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Authors: Stephen Humphrey Bogart

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BOOK: Bogart
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That’s important to me, because even during all those
years when I was angry about being Humphrey Bogart’s son,
I wished that I had more complete memories of my dad.
There were some. But far more common were those frag
ments of memory which became whole only when fitted in to
the stories I was told. I remember, for example, taking a train trip with my father. But only in retrospect do I know that the
trip was to northern California where we visited my mother
on the set of
Blood Alley.

Joe Hyams went on that trip and he remembers the
details. He remembers Bogie calling and asking him to
come along:

“We’ll go up on the evening train to see Betty,” Bogie
said, “and then, maybe on Saturday, we can go to the zoo.”

“The zoo?” Hyams said.

“Sure,” Bogie said. “You and me and Betty and Steve.”

“Steve? You want me along as a baby-sitter?”

“Of course not,” Bogie said. “I want you for your com
pany. But you’ve got kids.”

“So.”

“So, I figure you’ll know what to do when Steve acts up.”

Before the trip, Hyams stopped and bought some toys at
the five-and-ten. When Bogie saw the toys he thought Hyams
was a genius.

“Toys, yes,” he said. “Great idea! Kids like toys.” He told
Hyams, “This is the first time I’ve been alone with the kid. I
hope it works out all right.”

Hyams remembers that once we found our compart
ments and the train got going Bogie was all for “bedding
down the kid” and getting a drink in the dining car. But I was
six and I insisted on hearing a fairy tale.

“I don’t know any fairy tales,” Dad said. “Uncle Joe will
tell you one.”

But I wanted a fairy tale from my father, not Uncle Joe.
So Hyams sat on the lower bunk beneath me, making up a
fairy tale and whispering the words to Bogie, who would then
repeat them to me. According to Hyams I fell asleep, and so
did my father.

Hyams also remembers that quizzical look that Dad of
ten had with me and Leslie, a look that several people have
told me about. And Hyams remembers being on that train
trip the next day and seeing that look and Bogie saying to
him, “I guess maybe I had the kid too late in life. I just don’t
know what to do about him.” Then adding, “But I love him.
I hope he knows that.”

* * *

It is two days after my first visit to the house. I am inside the house now. I am with my mother. Not quite seventy years old, Bacall is still the glamorous figure she was back then in her twenties, and as she sweeps through the house, narrating her own memories in that trademark husky voice of hers that so long ago said, “You know how to whistle, don’t you.” I try very hard to hear my father whistle. This, after all, was the place where Bogie and Bacall had it all.

But while the memories come full blown and in living color for my mother, they come for me in shards of black and white. It is as if I am looking at a series of photographs, some of friends, some of strangers. When my mother leads me into what had been the dining room, it is as if I am seeing it for the first time. It is the same with the living room. There is no shock of recognition. But at other moments, a turn in the hall, a glance at the baseboard, I am swept back again to the feeling of being seven years old. The nostalgia is most potent when we stand by the wide white stairway that leads up from the living room to the second floor. Now, almost forty years later, I can feel myself sliding down the banister, I can hear my father’s voice warning me to quiet down. For whatever reason, it is those stairs that most vividly transport me back to those days when I was a tumbling boy and my father was alive.

Lost in memories, I now see that my mother has led me to the butternut room where Bogie and Bacall entertained their friends.
God,
I
think, the people who used to laugh in this room. Frank Sinatra, John Huston, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland…

* * *

2

Bogie was never wrong about people. If he thought a person was
all right, the person was all right. And if he thought a person
was a phony, the person was a phony.

—SAM JAFFE

Looking back, I can see that Mapleton Drive was an ex
traordinary street. It was a celebrity enclave, the kind of
well-heeled and neatly manicured neighborhood that my fa
ther swore he would never inhabit, right up to the day that
Bacall talked him into it. On Mapleton, I played with the chil
dren of famous people. I took piano lessons with Tina Sinatra
at Frank Sinatra’s house. And my closest friend was Scott
Johnson, whose father, Nunnally Johnson, was a Bogie pal.
Nunnally wrote dozens of screenplays including
The Grapes of Wrath, The Dirty Dozen,
and
The Three Faces of Eve,
which he
also produced and directed.

Living across the street from me was Art Linkletter, who
was one of TV’s top daytime personalities in the 1950s, with
Art Linkletter’s House Party.
His daughter, Diane, and I were
like Tarzan and Jane, constantly climbing trees together. And next to Linkletter lived Sammy Cahn, the famous composer.
His son, Steve, and I liked to hike back into the woods be
hind my house, where we had a little camp. Sometimes we’d
make a fire and roast marshmallows on a stick. Down the
street was Judy Garland. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli, was my
other close female friend. Liza, of course, is now a superstar in her own right, but then she was, like me, the child of fa
mous people. Her father was Vincente Minnelli, who directed
An American In Paris, Gigi,
and
Lust for Life.
By this time,
though, Judy Garland was married to Sid Luft, the producer, and their daughter, Lorna, was my sister’s pal. Judy Garland
visited my mother often. Judy, as everybody in the world
knows, was troubled, and she often came to my parents
for comfort.

