"I was so much in love with that man that when he left I felt a pain in my heart. I actually did. He was so much my life that I literally couldn't think of anyone else -- had to catch my breath when he went away. When I hear the word happy, I think of then. Then I lived the full meaning of the word every day. Since then it has been elusive."
From "Lauren Bacall By Mayself"
That is Baby, writing about her life with Bogie -- as Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart once were known to their friends and the world.
For 22 years, since Bogart died of cancer, Bacall has been -- despite her marriage (and divorce) to Jason Robards, three children, friends, family, love, career -- pretty much "by myself." Hers has been the wrenching dilemma of those fortune kissed early, who reached a peak of joy and beauty and fame in their twenties -- and then are stuck like hell for ann encore.
Back in the '40s, Hollywood did its best to make Bogie and Baby one-dimensional lovers. They met when Bogart was 44, the tough-guy movie star who could only talk out of the corner of his mouth and could leave a "dame" at the drop of a better offer. Bacall then was 19, incredibly sexy, elegant, a Harper's Bazaar cover model who caught filmmaker Howard Hawks' shrewd attention. Her whiskey baritone stopped everyone with her slithering, "If you want me just whistle" and "Anybody got a match?" come-ons to Bogart in the first movie they made together, "To Have and Have Not."
But seductive 19-year-old Bacall was in reality a nice Jewish girl, a sexual innocent infatuated with the theater. She was raised in New York by a warm wise mother, but she grew up with Bogart.
He was a gentle man, unafraid to cry at emotional moments but tough enough, when dying of cancer, to crack to reporters: "Tell them I'm down to my last martini."
Bacall always had guts and brass -- but to this day, as she tells it in her autobiography, there is a vulnerable woman who trembles and cries and is still looking for someone to be in love with again.
In the '40s she was dubbed "The Look" for a feline "down under" sort of gaze. In her book she explains how it began. Several fizzled takes into the "Anybody got a match?" line she "realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart...."
Today, at 53, sitting in her New York apartment in the Dakota -- that incredible Charles Addams building where "Rosemary's Baby" was filmed -- Bacall does a camp imitation of her look, then bursts out laughing, throwing her head back.
If by her own admission, much of the last two decades has been "making do" it has not been with public displays of sorrow. Better to laugh. Bogie is spoken of reverently. "He was a most extraordinary guy."
But she still seems not to want to talk of him. In a room filled with memorabilia, a Chagall and a Calder, a self-portrait by Kate Hepburn, autographed pictures of close friends Spencer Tracy and Adlai Stevenson and David Niven, posters from her Broadway hits "Cactus Flower" and "Applause," photos of her three children -- there is not one picture of Bogart.
The portrait, instead, is a loving one in her book, "Lauren Bacall By Myself," and Bacall's manner seems to say that is quite enough for the public to have.
Like the Cheshire Cat
"I hope the book will make you laugh as well," she says. "I hope this is my time now. I hope now I will start a seven-year cycle of work and nonactivity and blah, blah, blah..." she says, arms moving, speaking in italics.
She will be touring the country with the book, she is on the cover of Newsweek, she will be going to England to promote the book. In February she will do a movie with Robert Altman, "Health."
"I play an 83-year-old virgin. An Adelle Davis type. I can't win," she says, recalling the part of a garrulous lady she played in "Orient Express." "Now they're making me an 83-year-old virgin. They're not making me any younger."
It is almost a cue line to say how good she looks. She remains one of the few 53-year-olds who could wear a pink striped blouse unbuttoned down to there and get away with it. Ash blond hair expertly tousled five minutes before by a hairdresser. Gray slacks. Just a brush of eye shadow and pink lipstick.
The famous face -- high cheekbones, delicate nose -- is remarkably handsome; softer than her pictures. But what really comes through is Bacall's comic ability.She snickers, makes wry asides. When told that one male reviewer wrote of the book, "one is never sure if her virginity was lost or simply faded slowly like the Cheshire cat..." she snorts and amends it to, "or, I suppose, like Douglas MacArthur. Oh well, it didn't fade away, I can tell you that. Honestly, what some people pick out."
