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Friday, September 29, 2017

The Op Cafe 1967

In 1967, Paul McCartney was dead and the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, on which we were introduced Paul's replacement, sometimes known as "Billy Shears" (seen here on right).

The new Paul looked nothing like the old Paul - I remember we all noticed he had aged, and grown a long face, but we were young at the time and could not imagine such a complicated deception. 

That Paul was replaced is undeniable fact, in my opinion. Just compare faces. The real Paul McCartney had died in the fall of 1966, under suspicious circumstances. By 1967 an enormous psy-op was underway that would target and transform my generation.

So what else happened in 1967?

Well, for one thing I had turned 16 and was living with my parents in a suburb of Montreal. Some of my friends were being drawn to the downtown scene, including the coffee houses and clubs where folk music was now the rage.

Also, Leonard Cohen moved back to Montreal that year (Marianne Ihlen moved there from Greece along with him) and was living not far from McGill University - a pattern he continued throughout his life. He had rented a modest flat at 3657 Aylmer which happened to be a few doors awat from a new coffee house, The Yellow Door, at 3625. The Yellow Door was a McGill social outreach project which became a Montreal institution. It's still there today.
Leonard was getting into music. This was even announced in the 1966 documentary, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen" - a strangely fawning NFB film by Donald Britten that bent over backwards to make Cohen appear to be a rising star, although he was 32 and past his due date by sixties standards. It was also announced on CBC by the lovely future Governor General herself, Adrienne Clarkson. That's how I saw Leonard for the first time, at age 15. He sang "The Stranger Song" and I was mesmerized. On that show, Leonard look a bit like Paul McCartney, eitherbecause everybody was trying to, or to appear younger, or because he wanted to associate himself with the British invasion.


He'd missed the boat as a novelist, and poetry was hardly a money-earner - but anything Leonard did garnered publicity in Canadian media circles. In retrospect, people might say he had a knack for self-promotion, and knew the right people. Which is true but it's not the whole story. Leonard always managed to put himself in the public eye, despite his famous humility, but there were also people in the background who wanted him to be visible.

In those days, he could be seen humbly perched on the steps of the Op Cafe around the corner from his new apartment on Aylmer. The Op Cafe  (later The Image) became a hippie hangout in about 1967, the summer of love, and attracted kids to downtown Montreal. Take a look at these photos from Kristian Gravenor's Coolopolis blog. Note how these photo feature some "alienated youth" who were growing their hair long, forming motorcycle gangs, exploring drugs and free love on the streets of North America. See the guy with the guitar. I think that's Leonard on the steps of the Op - whose somewhat tacky logo is clearly visible behind him.



In fact that block of flats had been bought up by the Nerenberg family whose son, Mark, was the director of the Yellow Door - that's a coincidence, I guess, but Montreal is small and tight like that and the same people show up everywhere owning everything.  A few years later, just after the 1970 October Crisis, I would move into a student coop two block east on  another street bought up by the Nerenbergs who were our slum landlords. I even joined the Milton-Parc Citizens Committee to fight their plan for demolition of cheap housing in our neighbourhood in order to build the giant complex known as La Cité, which now stands on the very site of the Op Café. 
Another Nerenberg - Albert - a McGill Daily editor and journalist who covered the 1990 Oka Crisis for the Montreal Mirror, came on my Facebook page about three years ago. He and his sock puppet troop took great offense to something I'd posted and were so aggressive I had to block them. Well, actually, all of them appeared to be Albert Nerenberg operating under fake identities. A self-described Laughologist, and professional hypnotist specialized in "mind control" and neurolinguistic programming - Albert was also involved with an internet site called Disinfo - but all this is another story. 
Back to that photo of Leonard on the steps with guitar and Beatle haircut. I think I discern the moustache he sported at the time. It's slightly blurred, like the photo which shows him serenading the alienated youth, seen sitting on the pavement because in those days no one cared if you sat down the the sidewalk especially if there was folk music in the air. Two hippies in the foreground appear to be doing their homework - they probably go to McGill which is a few blocks to the west. A filthy kerb with buses going by is a great place to write a term paper while taking in some hypnotic guitar playing. 

