What’s In Leonard Cohen’s Bag? Snake Tattoo, Girlfriend Photo, Airplane Tickets, AIDS Test Card


The Scene: It is early 1988.  Leonard Cohen is being interviewed in the restaurant of a Covent Garden hotel. The interviewer reports “a tall man in a black suit suddenly approaches our table and hands Len a small black travel bag. Len lets out a huge sigh of relief. The man bows and disappears.”

The Excerpt:

[Interviewer:] What’s that then, Len?

[Leonard  Cohen:] I left it in the car last night. It’s got everything. My tattoo.

[Interviewer:] You’ve got your tattoo in your bag?

[Leonard  Cohen:]  It’s one of those stick-on ones, a big snake, a present for my daughter. Here’s my airplane tickets. Cheque books. A picture of my girlfriend.

[Interviewer:] Can I have a gander, Len?

[Leonard  Cohen:] Sure. I took it myself.

[Interviewer:] Very beautiful. What’s that bit of paper there?

[Leonard  Cohen:]  That’s my AIDS test result. Negative. It’s good to carry that around. ‘Hi, I’m Leonard, here’s my card!’ It’s like being let out of prison, getting one of those.

Source: Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Posted Dec 3, 2015 (the excerpt itself is from a 1988 interview). The photo atop this post was taken on another occasion (Milan, 1989) by Guido Harari. This content was originally posted Dec 28, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“I don’t think I came across as a particularly good lover. I’m much better at friendship.” Leonard Cohen On His Reputation As A Ladies’ Man

[Interviewer:] Cohen and I talk about his reputation as a ladies’ man…

I wrote a song a while back called ‘I Was Never Any Good at Loving You.’ And I think it’s true. I don’t think I came across as a particularly good lover. I’m much better at friendship. But I had a strong sexual drive that overpowered every other consideration. I had no idea who the people were that I was sleeping with. I mean, my appetite for intimacy – and not just physical intimacy but the intimacy that went with that activity – was so intense that I was just interested in the essence of those things. It was just an appetite. And consequently misunderstandings and suffering from both parties arose.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


2001 interview from Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents by Mikal Gilmore (Free Press: July 14, 2009)

Leonard Cohen On Psychotherapy, Drugs, Religion, Wine, Women, & Song

Interviewer: I asked him at the Mayflower if he’d ever tried psychotherapy …

No. But I try everything else… It was an opinion of mine, based on no research or evidence-well, evidence, yes, because I saw my friends in therapy did not look improved. I preferred to use drugs. I preferred the conventional distractions of wine, women and song. And religion. But it’s all the same. [Interviewer: When you say ‘drugs,’ do you mean something like Prozac, or the recreational kind?] Well, the recreational, the obsessional and the pharmaceutical. I’ve tried them all. I would be enthusiastically promoting any one of them if any one of those worked. [Interviewer: Well, what about the wine and women?] They’re the worst of all. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


A summary of information about Leonard Cohen’s depression can be found at Leonard Cohen’s Depression, Its (Failed) Medical Treatment, & Its Resolution. Also see Leonard Cohen’s Psychotherapy Session.

From Look Who’s Back at 67: Gentle Leonard Cohen by Frank DiGiacomo. New York Observer: Oct 15, 2001. Originally posted Apr 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“None of this represented the solution to a crisis of faith” Leonard Cohen On Choosing To Live At Mt Baldy Zen Center & Be Ordained A Buddhist Monk

None of this represented the solution to a crisis of faith. I looked at it as a demonstration of solidarity with the community. I was never looking for a new religion. I was perfectly satisfied with my old religion.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone: 30 November 2016) Note:  The entire article – an excellent read – is available at the link.

Leonard Cohen Talks About How Life Changed When His Depression Ended

I feel tremendously relieved that I’m not worried about my happiness. There are things of course that make me happy, when I see my children well, when I see my daughters dogs – that are things that produce a sense of real happiness and gratitude in my life, a glass of wine… But what I am so happy about is that the background of distress and discomfort has evaporated. It’s not that I don’t feel distressed, it’s not that I don’t get drugs and I don’t feel sad about things that I see and know and what happens to people around me. It’s not that the emotions don’t come, it’s just that the background is clear – before it was all one piece, it was very dark. I could pierce the darkness, and I know people in much worse shape than I was, but I always told myself, what do you have to complain about, and that was a good question, because I didn’t have anything to complain about. But nevertheless, and you keep it to yourself except it comes out in your work a certain sorrow or anguish or suffering, something that is not right. And by the grace of God, that feeling has evaporated, so that I can feel real sorrow now, it’s not the sorrow that emerges from the sorrow, it’s not just the melancholy that emerges from the melancholy. So when things touch me in a sorrowful way I can speak about them, and more important, I can feel them. Before it was hard to differentiate any feeling, because it was – there was a kind of mist, a kind of distress over everything, but that lifted. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Looks Back On The Past (unedited interview for Norwegian Radio) by Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles

Leonard Cohen Questions His Identity: Poet? Hustler? Junkie? (1968)


From Poet Writer Singer Lover Cohen by Paul Grescoe. Canadian Magazine: February 10, 1968. Photo by Jim Wigler (more about this image at The Story Behind That Photo Of Leonard Cohen Blowing Smoke Rings). Originally posted April 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric