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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Take This Blog(with the clamp on its jaws)

I've been warming up to this for a while. Let it be my final rant on Leonard Cohen, who he was, who he was not, and why it's important to sort this out now.

In a few weeks, in Montreal, a month-long Leonard Cohen event is being organized that will permanently establish his cultural dominance over the city of his birth. Two huge murals have already been erected on buildings to commemorate his towering presence, greater than any living idol, politician or saint of the past. Bigger than Brother André, or Maurice Duplessis. Or Rocket Richard. A bigger runner, coast to coast, than Terry Fox. I think this is unprecedented in Canada, a country that rarely erects statues or honours its heroes, apart from the dead of two world wars.

You have to ask: what is behind this sanctification? Money, perhaps. Festivals are big business, and the arts organizations must be falling all over one another to be part of this massive effort to commemorate the life of Montreal's most famous citizen.


But what are we actually commemorating? After all those interviews in which he explained himself endlessly, do we really know who Leonard Cohen was? I don't, although I lived around the corner from him for two decades. Or at least, I didn't, until I began looking into him. Which is how I learned that the 'real Leonard Cohen' - if there actually was such a person - is far different from the pontificating self-salesman we grew accustomed to, over the years.
 
Leonard Cohen  captured the attention of millions around the world in the course of a career as a writer, singer, and prolific giver of interviews. I can't think of a singer who has been interviewed more often. I have personally read dozens of interviews he gave over five decades or so. He was a remarkably articulate, entertaining and clever conversationalist, widely read, and capable of delivering profound insights on numerous subjects, all connected, as it happens, to a massive agenda.

He was also a very disturbed individual whose life was - in many ways - a glittering disaster. Secretly, he was a triumph of social engineering. A sociopath who transformed himself into a saint.

Perhaps most concerning: he was a servant of powerful forces who owned and controlled him from birth to death. Is it any wonder he is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, the scene of cult activity (including ritual murder) involving Montreal's wealthy elite and their Mafia cronies, going back decades?

His honorary degree from McGill University marked a lifetime of service to the gangs that turned it one of the world's most corrupt institutions, catering to secret military projects like MKULTRA in the 1950s, when Leonard Cohen was an undergraduate student politician volunteering in Donald Hebb's sensory isolation experiments, while presiding over the Debating Union and writing his first poems, including A Hallowe'en Poem with its detailed description of children's games of animal torture .

In fact, he never lived more than a short walk from McGill and the Allan Memorial, and his Westmount family connections always ensured he would rise in the world - the question was, How?

Nothing in Leonard's life was left to chance. It was determined, from the outset, by generations of family involvement in secret societies.  Leonard grew up in a neighbourhood where the fathers all worked for Tibor Rosenbaum, the head of PERMINDEX, linked to the Bronfmans, Rothschilds, the international drug and arms trade, as well as to Operation Gladio and the Kennedy assassination. The death of his father left him the man of the house at age 8 - in a world of highly placed criminals. His uncles, who took over his upbringing, included a senator and member of the Bronfman's law firm.

As a teenager, he learned hypnotism - one of the techniques the CIA was exploring for use in mind control - and hypnotized the family maid in order to rape and torture her. Years later, he would rape and torture her daughter, who became the Muse for his most-relentlessly-covered song, Hallelujah, and to whom he boasted of being a CIA agent and 33rd degree Mason, as well as John Lennon's real assassin. Some say Cohen also killed Janis Joplin -- all but admitting to it in an early version of Chelsea Hotel (#1) which gives the impression he was in the room with her when she died.
 
At McGill, in the 1950s, he joined a cult that included well-respected professors, literary figures, their wives and students, and the notorious Dr. Ewen Cameron - as well as a shadowy inner circle that welcomed Nazi scientists employed by the CIA. Admirers of Aleister Crowley, they would meet for late night rituals, which Cohen described in early unpublished poems.

In a vertical career move to England, in 1959, he met Jacob Rothschild, who sent him to Hydra, where he hooked up with a community of artists, in what would become another social experiment attracting people from the world of military intelligence, gun running, spying, entertainment and publishing.

Portrayed as a lonely outsider, Cohen was in fact a central player in a massive program designed in London and Washington -- a post-war intelligence project whose totalitarian intention was to destroy and weaken families and individuals, and pave the way for world dictatorship by a chosen few, with narcotics and popular culture serving the agenda.

Leonard Cohen was their representative, and embodied all the aims of this program. So when Montreal gets together to celebrate his life and career, what we are actually celebrating is the triumph of MKULTRA.



**********

Let's count the ways Leonard Cohen was Dr. Cameron's biggest MK success, along with Lee Harvey Oswald.

1. Leonard received Manchurian Candidate programming at McGill in the days when the main goal of top secret mind control research was to produce controllable spies and assassins who could carry out missions and later have no memory of their own actions. (Lee Harvey Oswald was a product of this programming, not that he actually killed JFK: he was at the scene in Dallas as a patsy while a CIA hit team fired the fatal shots at the President). Leonard's first big mission was as a spy in Havana during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. It was partially successful, in the sense that it brought him embarrassing publicity.

2. Leonard has always supported the aims and goals of his programmers: a group at McGill that included Fabian socialists like F.R. Scott and Irving Layton. The Fabians' emblem is "a wolf in sheep's clothing." Their aim was to transform human beings, beginning in childhood, using new theories of education eg. "free" schools. Cohen even sent his mentally disturbed, adopted son, Axel Jensen, to the one at Summerhill in the UK, which was also where Leonard first met Rebecca De Mornay as a child.

3. Cohen's early writing shows just how heavily he was influenced by Dr. Cameron and his psychiatric collaborators. As a freshman at McGill, Cohen organized a debate on the question "Should Germany be allowed to re-arm?" which was one of Cameron's pet themes at the time. Cameron wrote extensively about the need to re-engineer the German people to prevent them from starting another world war.  In his early twenties, Cohen rented a room near McGill where he wrote his first unpublished novel, Ballet of Lepers, which explored themes like sado-masochism from the point of view of a young man from a wealthy Jewish family. By then, Cohen was under the influence of the Tavistock programming that was taking over arts and culture -

4. Another of Cameron's obsessions was "the authoritarian personality" which inspired Cohen's 1964 poetry collection Flowers for Hitler. Despite his iconoclastic stance, Cohen was still listening to his Master's Voice.

5. In 1959 in London where he met the Rothschilds while writing his first novel, Beauty at Close Quarters (later published as The Favourite Game) Cohen was deepening his contacts with Tavistock (the Rothschilds created and funded it, as the birthplace of MKULTRA) and the Fabians he had known at McGill. Rothschild would send him to Hydra, where he met Axel and Marianne Jensen, who were under the same influences that would take the western world by storm in the sixties: the drug culture à la the Huxleys (Aldous' niece lived on Hydra), promiscuity carried to mechanistic extremes, destruction of the Old Order via all the mind-expanding techniques and beliefs that became the counter culture.

6. Despite moments of rebellion, Cohen always remained fundamentally obedient to authority. He was one of the cultural spokesmen who advocated "turning inward" and away from overt political action. All the while, he was deeply political in his choices, aligning himself with Zionism, in love with Ronald Reagan, and even joining the IDF in the mid-70s.

7. Late in life, he moved to a monastery - partly for tax purposes and as a stepping stone to retirement that was derailed when his retirement fund turned up empty in 2004. His glorious final decade, when he toured and made millions, turned him into the wise old man of popular culture. In many of his interviews after 2000, he spoke of how little he remembered, and how little he really knew. Let's just say, he knew too much that was healthier to forget.

8. Throughout his career, he was befriended (and used) by the powers that be, even European royalty and the folks at Buckingham Palace. This is one consistent fact of his career: that he always aimed "high" and worked for the darkest forces on earth. At the same time he cultivated a popular image as a man of the people, the perfect exemplar of "sensitivity" and "democratic ideals."

9. His personal life was an astounding mess, which is what one would expect of someone with multiple personalities, a few of which were capable of murder and espionage. You don't get far in a marriage if you're constantly switching alters, and disappearing to go on missions. But when you're Leonard Cohen, your relationship failures end up looking glamorous and evoking envy.

So in the end, Leonard Cohen's most lasting achievement might be fulfilling Dr Cameron's specifications to the letter. Not only was he a controlled public figure throughout his life, but he turned his own slavery into a powerful form of Mastery, through music. We'll be listening to his songs, and absorbing their deep messages, for the rest of our lives. His dark, Satanic programming - courtesy of the CIA -- is now mainstream culture. Hallelujah!

We need to think more deeply about all this before we leap onto that bandwagon.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Various Positions - Ira Nadel

Various Positions: A Life of Leonard CohenVarious Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I am finally getting around to reading this biography which I was asked to review when it first came out in 1996. At the time I was distracted by several factual errors that jumped out at me when I started reading it -- and which caused me to doubt the value of the whole book. I felt it was a staid rehashing of the already well-known (at least to me) facts of Leonard's career and life, by someone who didn't really "get" him, i.e. Nadel did a workmanly job of presenting the material, often without comment, as if he neither particularly liked nor disliked his subject. This time around, I'm impressed mainly by the quantity of his research, e.g. his quoting from Cohen's letters during his the early part of his career when he was struggling to make a name for himself and carve out a position in Canadian literature. In retrospect, his efforts to be taken seriously as a novelist and poet seem almost futile, given the hidden background, and what he was up against. I still see Cohen as a serious writer, whose novels and poems can be read as a multi-faceted assault on the society he had grown up in - but were marred by a kind of narcissistic self-obsession that was probably a cover for some real wounds that few could have fathomed back then.

I've written my own memoir of Cohen: The Man Next Door (available at Lulu.com). It deals with some of my own experiences with Cohen, on the streets of Montreal as I was coming of age, and later on Hydra and Mount Baldy as I got drawn deeper into the mystery religion that he seemed to embody. Since it ends on a bizarre note, I'm now the process of adding more chapters that are based on later realizations, some of which I've been posting at my blog (http://lunamoth1.blogspot.ca) since Leonard's death last November.

