). Choreography by Ann Ditchburn.2
The making of the film was not without difficulties, as explained in this excerpt from In Every Style of Passion by Jim Devlin:3
Getting the project off the ground and onto the screen ran into severe problems when the original backers, C Channel Pay-TV, went bust six days before shooting began. CBC came to the rescue and the rest is graphic imagery. The stars were Toller Cranston, the skater, in his first acting role and Anne Ditchburn who was also responsible for the choreography. It was set in the luxurious Victorian splendour of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Guests there over the years have included Candice Bergen, Rudolph Valentino, The Beatles, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and Liciano Pavarotti. Filming lasted two weeks in May 1983 under the direction of Allan Nicholls, an associate of Robert Altman, with additional scenes directed by Don Allan. The producers were Leonard’s long-time friends Barrie Wexler and Moses Znaimer, and it was the first production by their new Blue Memorial Video company, so-called in honour of Leonard’s late musician friend David Blue (born Cohen, no relation), who had died the previous year and to whose memory the film is dedicated.
The songs on the soundtrack follow:
- The Guests
- The Gypsy’s Wife
- Chelsea Hotel # 2
Videos from “I Am A Hotel” can be viewed in the final section of this post.
The Handwriting On The Wall
Sally Hunter’s note continues:
As I was perusing other photos of the Hotel, I found this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyfen/1496 … otostream/. It was taken in 2006, and unfortunately I did not see this while I was there. It is not signed or initialed, but to me it looked remarkably like Leonard Cohen’s handwriting. Tell me what you think.
I contacted the photographer, Andrew Louis, who has a number of intriguing shots of Toronto scenes at hyfen. He writes that he recalls that the inscription was found “on the same floor as the Crystal Ballroom but on the North side of the building.” He also gave permission to post the photo here (click on image to enlarge).
A Google search of the exact quote, “You have made my heart a garden,” turns up only six hits (other than the photo reference), none of which have any obvious link to Leonard Cohen. “You made my heart a garden” shows up a few additional hits, but again there is nothing associated with Cohen.
The handwriting, however, is clearly similar to Cohen’s. I’ve never seen that calligraphic style elsewhere although it’s certainly possible others use a similar script.
For comparison, I’ve included examples of Leonard Cohen’s distinctive handwriting, only one of which is outrageously self-serving:
Update: See article in The Torontoist triggered by this post: A Portrait of the Graffiti Artist as Leonard Cohen by Suzannah Showler
Leonard Cohen – I Am A Hotel
Note: Originally posted Jun 10, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- Blue Memorial Video was named for David Blue, a 1960s folksinger who was a close friend not only of Leonard Cohen but also Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Blue died the year before the film, which is dedicated to him, was produced. David Blue is a reliable source of information about the now nearly forgotten singer-songwriter. [↩]
- LeonardCohenFiles [↩]
- While the quotation that follows is from Jim Devlin’s book, In Every Style of Passion,” the excerpt was found at Diamonds In The Mine. [↩]