Category: Ira Cohen

Panama Rose and The Hashish Cookbook

Dear Friends,

IRA COHEN, who sadly passed away earlier this year, did many wondrous things in his life. (I am borrowing the word ‘wondrous’ from William Levy; he used it with reference to Ira’s works in an essay entitled “The Art of Hate,” which appeared in his book Natural Jewboy, Ins & Outs Press, 1981.) But one of the things Ira definitely did not do was write The Hashish Cookbook. Hence, contrary to popular but terribly misinformed belief, Ira was also not the pseudonymous author Panama Rose. That was instead Ira’s then-girlfriend Rosalind. We’re talking Tangier, Morocco, mid-1960s. Rosalind invented the recipes, Rosalind wrote and designed the book. At Brion Gysin’s suggestion. Meaning that it wasn’t even Ira’s idea. What Ira did do, in New York 1966, was publish the book under his Gnaoua Press imprint and sell it. 10, 000 copies in six weeks. Oh yes, and then over the years usurp authorship credit, by allowing everyone who wasn’t there at the time (and thus knew better) to believe that he was Panama Rose. This ruse, this historical lie, became such a cornerstone of Ira’s personal mythology that practically all the obituaries led with it: in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Independent, as well as a touch more coyly in the Guardian.

Ira Cohen RIP

Friends and Colleagues,

On the morning of Tuesday, April 26th I received the below appended mail from Ira Landgarten. I’d been expecting it for days, but hoping against hope for a miracle.

In due course I shall write at length about Ira. He and I go back such a very long way. And despite the fact that we hadn’t been on speaking terms for many years, I continued to love him as a special kind of brother and to greatly respect and admire his artistic talents and his work. In short, we were connected at the hip. Nor will his passing in any way change that. ‘Speaking terms’ means nothing, it’s what’s in the heart that counts.