All this is happening around the corner from Leonard's new flat which is next to the Yellow Door  which is owned by McGill and down the street from the Allan Memorial Institute, also owned by McGill, home of Dr Cameron and his MKULTRA subproject 68 - on drugs, hypnosis and sleep. Do you notice any connections here? What are the chances that this new hangout was also connected to McGill? Doesn't "The Op" sound like a name these scientists might give to a café? 

It's 1967, not that long after Dr Cameron's McGill-based experiments had been shut down, and also around the time the notorious pshrink died suddenly of a heart attack while climbing a mountain - after which his files were seized by the CIA because they revealed he was experimenting on children in Montreal.
And as I keep telling you, Leonard was also a product of MKULTRA - he even said so at various times to various people. And here we see him humbly (albeit "hypnotically") serenading passersby on the steps of the Op Café, and at the threshold of a long career in music. He has been appearing in films (like The Ernie Game, where he also hypnotically serenades a group of stoned young people at a Westmount party) and on national television. He is recognizable to some Montrealers. That photo looks like it could have been snapped by a passing photographer who also recognized him.

Two other photos taken around the Op Café look professionally posed, and totally phony. Perhaps that's why they were never released. But they seem to tell a story. Thanks to Kristian Gravenor for sharing them!


Let's start with the one of the girl with perfect hair and Mary Quant outfit, whom I happen to recognize as the niece of a famous Canadian painter who painted those mysterious horses galloping at night down train tracks - you must have seen them. They're hanging in the National Gallery and elsewhere across Canada. In 1967, she was 14. 

Here she's artfully posed between two hungry-looking hippies with some fellow who looks like a plainclothes cop coming down the steps behind her. The message seems to be: underage girls, bikers and cops all come together on Park Avenue for a photo shoot to let Montrealers know there is a place called The Op Café where you can find all three.
 
These photos are a bit embarrassing. Why is this child - who looks older than 14 in the photos -- seen staring into the eyes of a young "biker"  who could be an actor or male model. Look at her hand tightly gripping the handle of his chopper. What is going on here?

A drug deal maybe? or is the precocious teen negotiating a price for sex? It looks as if the photographer took pains to set up the angle and position the actors for dramatic effect. And why were these fake photos taken - to announce a fake hippie scene going on down the Op Café? I'm guessing so.
The fact that there are no photos of real hippies or real young people milling around what was supposedly a very popular hangout, suggests that these staged photos were part of the operation - like the kind the CIA scientists used to set up in communities where they were operating special houses for experiments involving sex and LSD.




But maybe I'm just a suspicious old lady -- maybe I see things that weren't even there. Maybe I only imagine that's Leonard on the steps with his Beatle hair and oversize guitar and hint of a moustache? In those days Billy Shears aka Billy Campbell aka "Faul"  also wore one to disguise the fact that Paul was dead and he had replaced him.

A while back when I stumbled on that old interview and performance by Leonard on CBC TV in May 1966 - a few months before Paul's alleged death - I was struck seeing Leonard dressed up in that turtleneck under a jacket with a Beatle haircut (no moustache). Leonard told me more than once that he "never liked the Beatles" - but he adopted their image in his drive for recognition, and it worked.
Is that strange or ? Why would he do that, at the same time he was claiming not to know them or their music in another interview, saying he had only listened to their album Revolver on which liked the last song, "Tomorrow Never Knows" which many say is about Paul's death...

Close your eyes, float downstream... it is not dying....

Odd, that "floating downstream toward death" theme also comes up in the second part of Chelsea Hotel #1 - about the death (by heroin overdose) of Janis Joplin...

I guess what I'm saying is, there are many things in this story that don't quite add up, and suggest that in 1967 we witnessed the beginning of a very long-running hoax. In which Leonard was to play the role of the Anti-Beatle.

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