When Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne came out I thought I knew the Suzanne in question. Suzanne Verdal, Armand Vaillaincourt’s girlfriend. I left Montreal soon thereafter and didn’t give it another thought till tonight. I watched Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man while prone on my sofa suffering with another damn cold. In the film Lenny tells the story of going to Suzanne’s flat by the river. She serves him an orange and Constant Comment tea, a popular beverage at the time – I remember Tina making it for me at her Jeanne Mance flat, also not far from the river. Tina and I were just friends, like Leonard and Suzanne. I include her picture here because I have none of Suzanne – or Leonard.
Tina drawing at her Jeanne Mance table. The Constant Comment obscured by bad focus.
Suzanne was a dancer, tall and of course extremely beautiful. I didn’t know her well – just well enough to be in love with her, as we all were. And neither did I know Vaillancourt beyond a nod and a “salut!” when we’d rub elbows at Le Bistro on Mountain Street where we all hung out, including Suzanne and Cohen. I often went to Le Bistro with Candy Lutz. She’d drink Dubonnet and I drank beer.
Vaillancourt was and as far as I know still is a great sculptor. We looked similar, being the only two guys in Montreal with extremely long hair and beards, before this became a trend. I was occasionally mistaken for him – sometimes even by him – which came in handy attending the many vernissages around town. Montreal was a great city for Art and there was at least one vernissage every night of the week and these always included as much wine as you needed, so I went to a lot. Sometimes you’d need an invitation to get in but I suppose I looked too much like an artist to be refused and, like I say, sometimes they thought I was Vaillancourt himself.
Cohen is without doubt a genius. To me more a poet than a singer/songwriter but, really, what’s the difference other than the fact that I’ve owned his books but none of his records? I had a copy of the limited edition Spice Box of Earth years ago, which I treasured, but of course lost it, having moved so often. I enjoyed the movie. The director throws in some pointless arty effects and everyone’s so reverent . . . a bit much . . . but still. It’s always a treat to see old friends on the big screen or, in my case, the small screen. Kate, Anna, Martha, and Rufus are in it. They should have made this in Montreal I think – not in Australia for god sakes, but that’s just me.
I always wonder why I left Montreal when I see something like this, that reminds of what’s become a mythological city. I get so homesick still, after all these years. But that’s another story.