Re: Various Positions: one thing that makes it stand out is the raw objectivity some readers complain about. In particular, the chapters about life on Hydra, and Cohen's letters to friends and publishers, reveal sides of him that would shock a lot of his current fans and devotees. I think they probably shocked even Ira Nadel, who serves them up without comment. In fact, the young Cohen was often an obnoxious, self-obsessed megalomaniac who took drugs to deal with his frustrated ambitions. Nadel's biography at least makes it clear why Cohen was both envied and disliked in Canada: he was a braggart addicted to self-aggrandizing hyperbole. Somehow, Europeans were able to overlook this and focus on his songs, some of which were major works of art.

A whole fetishistic cult has lately grown up around him that is often based on trivia, and borders on sanctification -- especially at sites like Cohencentric.com where you can waste hours browsing through old photos, napkins and witty remarks to visited journalists. No singer has ever been more interviewed in his lifetime, and since his death no detail about Cohen's life is too boring to share with his legions of would-be lovers who never had the opportunity in real life to get to know him. But the real Cohen was a puzzle.

He also left behind an unfinished career as a writer -- choosing to reinvent himself in New York, London and Paris, where he could hide behind his image as a sophisticated, likeable iconoclast.

It's the Canadian chapters that are painful to read. I believe Cohen had a message for Canada that he found too overwhelming - which is one reason he had to write Beautiful Losers while high on amphetamines. I don't think anyone ever really penetrated to the core of his fiction, what it was actually about, what it was a screen for - not even Cohen himself. Canadian critics like Northrop Frye liked to suppress the ugly truths in the early poems and novels, calling them 'mythopeic' when in fact they were often closer to straight reportage about a country that was harbouring Nazis and engaging in secret genocide. Those were the real, deep reasons Leonard Cohen felt driven to write -- but Canada didn't really want that kind of writer.

I have to thank Ira Nadel for bringing some of the guck to the surface. In a few years, Cohen's handlers will probably have managed to bury most of it - and with it, the true story of Canada.





View all my reviews

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who Am I?

This is a question I've been meaning to answer. It keeps coming up in connection with finishing my memoir about Leonard Cohen. You might almost say it plagues me. Why do I think my story is important enough to keep telling it, over and over? There are plenty of people who knew Leonard better than I did. I can think of a few: Irving Layton, Nancy Bacal, Morton Rosengarten, Suzanne Elrod, Marianne Ihlen, Bill Cunliffe, Hazel Field --

Or Kelley Lynch - she probably knows him better than anyone, having worked for him for seventeen years.

Some of these people are already dead, unfortunately, while the rest of us soon will be. That in itself is reason to write: to postpone silence. Not that death is an ending, necessarily. Sometimes it's another kick at the can.



**********

Asked if he believed there is life after death, Leonard once said "I hope not."

**********

Really, Who Am I to add my two tiny cents to the hagiographies? How much time did I actually spend with our Man? Adding up the actual hours in his company, maybe they amount to a week or two, spread over twenty years? Most of those meetings left me baffled and confused, frankly. They were profoundly puzzling moments that I spent the next twenty years combing for hidden meaning. And of late, the pieces have begun to coalesce into a kind of giant painting that, finally, makes some real sense.

A while ago in a dream, Leonard appeared stuck in a part of Hell. He was naked and sweating as he hung from a cross. Yes folks: a Cross. I know some of his fans will find this offensive, but after all, it was just my lucid dream. Despite his discomfort, he was very lucid too.

There could be any number of reasons why he was hanging in Hell. There are actions over a lifetime for which time in Hell is the usual punishment. Harming others. Telling lies. Theft and murder. Some things he did while alive were done under pressure, or the influence of drugs. Of course, no one at his Facebook site would believe this but I have to say it because it's the truth. Even Leonard acknowledged all this: besides, it's not exactly news if you pay attention. To survive in the world in which he operated, you have to be a cold-blooded killer. In life, due to his early training, Leonard was game for almost anything, including guilt and regret - but guilt and regret can't erase judgment, and judgment is based on facts. That's the crux of it, the latest round in the endlessly ironic saga that  is Leonard Cohen, even after death.

"Kill or be killed" was the motto he chose at 16 for his high school yearbook, and the name of his first published story. I suspect at graduation he already had some notion of the world he was entering, the one he'd entered at birth.

And the biggest irony: he saw the end coming but couldn't prevent it. So now he's in Hell. And what did he tell me, as he hung there suffering in my dream? As usual, he was a few steps ahead of most of us and spoke plainly, making it clear that he will remain in Hell until he has atoned for the lies he told when he was alive.

In fact, he appeared to be leaving it up to me to tell the truth, and get him out of Hell.

I'll leave that with you for now, while I continue mulling the best approach to this sensitive subject.  Meanwhile, on Hydra today they're unveiling a bench in his memory and celebrating his Life.

Although I never knew him to sit on a bench -- on Hydra he preferred the bar -- I'm sure he wishes he was there now, gazing out at the Peloponnesus.

***********

Let's mince words. I'm not a 'fan'. Or a 'groupie' either. I actually knew Leonard, personally, unlike some of his prominent publicists at LeonardCohenFiles and Cohencentric. They have taken on the Herculean task of presenting him to the world, as he wished to be known. On these sites you will find endless files and archives and discussions offering insight into the side of him that can be discussed in public, and occasionally some bit of information that points in the direction of his secret life. 