Unlike other celebrities, Bacall did not do an "as told to." "I just couldn't. Can you imagine telling anyone what's in your head?" She wrote it, longhand, on yellow legal pads, and it is her -- dashese and all. Some of the lines are devastating in their terse honesty. Writing of life in Hollywood after Bogart: "Out of 30 friends I thought I had, there were maybe eight true ones. Better to know that but painful to learn. Had my whole raison d'etre been Bogie?" During her failed affair with Frank Sinatra: "I yearned for someone to belong to.... The truth is he was probably smarter than I: He knew it couldn't work. But the truth also is that he behaved like a complete s---."
When Bogart was dying: "He still shaved every morning -- on a tray in front of a mirror with an electric razor. I don't know what he saw in that mirror, but he never turned away. So how could I?"
Of her father, who deserted her and her mother, and then tried to cash in on Becall when she was a celebrity: "He contributed nothing to my life except anxiety." Of the problems of her and Bogart's children Steve and Leslie and Jason Robards' children of previous marriages: Sam (her youngest, by Robards) "is the only one of our children not screwed up due to childhood traumas."
In the 'Normal' Way
She is careful to indict no parent in the theater or Hollywood world, despite the fact that many memoirs have come from children of famous actors. "There is a tough period in their teens with all of them. I mean I argued with my mother, too. I wasn't all that damned easy. I was willful. You don't want to fall into the mold your parents want to put you into. I think that Steve had the toughest time of all because of the age he was when his father died (8). People were always asking 'Are you really Humphrey Bogart's son?' and I mean, that's a hard thing."
Is that why he is not into acting? "I don't know. I just don't know." For the first time she pauses. "They never seemed, neither of the Bogart children ever seemed to have an interest in it. When Bogie was alive, we never exposed them to it much. I never have involved my kids in that work because I think they're entitled to grow up in whatever is laughingly called a 'normal' way. Sam is going to be an actor, but he is not intimidated by his father, but you see, his father is alive. That's a big difference."
Her eight-year marriage to Robards was no picnic. He drank heavily then; he does not now. Today, Bacall has only warm words for him. "Jason is wonderful. He's so terrific. He is adorable."
Then, slightly defensive, she says, "I have a very good relationship with my children." (Steve is studying communications and is married. Leslie is a nurse, Sam is finishing prep school.) "I tried to do many things in my life at once. Which is really not easy to do. I think the problem with movie star children... I think it's very difficult to grow up with swimming pools and tennis courts and servants and it's very hard for a kid to keep his head. Some children find it difficult to deal with parents that are well known. But then what are you supposed to do? not have children? You just try to help them. You want them to be able to use themselves in the best possible way."
This Thing I Wasn't
Bacall is asked if anyone ever calls her Lauren. "Yes," she answers decisively. "People who don't know me. Someone will say on the street, 'On, Lauren,' " -- Bacall turns her voice into a nasal New York accent --" 'Oh, Lauren, and let me tell you, I keep on walking."
Betty Purske Bacall is still Betty to everyone. "It's so odd. I'm the only one in the business with this strange situation. I remember when I was first Lauren Bacall. My mother tried calling me that and it just didn't work." Lauren was the creation of Howard Hawks. "I think Betty Bacall would have been quite all right. But he had this thing in his head." Again the snort and the pal-next-door look of chagrin, "This sophisticated thing. This thing that I wasn't."
Actors by nature are nervous and insecure, even -- perhaps especially -- the best of them. As Bacall says, "We're dependent on someone else's words to interpret. When you make it it still doesn't matter. In this business every single time you go out, you have to prove yourself again. I have not had a decent play offered to me since 'Applause.' That's quite a while." (Her run closed in 1973.) "I won the Tony. Was a big hit everywhere. That doesn't mean a damn thing. If no one's writing a good play, what are you going to do?"