Bing Crosby lived down the street with his four sons, who
used to cruise up and down Mapleton in their Corvettes. Glo
ria Grahame lived there, too. And Lana Turner. Liza used to
hang out with Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, who,
you might remember, got into one of the 1950s’ biggest show
biz scandals when she stabbed to death her mother’s mobster
boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. The incident was more than
a scandal to Cheryl, of course. It was a tragedy that propelled
her onto the front pages of newspapers all over America.

I had many good friends on Mapleton, but after my father died, when I was eight, I gradually lost them. And for
years afterward I did not make friends easily. One reason was
that I always heard the fearful whisper in my ear:
he only likes you because you’re Bogie’s boy.
Not surprisingly, my closest
friends today are the people who didn’t know or didn’t care
that I was Humphrey Bogart’s son.

It wasn’t until after I got thrown out of Boston University
and moved to Torrington, Connecticut, with Dale that I got
reconnected, that I began to develop the kind of friendships
I had always wanted.

I had been to Dale’s home in Torrington before, and
from the moment I saw it, I knew it was home. For me this
small Connecticut town was as magical as Brigadoon. The
people there couldn’t have cared less that I was Humphrey Bogart’s son. As I saw it, I could hide there and be what I
wanted. In Torrington, my friends were not the sons of movie stars or bank presidents. They were guys who drove trucks or
worked in factories, or ran auto repair shops. They didn’t
have any film projects in development; they didn’t have private swimming pools. These were guys I played poker with,
and pickup basketball at the school yard. It was there that I
was first able to shed the skin of being the Bogart kid. What
I learned then was that friendship is what I really needed and
it was what mattered. I learned, too, that if you want to know
the truth about a person you should look at his friendships.
With his family, a man often acts out of guilt and a sense of
responsibility. With women he might be trying too hard to
impress, or he’s conniving so he can get laid. And with
coworkers, if he wants to get ahead, he’s got to pretend to care about a lot of things that he doesn’t really care about.
But with friends, well there’s nothing there but the friend
ship, and I think it is with his friends that a man ends up re
vealing who he really is.

So I knew, when I started asking about my father, that if
this was true of ordinary men, it was even more true for Bo
gie. Though he had many good friends over the years, Bogie
did not see it that way. “I have a few good, close friends,
that’s all,” my father once said.

On Christmas Eve, the night before his forty-sixth birth
day, my mother threw him a surprise birthday party. She gath
ered about twenty of their friends, and ordered them to
stand in the Roman tub at the Bogart house in Hollywood.
When my father came home, Mother handed him a drink,
but told him not to get too comfortable.

“There’s something wrong with the tub,” she said. “Can
you take a look at it?”

When my father went in to check on the tub, there were
all the friends, Robert Benchley and Raymond Massey among
them, absurdly crowded together in the Roman tub.
“Surprise!” they shouted, and “Happy Birthday!” not
“Merry Christmas.”

A party followed, and my father, who had never had a
surprise party in his life, was deeply touched, even more than
my mother expected.

“I think he was genuinely surprised,” she says. “Not just
by the party, but by the fact that all these people cared
enough about him to come on Christmas Eve. Despite all the
success he’d had, he didn’t really feel popular. I don’t think
he ever really knew how much he was loved.”

The first of my father’s good friends was Bill Brady, Jr. Brady’s
father, William Brady, Sr., was a fight promoter and theatrical
producer who would eventually give Dad his first break in
show business. It was as a teenager with Bill Brady that my fa
ther first saw Broadway shows and moving pictures. Sadly,
young Brady died in a fire right around the time that my fa
ther was becoming famous in
The Petrified Forest.
Dad, who
rarely displayed his emotions, wept openly over the death of
his friend. Years later, he was hit hard again when his pal,
Mark Hellinger, died of a heart attack at age forty-four when
Hellinger and Dad were trying to get a production com
pany going.

From early adulthood on, the main thing that Bogie did with his friends was drink. When he was in his twenties he
drank with friends in New York’s Greenwich Village. When
he was on Broadway he drank with friends in Times Square.
When he was a movie star he drank with friends at 21 in
Manhattan, and drank with other friends at Romanoff’s when
he was home. Of course, heavy drinking was not the politi
cally incorrect activity that it is today. There were no Mothers
Against Drunk Driving, and such heavy drinking was consid
ered manly, even a bit amusing. And he also played games.
He was a chess expert and very good at card games. He
played poker, too. In these games, friends remember that he
was always very meticulous, carefully counting out his moves
on a Parcheesi board, for example.

Though Bogie had more friends than he ever realized,
he was, by no means, universally loved. “Everybody doesn’t
like me, and I don’t like everybody,” he once said.

One reason that some people did not like him was that
he was a world-class needler. It was one more game with him.
He liked to test people as soon as he met them, perhaps see
if they were worthy opponents. When he first met Frank
Sinatra, for example, he said, “They tell me you have a voice
that makes girls faint. Make me faint.” And when he met
John Steinbeck he said, “Hemingway tells me you’re not all
that good a writer.”

Bogie needled everybody, including Mother. He needled her often about leaving Leslie and me so that she could work.
“Look,” he’d say, “if you’re not going to be another Sarah
Bernhardt, don’t give up everything just to be an actress.” Or
he would find a hole in a sock and say, “You’ve got time to
be an actress but no time to darn my socks.” My father, you
can see, would have had to make a few adjustments if he
lived in this postfeminist era.

BOOK: Bogart
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