I've been banned from both those sites for posting details that reflect his hidden side. My bad. I'm also not particularly welcome at the Leonard Cohen group page on Facebook where I sometimes have felt the need to confront the rampant idolatry. I think you could coherently argue that idolatry is a sin - in fact it's the first one listed in the Ten Commandments. If he were here, and in his right mind, Leonard would be quick to point that out - but instead while he was alive he was quite tolerant of people who idolized him, treating them as the useful idiots they were happy to be.

If I sound harsh and cynical, so be it. It seems I've evolved into some sort of realist.

The Real Leonard was no easy thing to live with, or discuss. I would say in all honesty I loved the Real Leonard and that love was returned, for reasons that never totally made sense. Later, the same love became twisted and a burden I was not prepared to bear. In fact, sorting this out became a Sisyphian task that I wouldn't wish on anyone, not even myself. That's why I abandoned it while Leonard was alive. It just wasn't worth all the misery, undercurrents and slander.

Although typecast as a rejected girlfriend, or worse, I often had access to him when others did not. He put up with me, for unknown reasons, staying in touch over years when I was often confused and angry. He was almost always calm and positive during those private moments that were stolen from the handlers. In most of these secretive meetings nothing happened -- we sat in silence. He was patient, never patronizing or phony. He had perceived that I was clueless about the reasons for our "relationship." With good reason.

I think he was waiting for me to remember our first encounter, decades earlier. I never could. Since it had happened in the context of classified experiments in a notorious mental hospital, while I was a very young child, it was dark and unmentionable -- locked away in a secret closet behind walls of amnesia. Amnesia was a survival strategy allowing me to sidestep the fear and insanity that swallowed certain others who had been through the same thing. My mind was, thankfully, still blank.

I know this now, but I didn't back then.  But Leonard knew. He chose not to speak about it. "If you don't know, then I can't tell you." He simply waited. Meanwhile, the others came and went, serving the public figure.

I cannot endorse the public figure known as Leonard Cohen. That persona was (and is) a fabrication, designed by secret committee to delude us. It worked like a charm. People still believe in it because, after all, what choice do they have? They didn't know him. They never met him when he was a young  mental patient undergoing "psychic driving" in the hands of CIA psychiatrists under intense pressure by their funding agencies to create artificial personalities who would serve their masters, body and soul, as robotized slaves and entertainers. 

Conspiracy theory, you say? It's not a theory when you've lived it.

 *********

Oddly, this old poem appeared the other day. It's about "Annie" -- surely you've read it, if you're a Cohen fan, in which case you know it was written in the late 1950s for his first girlfriend, Anne Sherman. I remember it from long ago but, until just now, I never thought twice about it.

Now of Sleeping (from The Spice Box of Earth)

Under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
a calico bird's-eye view
of crops and boundaries
naming dimly the districts of her body
sleeps my Annie like a perfect lady

Like ages of weightless snow
on tiny oceans filled with light
her eyelids enclose deeply
a shade tree of birthday candles
one for every morning
until the now of sleeping

The small banner of blood
kept and flown by Brother Wind
long after the pierced bird fell down
is like her red mouth
among the squalls of pillow

Bearers of evil fancy
of dark intention and corrupting fashion
who come to rend the quilt
plough the eye and ground the mouth
will contend with mighty Mother Goose
and Farmer Brown and all good stories
of invincible belief
which surround her sleep
like the golden weather of a halo

Well-wishers and her true lover
may stay to watch my Annie
sleeping like a perfect lady
under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
but they must promise to whisper
and to vanish by morning -
all but her one true lover.

 
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I recognize this scene. And it does seem odd that he would address his twenty-something lover Anne as if she were a sleeping child. Of course, in Cohen's poems, women often are depicted asleep. Still, it seems like the wrong erotic approach. No wonder she left him! And who are the "Bearers of evil fancy of dark intention and corrupting fashion/ who come to rend the quilt/ plough the eye and ground the mouth" ? How did these violent monsters invade this child's dreamworld, and the poem? Who am I to question? Nevertheless, it adds another layer to the surfacing mysteries --




Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Fisher Library


The University of Toronto's Fisher Library is the final resting place of Leonard Cohen's manuscripts. As I happened to be in Toronto overnight last month, I decided to pay a visit to the collection on a rainy Thursday afternoon - which happened to be the only day the library remains open until 8 pm. Because of other appointments I had less than four hours to spend, but it was a start.

I was particularly interested in Cohen's early work. There were several boxes of unpublished writing, so I asked for the first three -- someone had been there ahead of me and they were already sitting on the trolley. Each was filled with folders usually consisting of a few pages -- sometimes many pages -- of manuscripts which either he or someone else had typed on "corraseable bond." Look that up if you don't know what it is -- when I was a creative writing student in the late sixties our professor recommended it to us. It freed us from sticky Taperaser and bottles of White-Out, those other tools of the trade. Leonard's early manuscripts are all neatly typed on this brittle pink-beige paper, using the same pica typeface, and much of the writing (as one might expect) is sophomoric - after all, he was a sophomore then -- and some of it is downright boring. In fact, for the first couple of hours, I struggled to stay awake. I had not been expecting that.

