Geoff's original memo, October 2002
Dear Beautiful Losers—
Hydra 2002 surpassed all expectations! The Greek Islands! Sunshine! Friends! Drinks! Leonard Cohen Music!
The Event Committee has already begun preparations for the next Leonard Cohen Event. New York, New York!
WHY NEW YORK?
The choice of New York was logical. Past events in Montreal and Hydra traced important locations and influences in Leonard’s life in a chronological order. Leonard was born and raised in the shadow of Montreal’s Mount Royal. It was there at Montreal’s McGill University that Cohen developed his skills as a poet under the tutelage of Louis Dudek and Irving Layton. After a short stint at New York’s Columbia University where he was influenced by fellow Columbia University alumnae, Federico Garcia Lorca, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Cohen moved to the artist’s colony in Hydra, Greece.
During his Hydra years Cohen’s creativity exploded, arguably due to the inspiration of his personal muse, Marianne Ihlen. In Greece, Cohen wrote Beautiful Losers and “Bird on the Wire.”
It was not until Cohen returned to New York in the fall of 1966, however, that Cohen’s singing career was launched. Arguably, the next few years at the Chelsea Hotel, The Penn Terminal Hotel and the Henry Hudson Hotel were among Cohen’s most important, not only as a songwriter, recording artist, ladies’ man and family man.
In New York from 1966 through 1968 Cohen’s circle of friends and influences included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jackson Brown, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, Janis Joplin. Many of these individuals were struggling artists like Cohen!
New York is the place where Leonard met his future wife Suzanne Elrod, and Velvet Underground singer Nico.
Perhaps most importantly from a professional standpoint, New York is where Columbia Records’ repertory executive John Hammond “discovered” Cohen and signed Cohen to a record contract that resulted in “Songs of Leonard Cohen.” Hammond had previously discovered and signed Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and later Bruce Springsteen.
In Various Positions, Cohen biographer, Ira Nadel described Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel years:
“Once I hit the Chelsea Hotel, there was no turning back,” [Cohen] said. In 1966 the Chelsea was notorious as the residence for the emerging underground music and writing scene. . . . The Chelsea had a diverse bohemian history that included Mark Twain, Eugene O’Neill, Dylan Thomas, Williams S. Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Miller, Virgil Thomson, and Thomas Wolfe. While Cohen was at the Chelsea, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsberg, Kris Kristofferson, and Janis Joplin all stayed for varying periods.
The influence of New York on Cohen is evident in his music with references to New York appearing in some of his most important songs such as “Chelsea Hotel #2,” “First We Take Manhattan” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
WHAT TO DO?
New York is a world-class city. It never sleeps! Restaurants and bars are often open hours past mid night. Its nightlife is legendary. Broadway shows, Greenwich Village, the Yankee’s baseball team, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera! It has world-class museums including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Sightseeing galore: the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Times Square! It is virtually impossible to walk down any Manhattan street and not find restaurants of from five or six different nationalities.
WHERE TO STAY?
New York is expensive. But accommodations for the Cohen 2004 weekend need not be! The Event Committee has begun negotiations with Leonard’s alma mater, Columbia University for use of the college’s dorms. Although a firm price has not been fixed. Last summer Columbia charged approximately $80 per night for a dorm room! This includes towels and a Continental breakfast. The dorm rooms are in a safe, contained area in one of the country’s most beautiful campuses. Columbia’s campus has been featured recently in the movie “Spiderman.” Each room has two queen-size beds, so that the per night cost could be under $50 per person if Columbia holds its prices steady. Columbia dorms will be also available before and after the Event for those who wish to extend their trip!
However, the Committee is also seeking for group rate discounts at other pricier Hotels, including New York’s more deluxe hotel addresses such as the Plaza Hotel (where Leonard met his wife Suzanne Elrod) and the Chelsea Hotel. However, the dorms appear to be the place to be. Parties are expected to last beyond the dawn!
Columbia’s campus is envisioned as the center of the festivities. Columbia has state of the art auditoriums for our “Open Mike” nights (Get ready guys!). It is centrally located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (featured in just about any Woody Allen Movie).
HOW TO GET AROUND?
New York’s subway has been revamped! Columbia’s campus is on Broadway at 116th Street and is convenient to the Broadway line which runs from China Town, and Little Italy, through Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribecca, Times Square, the Theatre District, Madison Square Garden and Lincoln Center. For those who are less adventurous, Manhattan has more taxis than NY Knicks fans! And Columbia University is a self-contained city for those who wish to eat, breathe and sleep the Cohen Event on campus.
HOW TO GET THERE?
New York is a convenient travel location. It has three airports and a major train station. Travel to New York is expected to be less expensive that travel to Hydra as many flights are direct, and no ferries are necessary.
WHAT IS THE AGENDA?
That part is still being investigated. However, the Event will be modeled after the Montreal Event (at McGill University) with many of the improvements of the Hydra Event. The “Open Mike” sessions are a definite. So too are the afternoon sessions with films and lectures. Ideas being discussed are renting out a Greenwich Village bar for a60's style “Open Mike” session. Tours of the Chelsea Hotel and Greenwich Village are also a must. So too, are at least one group dinner which will not be included in the Event price.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
The Committee is fast learning that planning the Event is an industrious enterprise. Volunteers to be on the Committee are a must. Without a lot of help, the Event may not become a reality. The Committee is being chaired by Geoff Gompers (Geoff no rey). Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be on the Committee! Prices have not yet been finalized. However, Columbia University has provided quotations for use of its auditoriums and negotiations are underway with the University for the rental of its on campus dormitories.
WHEN WILL THE EVENT BE?
Following the tradition of the Montreal 2000 and Hydra 2002 Events, the New York Event will be in the Summer of 2004. Columbia University seems to have the best availability for its facilities during late July and early August.
HOW DO I MAKE SURE THAT I’M THERE?
Availability to the New York Event will be strictly limited to 300 people. Please submit your name to Geoff Gompers at email@example.com if you have interest. No money will be required at this point to reserve a place. Please also offer to help the Event Committee if you have time and/or skills.
More to follow.
Chairman of the
Suggested Event logo © Ania Nowakowska