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My ‘somewhat’ encounter with Lauren Bacall

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 14th, 2014
2014
Aug 14

CELEBRITY STORIES

My ‘somewhat’ encounter with Lauren Bacall

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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The recent death of Lauren Bacall brought back a memory of my only time seeing her in person. I call it a ‘somewhat’ encounter because I was a bystander to this event, but I was there—I was a witness. I guess you could say I was part of a three-way meet, but had no direct interaction with the actress myself. This story could be subtitled Bangley & Bacall—and me.

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The year was 1998, and I was at the Bel Air Hotel with my late friend, film historian and bon vivant, Jimmy Bangley. He was the guest of a close friend who made yearly visits to Los Angeles and always rented him a room at the posh, celebrity ridden, hotel. Anyone that knew or remembers Jimmy, knows that he was a huge Barbra Streisand fan—what am I saying, a huge fan? A humongous fan. Anyway, Bacall had recently made a film with Streisand called The Mirror Had Two Faces and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award, and won a Golden Globe.

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One day I was visiting Jimmy at the Bel Air, and we walked out to the swimming pool, looking around hoping for a star sighting. We were not disappointed for there, sitting at a table was Lauren Bacall, her hair wet, and she was wearing a white cotton Bel Air robe. She was in the middle of a card game with two kids; we assumed they were her grandchildren.

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Never shy, Jimmy sees her and rushes over, breathless, and before she can flee or make any defensive moves, he blurts out, “Oh Miss Bacall, I just loved you in The Prince of Tides.” Bacall just stared at this flamboyant and obviously confused man standing before her, and then she shot a glance at me. I tried to duck. If it wasn’t for the chatter of a couple dozen people sitting around us, we would have heard the crickets sing. It took a second but Jimmy realized his goof and that he had the wrong Streisand film. “Oh, I’m sorry Miss Bacall, I meant The Mirror…”

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“Yes, I know what you meant,” Bacall said icily, not letting him continue. She returned to her card game without saying anything more, giving us our cue to leave. We walked slowly back to his room and eventually had a good laugh about it. Needless to say, as he recounted the encounter later, Jimmy came up with some of his famous quips at Lauren Bacall’s expense. Thanks for the memory Ms Bacall and say hi to Bogie for me.

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2014
Jul 4

CELEBRITY STORIES

Ava Gardner’s deathbed confessions reveal stories of booze, sex and stardom

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By Maureen Callahan
New York Post

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She was broke and alone and usually drunk, a one-time Hollywood goddess who had two choices: “I either write the book or sell the jewels,” she said. “And I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.”

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And so, in January 1988, Ava Gardner, ravaged by booze and cigarettes and a recent stroke, called British journalist Peter Evans and asked him to ghostwrite her memoirs. What followed were the extended deathbed confessions of a legend, compiled for the first time in Evans’ last book, “Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations.”

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Among the shocking revelations: first husband Mickey Rooney was such a womanizer that he cheated on Ava, then considered the most beautiful woman in the world, in their marital bed ­while she was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.

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“He went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge,” she said, adding that her best friend Lana Turner ­ who’d slept with Rooney first ­ called him “Andy Hard-On.”

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Gardner went on to marry bandleader Artie Shaw ­ “another kind of bully; he was always putting me down” ­ and then, most famously, Frank Sinatra, who left his wife for her.

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While seeing Sinatra, Gardner also had an affair with the married Robert Mitchum. “I was crazy about him,” she said. When she told Mitchum that she was also seeing Sinatra, he ended things. “He said, ‘Get into a fight with him, and he won’t stop until one of you is dead,’ ” Gardner said. “He didn’t want to risk it being him.”

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Gardner was a teenage virgin from Grabtown, NC, when she was discovered by a talent scout in 1941. She’d grown up poor and uneducated, yet her mother always knew that Ava had what it took to be a movie star. So did she.

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“I wasn’t dumb,” Gardner said. “I knew that my looks might get me through the studio gates.”

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She knew she wasn’t a great actress, and didn’t much care: “A lot of my stuff ended up on the cutting-room floor,” she said. “A lot more should have.”

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After a screen test, she was signed to a seven-picture deal with MGM, and quickly became sought after by nearly every leading man in Hollywood. On her first day on the lot, she met Rooney, the 5-foot-2 star of the wholesome “Andy Hardy” series.

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“I wanted to f–k you the moment I saw you,” he told her. Gardner was 18 and innocent. “I was shocked,” she said. “I still didn’t know he was the biggest wolf on the lot . . . He’d screw anything that moved.”

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After a one-year courtship they wed, and one of Hollywood’s greatest sex symbols was a virgin on her wedding night. “I caught on very quickly,” she said.

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After Rooney came Howard Hughes. “I never loved him,” she said, adding that despite the generosity he showed her, paying for her dying mother’s medical care, he was also a racist. “Howard wouldn’t piss on a black man to put him out if he was on fire,” she said.

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Then, in 1945, she married Shaw ­ who’d also left his wife for her. But now Gardner was smoking three packs of Winstons a day and getting drunk constantly; she felt so intellectually insecure around her new husband that she finally took an IQ test.

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“He had me convinced that I was completely stupid,” Gardner said. “I didn’t have an enormous IQ, but I did have a high one.”

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One week after their first anniversary, Shaw dumped her for another woman.

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“The bastard broke my heart,” she said, and throughout her life she picked the wrong men. ­ including George C. Scott, who Gardner said would often drunkenly “beat the s–t out of me.”

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In 1951 she married Sinatra, who she later called the love of her life. Their relationship was famously tempestuous, and her best friend Turner ­ who’d also had affairs with Shaw and Sinatra ­ begged Gardner not to go through with it: “I’ve been there, honey,’ she told me. ‘Don’t do it!’ I should have listened to her.”

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Gardner had two abortions during her marriage to Sinatra, and a courtship that began with “fighting all the time, boozing and fighting,” ended the same way. They divorced in 1957, but remained close for the rest of their lives, and when Gardner pulled out of completing her memoirs, Evans suspected that Sinatra gave her the money she would have gotten for the book.

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Her decision wasn’t a complete surprise to Evans; she would later say that when she was “pushing clouds around,” he could publish their book.

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She died in 1990, at 67, from pneumonia.

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mcallahan@nypost.com

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