There were short stories. Not many. Neatly typed and formatted for submission to magazines like, let's say, The New Yorker or the Saturday Evening Post. Some title pages had his mother's address on Belmont Avenue in the top left-hand corner. Others were sent from a room on Stanley Street, just down the hill from McGill. I'm guessing Leonard rented a room downtown not just to write in, but also to entertain ladies, pursuing a career according to the guidelines laid out by Writers Digest for hardworking hacks in the 1950s. This was the era when writers all hankered after the kind of sudden, miraculous fame that was awarded to J.D. Salinger for his first novel Catcher in the Rye. It certainly beat going into the family clothing business.

Leonard's early plots are not lacking in Jewish angst. A young man is trying to get laid, and with the help of a more experienced friend, hires a call girl.The twist at the end, such as it is: on their first date he asks her to marry him, stealing her from the older man who brings them together -- .

Another story is set on a street in Westmount and concerns a naive teenage boy and the mysterious girl down the street who plays the recorder -- he calls it a "wooden-flute" which angers her so much she cracks him on the head with it. Although she's clearly a controlling bitch, even a budding sadist, he feels drawn to her garage, where he and a friend are controlled and punished by Recorder-Girl. This story feels autobiographical, like an attempt to fictionalize dull reality, but it peters out before going anywhere.

A third story was set in a boathouse in the Laurentians, and involved some voyeurism -- as the young Jewish protagonist attempts to entertain a French Canadian couple who are camping nearby, and ends up competing unsuccessfully with the man who is charming and handsome but as they"re speaking English, the Leonard-like character has a certain advantage. Wistfully he watches from a distance as the boy and girl embrace in their tent with the light on, casting shadows that make him feel envious and alone.

By the time I'd finished these three stories I was beginning to feel Leonard's life-long  battle with depression as if it were my own. The boredom and pointlessness were more than I'd bargained for. No wonder publishers rejected these stories which (to be honest) showed little sign of talent or creative imagination. The thought of young Leonard renting a downtown room for the purpose of  hammering out these turkeys made me feel faint. Stifled and conventional at an age most of us associate with risk and rebelliousness, he sought vicarious thrills in midnight strolls down Boulevard St-Antoine, peering into downtown windows.

Older women show up here and there in these vignettes -- that's what these were, rather than stories. In another, a young man is living at home with his mother and elderly grandfather who suffers from dementia, pees on the floor, and needs round the clock nursing care - apparently money is lacking and the narrator feels pervasive hopelessness in the face of a situation that offers no escape but death.

I got the sense that, while still an undergraduate, Leonard often felt helpless and trapped. But he kept on writing, because it offered a way out. He also wrote poems at that age, a few strong ones. The first to get published was the hair-raising "A Hallowe'en Poem" which describes a group of children who are sacrificing birds and small animals in their quiet suburban backyards -- it was published and drew a letter of praise from the rabbi of Hillel House. I'll get back to that theme - sacrifice - later because it's repeated.

Ballet of Lepers, his first (unpublished) novel, fills several folders in the collection and partly woke me from my stupour in the library. Rambling and unstructured, it provides surrealistic and violent glimpses into the mind of a disturbed young man who is losing his innocence. The characters include an old man modelled on Leonard's grandfather, and the young hero who is having an affair with the wife of one of his professors. There's plenty of desensitization, boredom and cruelty -- in fact these are major themes of the young Cohen's fiction. A hated and worshipped mother looms in the background, like the executioner of dreams.

Ballet of Lepers is nothing like The Favourite Game -- it's more of an account of a descent into mental illness. In reality, Leonard ended up in the Allan Memorial in 1958 under the care of the notorious Dr. Cameron. You might even think this strange confessional novella was concocted for the pshrinks rather than the public - it has that feel of something written to simulate madness.

I haven't even mentioned the drafts of early poems, some of which made it into Let Us Compare Mythologies -- they also leave a strange impression, of someone trying very hard to be a poet, as if his life depended on it. Biblical and mythopoeic themes meet tales of adultery and sadomasochism.
The professor and his wife show up in several folders, including one long short story which has three pages missing from the middle - just as things were heating up in the young protagonist's secret affair.

You want it darker? The library was closing - it was ten minutes to eight as I fished out the last folder, labeled DISCARDS from The Spice-Box of Earth. About a dozen poems in all, precise, polished pieces, describing a pagan ritual on the slopes of a mountain. A little girl, nine years old, is kneeling on the path. A horned figure. And a heart being pulled from a living body. Not just one poem, but several.The images flash by as if in a nightmare, cut from the final draft. Who discarded them: Leonard or his editor? Why?

The smiling librarian took back the box and wished me good night -- he had a slight German accent. There had been no time to copy the poems, or even reread them. They seemed to describe something witnessed, not imagined -- from the time when Dr. Cameron was running amok in the corridors of the Allan Memorial, long before the true nature of his experiments on patients was known.

The missing poems were dark glimpses into the elite secret society that he had joined at McGill.  The Spice Box of Earth went on to win the 1961 Governor General's Award for poetry, without those all-important, climactic pages.

I'm on a lake in northern Ontario, the kind of place Canadians used to go to write their brooding first novels -- The blackflies are biting -- it's getting darker. I'm going inside.


