Leonard Cohen’s 1983 Musical for Canadian Television: I Am a Hotel

One of the more curious pieces in Leonard Cohen’s illustrious catalogue is his romantic half-hour musical, I Am a Hotel, made for Canadian television in 1983. The film is essentially a long-form music video. It was inspired by his song “The Guests,” which begins:

One by one, the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few

The film tells the story, through music and dance, of the romantic yearnings of the hotel’s staff and guests, with Cohen appearing throughout the film as the detached but sympathetic storyteller. “It’s light entertainment,” Cohen told the Toledo Blade in 1985. “It uses songs from my first record up through recent songs.” Those songs are:

  1. “The Guests” from the 1979 album Recent Songs.
  2. “Memories” from the 1977 album Death of a Ladies’ Man.
  3. “The Gypsy’s Wife” from Recent Songs.
  4. “Chelsea Hotel #2” from the 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony.
  5. “Suzanne” from his 1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

I Am a Hotel was filmed at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto over a six-day period in April of 1983. It was directed by Allan F. Nicholls and written by Cohen and Mark Shekter. The cast included ice skating champion Toller Cranston as “The Manager,” dancer and choreographer Anne Ditchburn as “The Gypsy Wife,” and Celia Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada, as “The Diva.” The film was first broadcast in Canada on May 7, 1984, and although it went on to win a Golden Rose at the Montreux International Television Festival, it has rarely been shown since. The version above is from Dutch television.

Related content:

Leonard Cohen Reads “The Future”

The 2005 Documentary, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

The 1965 Documentary, Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen

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Comments (4)
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  • P. Coristine says:

    Thanks so much for this post. In the wake of Toller Cranston’s recent death I was put in mind of this production and was so glad to find it online. Thanks again!

  • John Kelly says:

    I saw this video on Australia’s SBS channel, many years ago, on one dreary Good Friday afternoon. A great video that I would recommend everyone to see.

    But, watch to the very end! Because there is a memorial there to David Blue. I search record shops in Brisbane and Sydney for this artist. Remember, this was pre-google, possibly even pre-internet. Eventually to my great delight I found the album Stories, by David Blue.

    These days, all of his albums can be found on the internet.

  • Roz Martin says:

    Looking for Toller …
    I found this interest piece.
    Dutch …hmmm.

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