Another night, [Leonard] Cohen and I talk about his reputation as a ladies’ man. He says: “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.”
Is the appetite still strong for Cohen?
“No. A while back I was visiting my old friend, the poet Irving Layton. He’s close to ninety now. We were having a smoke and he said, ‘Leonard, have you noticed any decline in your sexual interest?’ I said, ‘I have, Irving.’ He said, ‘I’m relieved to hear that, Leonard.’ I said, ‘So I take it, Irving, you’ve experienced some decline in your sexual interest?’ He said, ‘Yes, I have.’ I said, ‘When did you begin to notice this decline in your sexual interest?’ He said, ‘Oh, about the age of sixteen or seventeen.’
“And its true in a certain way. It’s never that hot as it is in those years. I don’t know whether sex was ever magic for me. It was unavoidably intense – the hunt – but it never really worked. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable. It was just an unavoidable urgency that left me no options.”
Interviewed by Mikal Gilmore, 2001
Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents (2008)
Photo by Jan Saudek: Dedicated to Pierre B. (1988)