 **************************************

Painting by David Barclay, ca. 1990
Last night was quite a night. I watched Hitchcock's "Marnie" for the first time -- it's about early childhood sexual abuse, committed by a stranger, and a young woman who can't remember what happened to her. Then this morning I dreamed about Leonard.


We were on Hydra in the heat of summer. A house on "Donkeyshit Lane", the street of stone steps downhill from Leonard's. This house was grander, like a museum, filled with gleaming marble. I'd just dragged my luggage upstairs when Leonard walked in. He looked the way he did at 45, in 1979, my first visit to the island. But emotionally, something had shifted -- he had four more decades of insight and now he was ready to be open and honest. Ready even to listen. He agreed it was time for certain secrets to come out in the open.

We were talking in fluent Greek, for some reason. I had to lean in close to catch what he was saying, expressing thoughts and feelings he never would have in English. Light poured in through  windows and doorways, as in a temple. He said he had to leave "at four o'clock" but he would be back soon. He was wearing what looked like a uniform. In real life, he often phoned and asked me over just before he left for some appointment, that he would never talk about. I would sit at the kitchen table while he shaved in the bathroom, checking himself in the mirror before putting on his hat. Back then, he would fit me into a busy schedule and this habit has followed him into the next world.

In the dream, after he left I went out on the balcony where women were hanging out coloured sheets. One of them asked me if I spoke Greek -- I said yes. She held up her two white cats and asked if I could help remove two fat tics from their bellies.

The uniform sums up Leonard better than anything. He was always, secretly, in the military. Just look at those old photos from the sixties, taken on Hydra. He had a fondness for soldierly dress casuals.

As for those poems, and the secret societies, and his McGill contacts, and all that happened before he was famous: none of it is so farfetched once you know the secret history. In fact, I've heard it all before, from witnesses. I'm guessing there are plenty of clues in the boxes at the Fisher Library, and plenty that we'll never know.

So I'm guessing he had limited choices, given the world he came from. And that when you're born into that kind of background, your fate is pre-determined by all kinds of agreements and obligations. You can walk away, but there are consequences. Or you can kill yourself, but once you've put that option aside, you have to follow orders much of the time.

Irving Layton called him a self-hating narcissist -- that was also my view. Now I think it was that or a total breakdown. "They" -- whoever they were -- his uncles, bosses, handlers, mentors -- knew how to use blackmail. I think his life was actually a series of double binds. The more miserable he was with where he ended up, the better he looked from the outside, and the more envy he attracted.

Few understood what he was up against. "They don't know who they're dealing with," was one of his phrases, along with "they'll never catch us" or "If you don't know, I can't tell you" or "Why do you hate me? I never helped you."

Or "Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord."

Once you step into an Avalanche, there is no stepping out. And anyone in the vicinity will get buried alive as well.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Leonard Cohen: out on a Limb ...

  • SEPTEMBER 30 2017
  • The shocking sequel to The Man Next Door....

     

    LEONARD COHEN: OUT ON A LIMB

    by Ann Diamond

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pete de Wolf R.I.P



I recently learned of the untimely death of Pete de Wolf.  I knew he had been admitted to an Ottawa Hospital last autumn, but I lost track of him after that Facebook announcement. I just assumed, or hoped, he would be all right. despite his diagnosis. His death really touched me -- I met him only twice after he contacted me about his history as a subject in classified experiments in Montreal during the MKULTRA era He was sixty, and had managed to recover his hospital records from the early 60s. He shared copies with me and I made the following notes:

As it happened, he was on his way to a meeting in London, Ontario, where I was also headed.  So, we spent several hours in his car together, stopping for lunch at a diner on the 401.

NOTES: 

Pete picked me up in the Ottawa bus station on Sunday, October 6, 2013 and drove me to London ON where i am now. Pete is assistant news director of MYFM, a network of radio stations based around eastern and southwestern Ontario.

HERE IS HIS STORY, that he shared with me, backed up by copies of his hospital records:

Pete De Wolf: born 1953, August 28
He had brought copies of his childhood psychiatry files from the Douglas Hospital and Montreal Children's Hospital dating back to 1962 when he was a 9 year old first admitted because of bizarre behaviour, hallucinations and delusions causing his adopting parents, an older couple (Air Force father b. 1906?, mother born 1916 in western Canada...), to have him admitted under Heinz Lehmann's care.
At age 10 or 11 he was placed in a ward with 100 adult patients, many of whom were psychotic and on heavy doses of Largactil. Later Lehmann recommended he be transferred to the Adolescent Unit.
Peter's records include drugs (Chlorpromazine and others), use of electroshock and flashing lights. He was given EEGs to measure brain waves while on Largactil and also asleep.

