The Private Lauren Bacall: 'She Made the Past Present and the Present Past'
Longtime friend Jane Rosenthal shares her memories of the sly, vivacious star
Lauren Bacall was the ultimate party guest.
At the courtyard party held each year at the famed Dakota building in New York City, Bacall would regale her neighbors with tales of her legendary life.
“You had this remarkable woman just talking about life in 1945 Hollywood, talking about Bogey, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn,” recalls producer Jane Rosenthal, a friend and neighbor in the Dakota who knew Bacall for 20 years.
“She made the past present and the present past.”
Born Betty Joan Perske (and known as Betty Bacall to her friends), the star, who died on Monday at age 89, remained an active, slyly funny presence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for decades.
Paying tribute, Vanessa Redgrave issued the statement, “Glorious Betty, I got to know you because you loved our [daughter] Natasha [Richardson], and how she loved you! So as you know that is how I got to know just how remarkable a woman you have been & were. Loyalty, integrity, and such a lover of good theatre and filmmaking, and not a smidgin of bulls–!
“Thank you for every single hour I spent with you, or watching you, Vanessa.”
“It was a life remarkably well-lived,” says Rosenthal, CEO of Tribeca Enterprises. “I would be walking out and she would say, ‘Are you going to the street fair? Can you pick me up a spicy Polska?’ I would, and the next day she’d say, ‘I was sick! Why’d you get me a spicy Polska?’ ”
“She always had her beloved [Pomeranian] Sophie. I have retrievers, and she’s say, ‘They’re going to eat Sophie!’ ”
A staunch Democrat, “we had the privilege to host fundraisers with President Clinton and Hillary Clinton,” says Rosenthal. “And Lauren would come and always take home a doggie bag. She’d say, ‘You’re having leftovers, aren’t you?’ ”
“This woman I knew wasn’t the [Hollywood legend]. I knew this woman who still had a trainer, who still looked great, who would talk about wanting to work,” she says. “We talked about Christmas, kids, toys for her grandkids. I have two girls, 15 and 19, and they’d say, ‘Hurry up, Mommy!’ and I would say, ‘Do you know who this is?’ And I would show them old photos of her, so they understood.”
With Bacall’s death, the historic Dakota – which was constructed in the late 1800s and was famously the site where John Lennon was slain – has lost one of its most adored residents.
“The Dakota, this bygone place, has the same view it did at the turn of the century. The horse-drawn carriages, the park. It’s a very special place. And now a gaslight has burned out.”
• Reporting by MARY GREEN