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Authors: Stephen Humphrey Bogart

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A few days later she felt even better. My parents had set
up an intercom between the bedroom and the nursery, so
they could hear me if I started crying. One morning, on his way to work, Dad stopped in and began cooing all sorts of
baby talk to me, completely unaware that Mother was lis
tening to him through the intercom. Then she heard him
speaking to me, somewhat shyly and awkwardly because he
didn’t know what you were supposed to say to babies. She
heard him say, “Hello, son. You’re a little fellow, aren’t you?
I’m Father. Welcome home.” He would have been embar
rassed if he’d known he was overheard.

Bogie was a proud father, and in family photos you
can see him doting over me. In one famous photo you can
even see him changing my diapers. But the photo is a fraud.
It is, says my mother, the only time in recorded history that
Bogie changed a diaper.

Whether my father avoided baby doo because he wanted
to, or because he felt left out, is debatable. It seems that Bo
gie did suffer the feeling of isolation and abandonment that
afflicts many new fathers.

“Betty gave me a son when I had given up hope of hav
ing a son,” he said. “She is everything I wanted and now, Stephen, my son, completes the picture. I don’t know what
constitutes being a good father. I think I’m a good one, but
only time, of course, can tell. At this stage in a child’s life the
father is packed away, put aside, and sat upon. The physical
aspects—feeding, burping, changing, training—are matters
before the Bogart committee, which is, as of now, a commit
tee of one…Betty. So I won’t take over for a while yet.
When I do I’ll handle the boy as I would any human being
in my orbit. That is, I’ll let him be himself. I won’t push him
into anything or try to influence him.”

In any case, Humphrey Bogart was by no means the diaper-changing, new-and-improved sensitive daddy of the 1990s, the one you see these days at the changing table in air
port men’s rooms. And if he had been, it would not have
been a matter of sharing chores to reduce the burden on his
wife. We had servants for that.

When I was born, Bogie was already forty-nine years old. He
was on his fourth marriage, this time to a beautiful actress
who was twenty-five years younger than him. Bogie was a man
set in his ways. He was a man with one rule: I’m going to live
my life the way I want to. That’s the way he was, and he had been that way long before I came along. Even when he mar
ried my mother, Bogie kept his butler and cook, and his gar
dener, Aurelio. So Bogie was not about to make major
changes in his life just for a baby.

Besides, he didn’t
know how
to change his life for a kid.
I’ve talked to a lot of his friends about this, and they all say
the same thing. Bogie was awkward with children. He didn’t
know exactly what to do with kids. He was in awe of them.

What his agent, Sam Jaffe, said to me is typical. Sam said,
“I am the father of three, the grandfather of four, and the
great-grandfather of three, so I notice children and I have al
ways noticed how other people deal with them. When I was
in the house with Bogie and you kids for the first time, I paid attention. And I will never forget that when you and your sis
ter came down the stairs his look was so…quizzical. He was
looking at you children as objects of curiosity, as if he had
never seen children. It was as if to say ‘Who are these people?
What are you?’ I’ll never forget that. Fatherhood was an
unknown thing to him. He came to it late in life. He didn’t
caress children, didn’t do any of the things that I did as a fa
ther, because it was strange to him. He was not the sentimen
tal type that gushed, though he did cry easily. I’m not saying
he was not a good father, just that he had this look of curios
ity around children. He was not ready to be a father. I don’t think, until he married Betty, that he ever thought he would
have children.”

(This Sam, by the way, is not Sam Jaffe the actor, who
played in the movie
Gunga Din
and later in the TV show
Ben Casey.)

Because Dad was uncomfortable with kids, there are not
many stories about Bogie and children before I came along.
But one of them is that when Bogie was married to Mary Phil
ips, he was godfather to the son of his friends John and Elea
nor Halliday. Bogie once offered to take the boy to lunch.
When the day came, he said to Eleanor Halliday, “For God’s
sake, what do you talk to a thirteen-year-old boy about?”

“Well,” she said, “you’re his godfather. That means
you’re supposed to be in charge of his religious instruction.”

Later, when the boy returned from lunch his mother
asked him, “What did you and Mr. Bogart talk about?”

“Not much,” the boy told her. “Mr. Bogart said, ‘Listen,
kid, there are twelve commandments,’ and then he ordered
a drink.”

Adolph Green, who got to know my father when Green
and Betty Comden were in Hollywood writing the screenplays
for
Singin’ in the Rain
and
The Band Wagon,
remembers an
incident at Mapleton Drive one day when the pool was be
ing filled.

“They had been fixing the pool, and now they were
pouring new water into it,” he says. “You and me and Bogie
were there. You were four or five years old. You were watch
ing them fill the pool. There was a hose pouring water into
it, and suddenly you got hysterical. You were shrieking. You
thought the pool was going to overflow and you were going
to drown. I said, ‘Don’t be silly, Steve, it’s okay.’ But you kept
getting more and more upset. What I remember most,
though, is your father. He didn’t know what to do. He had no
idea how to handle it. He was just shaking his head. I asked
him about you, and he said that something else had over
flowed recently, a tub or something, so your hysteria had
some valid reason behind it. I think your mother must have
come out and taken care of you, I don’t really remember. But
I do remember Bogie shaking his head, helplessly. He had no
idea how to handle a hysterical child.”