There are detailed reports from psychiatrists and psychologists. Several describe him as a "schizophrenic boy", "latent schizophrenic" or "adolescent schizophrenic" although no clinical proof is ever given to support this diagnosis and several reports say he presents no symptoms of psychosis.
Some refer to delusions that he is receiving "electromagnetic signals and messages from the Minutemen" although Peter denies he ever mentioned Minutemen or even heard of them. He believes this and other details, such as the names of certain schools he is supposed to have attended but did not, were simply invented by psychiatrists at the Douglas and added to his file.
See "Minutemen" -- a rightwing paramilitary organization that began in the early 60s and carried out bombing attacks in the US and Canada (one in Toronto), had connections with anti-Castro militias, the Process Church and Charles Manson, as well as Odinism. So -- probably another CIA front group. How an 11-year-old could be involved and hospitalized for imagining he was in "electromagnetic" contact with them is an interesting question... 
In fact, from age 8 he became fascinated with radio and set up his own radio station in the family basement in Montreal West. He later went on to have a successful career as a broadcaster and correspondent for the BBC from Central American.
Peter's records show before age 12 he was routinely given up to 300 mgs of Largactil -- this is the maximum adult dose and can cause heart failure - even though in his case it was also contraindicated by his photosensitivity (noted in his records). He was also made to work outside shovelling snow in winter for up to 8 hours at a stretch.

Peter has been unable to locate his birth parents. His adoptive parents are described in the records as authoritarian, rigid, cold, and ineffectual. Peter's father worked for the Royal Banks of Canada and his mother was a music teacher. When they refused to allow him to run his radio station in their basement and pursue a radio career, he threatened them verbally which led to his being sent to the Douglas in 1962 for the first time.
He was hospitalized and medicated for months at a time, and moved from school to school including Lower Canada College in Montreal and Wakefield Boarding School in Ontario (elite school/college attended by Prince Andrew, Paul Desmarais, and others)

His records raise many questions: I am guessing his Air Force adoptive father may have enrolled him in Dr. Cameron's program where he was given LSD before age 9 (late 1950s) when he began presenting symptoms of psychosis and was hastily transferred to Dr. Lehmann --

His parents appear not to have cared for him, had no other children, and encouraged his early departure from their home. At age 16 he left for PEI to live with his then girlfriend.

THE MINUTEMEN ORGANIZATION appears to have been a CIA cutout… connections with the Process Church, Charles Manson, Soldier of Fortune magazine etc.

 **************


So Peter is gone, and will not see his story in print -- unless he's reading this from the next world. I was reluctant to share it while he was alive. Why write this sad tale at all, rather let it settle into the dust – except that other survivors tell me they benefit from knowing they are not alone...

Thank you, Pete! Miss you --

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


So Long, Marianne: A Love StorySo Long, Marianne: A Love Story by Kari Hesthamar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For all its studied naivete, Marianne Ihlen's book could be a cautionary tale about the dangers of swimming in unknown waters.

Follow the money, and the CIA-MKULTRA connection. It's 1961 and Leonard's true whereabouts -- the Bay of Pigs invasion -- is not even mentioned even though it's well documented elsewhere and Marianne had to know, even if only in retrospect. Fall of 1961: six months later, payment has materialized and she leaves her mother's house in Oslo to live with Leonard in Montreal, a short walk from the Allan Memorial Institute -- she doesn't mention Dr Cameron, just that the couple lived for a time in spacious luxury, along with baby Axel, son of Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen.

No explanation for where the money supporting this lifestyle came from, only that it wasn't from poetry, or even the alleged "television series" that Leonard was working on with Irving Layton. Also it didnt last long because soon they were back on Hydra scrounging for cast off clothes and furniture. So I think this 1961 windfall came courtesy of Allen Dulles and his ragtag Cuban brigade that took Leonard to Havana and probably served as the inspiration for one of his very first songs, "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes."

Because I knew these people, years later, I find the artsy cover story trite - why do people buy the "flowers on the table" nonsense? It was not a stable or happy relationship even in 1960, before Leonard took off for America, and Marianne sent her 6 month old son to her mother in Norway on a SAS plane after meeting some pilots in the port of Hydra. After her baby departs for the north, Marianne stays on Hydra with Leonard, who was perfectly capable of putting his own flowers on the table. Maybe he needed a cook and bedmate -- although we're told that most of the housework was done by a neighbour, Kiria Sophia. What kept her and Leonard so occupied in their new life together, before their long drive up to Norway? As someone else has noted, everything about 1960 seems slightly iffy and dreamlike, at times cringe-worthy, as writing can be when it's avoiding some unmentionable truth. My guess is that Leonard was getting ready to go to America on a mission, which entailed a period of training before the CIA invasion brigade reached Cuba in the spring of 1961.

Significantly that same year, Marianne's estranged husband was spending much time with his new American girlfriend Patricia whose life revolved around the US base in Athens. Later he would write that he felt "banished" from Hydra (he had wrecked their house in a fit of rage one night, propelling Marianne into the arms of her Canadian poet admirer who lived up the hill.) We learn of Jensen mainly through his letters, usually angry in tone and content, however he never seems to have a bad word to say about the man who took his wife and child. "Leonard has the gift of making himself admired," writes Jensen, "which is why I will keep myself lurking in the background." It almost sounds, at times, as if the two men were cronies instead of rivals. Although broke (like Leonard, he never made real money from writing) the elder Jensen flies off to Mexico to be with his mysterious American friend (handler?) John Starr Cooke, over the winter of 1960- 1961. Cooke feeds him LSD and later Axel and Leonard get their novels reviewed and become famous writers overnight although reviews are just mixed--

