Twenty-seven years ago, I went to my first and I suppose only Juno Awards show.
The Juno Awards are named after Pierre Juneau, one of my early public service heros who was instrumental in establishing Canadian Content (Can-Con) in broadcasting as a way to promote Canadian talent. The Junos honor the best in Canadian music from the previous year based on sales and the opinion of selected judges. The first of the Junos was in 1971. This Juno that I was about to attend was the 20th and was historic in that it was the first to be held outside of The Big Smoke … Toronto.
I am not sure how I might have scammed one more blessed press pass but it may have come from Sask. Report magazine looking for another story on our beloved Saskatchewan roots musician, Colin James. Colin did end up with Best Male Vocalist later that evening.
But I am getting ahead of my story …
I remember catching the Number 4 bus from Kitsalano and getting off at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the West End. I was a bit nervous but looking forward to hanging out in a joint filled with some of the very best of Canadian music … later that evening, for example, the Tragically Hip would win Entertainer of the Year.
I was just basically loafing around in the main foyer of the theatre when the start announcement came and everyone headed inside for the big show.
For some reason, I chose to stay out in that entrance hall a little longer. I was in no hurry and like a squirrel, I had become peculiarly distracted by a small table completely covered in little round, black, plastic discs.
So there I was, all alone in this huge space, like a bit of a goof, trying to imagine what in the world these little objects were put on the earth for …
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lovely couple step out from behind a door. She was rather stunning in an iconic little, black dress and he was impressive with slicked back hair and black tux.
Oh, oh … I was staring at Leonard Cohen.
He stared back.
Perhaps he just saw the little black discs as well and was a bit curious … perhaps he just lost his mind for a moment, but for some odd reason he started to walk towards me. For me, it was starting to become truly a “Depends” moment.
I was not thrilled … I was terrified.
He came right up to that little table. I am thinking … what do I do? Do I tell him how much I love his music and how much I still love tea and oranges? No, that would be too much the gushing fan … Should I try to fake a real journalist stance and ask him some in depth questions about his career and how he feels about his induction in to the Hall of Fame tonight?
Uh, uh … I am way above my pay grade here.
Those readers, who know me, recognize in me, a true motor mouth. I talk a lot, listen little and generally have a great deal of difficulty staying chill, as the kids say ….
Now, picture these little imaginary guys who sit on your shoulders, giving differing bits of advice. At that moment, one was energetically advising me to jump in and engage this guy …it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity! The other little guy was just as adamant … shut up you fool, you have nothing in your little pitiful catalog of words to bring to this poet.
Back and forth … the silent little guy won. I said not one word.
He smiled, she smiled.
One of us, I can’t remember which, picked up one of the little black discs and stuck it in an eye, like a pirate.
The other followed.
One disc, then two discs, no discs … back and forth.
Hallelujah, I thought, I am playing with Leonard Cohen.
That went on for a few amazing minutes.
Then, just as suddenly, the lovely woman smiled, Leonard tipped his head as he does, wordlessly thanking me for the game and saying good-bye.
They walked away into the theater where the redoubtable Moses Znaimer would soon induct him into the Canadian Hall of Fame.
It still took me a while to unstick from my own dozy self and finally walk, a little unsteady, into the theatre.
Truth be told I remember very little about the rest of the night but I do recall that once again Leonard was ahead of the curve when he named the previous fifteen inductees and pointed out that only two of them were women. “It is going to be hard to get a date in the Hall of Fame“, he noted.
I have of late, tried to finish a song where I ponder the wonder of that moment when I had just enough insight to “shut the front door” as they say.
It’s a work in progress but the chorus is coming out something like this …
I met Leonard at a table full of symbols
Nothing said, that pot was never stirred
In silent play, I still received an earful
Don’t bring the poet another batch of words
Don’t bring the poet another batch of words