Her dreams for tomorrow: "I would love to be in a terrific play, where I did not have to totally work my ass off. I would like to have a moment where it's all so terrific I could just sit back and enjoy it. But hell, the whole damn thing of life is a struggle, let's face it. From getting out of the womb -- it's a fight to the finish. Without my sense of humor I don't know what I would have done."
The Palace Admirers
... "There was my name up there... bigger than I've ever dreamed it could be... " Bacall wrote in her book about the night she walked by the Palace Theater just to see her name in lights before she opened in "Applause."
Last night, many of the elements of her life came together at the Palace, as 300 guests shoved and crunched together in the lobby to toast her book. There was the long-ago past, Diana Vreeland -- the wraith-like, red-rouged Harper's Bazaar editor who took her in hand for that fortuitous magazine cover when Bacall felt like an 18-year-old "gawk."
Bacall hugged her and called to her son, Steve, "Come meet this lady, she started it all." And there was the future. Between hugs Robert Altman said he cast Bacall in his upcoming movie, "because I like her and it's the only way I could get close to her." As Henry Fonda came up for a hug and a kiss Bacall commanded over her shoulder to Altman, "You meet this man, that's the man I love."
There was, of course, the usual clutch of hangers-on who mysteriously appear at such New York parties and say such things as "Isn't that Elaine May?" Answer: "It's somebody." But mostly they were the names and friends of theater and politics -- Adolph Green and Betty Comden; Swifty Lazar, the Hollywood agent she first met through Bogart; Martin Gable and Arlene Francis; Joshua Logan; John Cullum, the star of "On the Twentieth Century"; comedian Jack Gilford; Arthur Schlesinger; Kennedy brother-in-law Steve Smith; the widow of Hollywood producer Nunnally Johnson; top New York publicist Bobby Zarem; ice dancer John Curry., writers Rex Reed and Nora Ephron, and Henry Kissinger.
In Washington, Kissinger is so "former" that only he still thinks he's secretary of state, but apparently the word has not been passed to New York's theater set. The biggest crush of cameramen, reporters and guests standing around to stare came when Kissinger entered the lobby, as Henry Fonda stood off to a corner. As Bacall, eager to include son Steve Bogart with all her name friends, pulled him into the picture, he grinned and said, "I'm getting out of this."
Bogart, a slim blend of both his parents, coolly tapped his cigarette on his hand before lighting it and seemed to have an easy relationship with his mother now despite the past friction. Her book, he said, "surprised" him. It was "gut-wrenching but not ridiculous and didn't have the and didn't have the bulls--- a lot of those books have."
It dealt fairly with his problems, he said, from his 1960s experiment with drugs to problems coping with his father's fame. "That really bothered me until I was about 15. Then I began to realize people either like you or hate you." Now an assistant producer at a Hartford, Conn. TV station, Bogart said he hopes to go into "some David Wolper-type productions maybe."
When someone suggested he had "good contacts" he took it placidly, raised one eyebrow and said, "It helps but if you're not any good, that doesn't mean a damn thing."
Among Bacall's many pals was Len Cariou, her leading man in "Applause," and as she frankly writes in the book, a romance on stage and off.She graciously wrote of the end of that affair, "He was not careless with me -- just careful of himself."
The Ghost of Bogie
As for her private life there is a small shrug, as she says that for some people her days with Bogart were "the only part of my life. There's nothing I can do about it.If a man is going to be intimidated by me then I guess he's automatically going to be intimidated by Bogart. If there ever is another man in my life, hell, hopefully he'll be grown up enough to know what he's all about so he doesn't have to worry." Then she added with a laugh, "ard will also be able to deal with me."
Those 12 years with Bogie were the best, but as she writes in her book: "Whatever people have made me in their heads -- both from my movie career and my marriage to Bogie -- is an obstacle to now. They want their memories and fantasies kept intact -- they're not interested in the person I am... I have not found a man secure enough in himself -- grown up enough, if you will -- to take his chances with me..."