(That same year LIFE magazine puts together a feature on the artists of Hydra, showcasing Leonard in particular, as a guitar-playing entertainer although at the time he had not yet written any song. The article is never published and Marianne doesn't mention it in her memoir, but many of her Hydra circle appear in the photos. LIFE Magazine was heavily CIA-controlled, of course, and Hydra writer, George Johnston, was one of its stringers, although by 1960 he was ill with tuberculosis.S0 1960 was some sort of turning point, not just for Leonard and Marianne, but for the island -- stars were rising, powerful people were taking notice -- or perhaps all this was being orchestrated from elsewhere? )

LSD played a bigger role on the island than one would expect in 1960 and also later on. Marianne notes that the wife of Hydra resident John Cassipides was the daughter of LSD guru Aldous Huxley. For anyone familiar with the history of the Tavistock Institute, and its role in promoting the "counter-culture", it should be clear that all this was happening a little early. Either these future cultural icons were amazingly prescient in their drug-taking habits, or someone was the handing them the blueprint for what would become Flower Power and the sixties "revolution". Like her fellow island-dwellers who were busy breaking up their marriages in an endless cycle of drinking and partying, Marianne went along with the trends before they were really trendy.

Later (ca 1967) the same "John Starr Cooke" character invites Marianne to his Oaxaca estate where he feeds her more LSD -- apparently the only form of therapy available at the time. You have to wonder about the presence of so many well-funded gurus whose only job is to encourage people to turn in, tune in and drop out. A daughter of Aldous Huxley marries into the Hydra art community - how could all this not be, somehow, outside the realm of coincidence? Rather it seems that Hydra was chosen as a floating human laboratory, a place to bring together a flock of "unstables" - a social engineering term for change-bringers, the kind of people who influence others to accept new ideas and ways of life.

Maybe what Leonard saw in Marianne, was not just a Muse -- I'm sure she was one -- but also a borrowed wife and child to serve as a foil for his secret activities? Am I being cynical for suspecting his motives in living with a woman he repeatedly cheated on and eventually abandoned?

In one letter he refers to Axel Jensen's son, baby Axel, as "Barnet" (?) What were they all thinking? Apparently nobody including Marianne really wanted this little boy. Not mentioned: When he was 11 baby Axel took LSD provided by wealthy Hydra resident and self-appointed guru George Lialios. The story of little Axel is one of the saddest chapters in the history of this famous couple - today he remains a casuality, permanently residing in a mental institution in Norway. How could Marianne not have realized their magical mystery tour would end tragically as she packed the boy off to private schools in Switzerland, then to Summerhill in the UK, ignoring his pleas to be rescued from this experiment? In the end Axel joined a lost generation that included Lilly Mack's son Sergei and Magda ' s Alexander, both drug takers and drug dealers. Although Sergei has survived, Alexander died young of complications from a sponge diving accident - I was on Hydra in 1981 when the accident happened.

When will these Hydra cover stories stop dipping into the same barrel of clichés? Yes, the expatriates who flocked to the island were talented and young and ready to do anything to make it - but let's not pretend all this is only about the artistic life. Some were artists but others were mercenaries and intelligence operatives in search of a safe haven to do business. Art was present but - especially after the Greek junta (timed to coincide with the Flower Power revolution) -- the real money came from inherited fortunes, as well as drugs and weapons. When Leonard and Marianne arrived on Hydra, Operation Gladio was in full swing -- and western governments and their intelligence arms were intent on taking control of culture in order to engineer future generations. All this was part of the agenda that aimed to profit the wealthy - and Greece was a magnet for all kinds of offshore investments. Ambitious young writers seeking quick fame and fortune soon learned they needed to moonlight to get by - and the rewards for secret work in the service of the CIA could be impressive.

**********************************
TWO DAYS LATER
Now that I've finished, I'm giving it 3 stars instead of 2. Later chapters had more to offer - including inadvertent insights into the 'hidden hand' operating behind the curtain of Leonard and Marianne's lives, but I can't list them all right now. It seems more than odd that Axel Jensen just happened to check into R.D. Laing's private clinic in London for more LSD and therapy. There is a colourful chapter set in Mexico where Marianne goes seeking solace with Axel's American guru "John Smith" - whose teachings come straight out of Esalen and sensitivity training. A strange and compelling chapter about New York in the Chelsea Hotel days as Leonard was starting to make a career in music - while Marianne struggles with poverty and abandonment on Clinton Street -- reveals much sadness and desperation between the lines.

Marianne at times comes across as a lost creature -- not at all how I had imagined her. I met her once, on Hydra, in 1981 - she had recently remarried and seemed solid, sane, and matronly if shy and withdrawn. As she looks back, in her seventies, at her life as one half of a legendary couple, she seems incapable of seeing through the myths, the amazing deceptions, that made up the legend. But this is true of all the characters, even the hyper-critical novelist Axel Jensen whom she married, and his poetry-spewing rival Leonard Cohen who never really noticed other people.

So Long, Marianne is peopled by ghosts who gave themselves up to the poisoned zeitgeist, sacrificing heir own, ant others', lives in pursuit of fame and momentary 'enlightenment' --

When I closed the book last night, my overwhelming feeling was of pity for the players in this tragedy -- but I'll probably have more to say later. For another account of what Hydra and Leonard were like in the early 80s, read my self-published memoir The Man Next Door. There was more going on than Marianne Ihlen's ghost-written book merely hints at.


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