When my sister, Leslie, came along a few years after me Dad fared only slightly better. Because she was a girl he was
probably even more afraid of her. But he was also much
more affectionate with her. He bounced her on his knee of
ten, though he had done that rarely with me. He played on
the seesaw with her. She was Daddy’s little girl, the baby as
well as the female, and he gave to her a quality of love that
he never gave to me. He didn’t know any better, of course,
didn’t understand that a boy needs to be hugged by his fa
ther, too. But sometimes when I am lonely, when I feel that
life has cheated me out of something important, I wish for
the memory of one of those hugs that went to my sister.

My father liked the idea of having kids. He was proud to
have Leslie and me, and he would never hurt us or neglect
our basic needs. But he was not about to integrate us into his
life. Kids had to fit into his life where it was comfortable
for him. My father, for example, didn’t want to eat dinner
with the kids. Which I can understand now, having often en
dured the torture of eating dinner with a two-year-old.

After I was born, my father’s schedule was pretty much the same as it had been before I was born. He worked every
day at the studio, making, on average, two movies a year. He
got home at five-thirty. Then he liked to be alone for a while,
which is why he didn’t eat supper with us. On many week
ends he went sailing. On days off he went to Romanoff’s for lunch. Sometimes he played with us, but not much. He said,
“What do you do with a kid? They don’t drink.”

He would appear, be with us for a little while, and then
vanish and do his thing. As a result, I idolized my father,
which may come as a surprise to the people who have heard
me grumble about him over the years.

In fairness to my father, the pain of losing him seems to
have wiped out most of my memories of him, and he might
have spent much more time with me than I think. I have
learned about many moments with him that I don’t remem
ber. When I was six, for example, he told a reporter, “The
only thing I’m trying to impress on Steve right now is not to
steal and not to squeal. When he comes home with some
imaginary or real slight suffered at the hands of neighbor
kids, I let him know right now that he’s on his own. The
other day he started telling me about getting clobbered by a
kid up the street. I told him to knock it off. ‘Hit him back,’
I said. ‘I did,’ Steve said, ‘I got him a beauty.’ And that, for
the time being, was the end of that.”

I have no memory of this. I only know about it because
I have the newspaper article. In that same interview, Dad said
he looked forward to the day when I could take my place alongside him and help him tack the
Santana
down the New
port Channel. The reporter wrote, “That will be the day, no
doubt, when Bogart figures his cup is filled.”

Though my father did not make great changes in his
daily life, there is little doubt that he was affected by father
hood. He bragged about the fact that I looked like him. He
told one friend, “I’ve finally begun to understand why men
carry pictures of their children with them. They’re proud of
them.” Another friend, Nathaniel Benchley, says, “When Bo
gie remarried and settled down to raise a family, there came
a drastic change. Gentle and sentimental, devoted to his wife
and children, he was the antithesis of everything he’d been
before and the reconciling of the two sides was like the clash
ing of gears.” And my mother remembers that Bogie cried
the first time he saw me in a school room. She says, “I think
the impact of fatherhood caught up with him.”

It’s understandable, I guess, that my father, who had
never spent much time around children, would be uncom
fortable with kids. But I wonder if it doesn’t go deeper than that. I wonder if Bogie might have been unprepared to bond
with children because of his own parents. Certainly, I have
learned that being the child of famous people, or even just
highly successful people, can take its toll. My father was also
the child of well-known and very successful people and that,
it seems, took its toll on him.

Contrary to the image many have of my father, derived
largely from his early films, Humphrey Bogart did not fight
his way up from the streets with fists ablazing. He came from
wealth and privilege. He was born on Christmas Day in 1899,
a circumstance which did not please him as a kid. Once, on
my birthday, he said, “Steve, I hope you enjoy it. I never
had a birthday of my own to celebrate. I got cheated out of
a birthday.”

He was the son of a prominent Manhattan surgeon,
Belmont DeForest Bogart, and a nationally known magazine
illustrator, Maud Humphrey, who had studied in Paris
under Whistler.

Dr. Bogart and Maud were a fine-looking couple. He was
tall and athletic, a good-looking guy whose tongue could be
as sharp as a stiletto. Dr. Bogart could choose the right words
and say them in just the right tone to sting people, tickle
them, or just make them look ridiculous. This ability to needle was a trait that my father would adopt, and one for which
he would be known his entire life. Though my grandfather
was strong, handsome, and wealthy, he was less fortunate in other ways. When he was a young intern, a horse-drawn am
bulance tumbled on him, and he was never in perfect health after that. In later life, he invested in many businesses that
failed, and, because of the pain from the accident, he be
came addicted to morphine. Maud, my grandmother, was an elegant redhead who drew men to her like beagles to bones.
She was a snob who had grown up in the Tory tradition in
upper-class Rochester, New York. Bogie often referred to her
as “a laboring Tory, if there is such a thing.” She was an Epis
copalian who cared deeply about the women’s suffrage move
ment, and was a worthy adversary for her husband’s debating
skills.

BOOK: Bogart
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