As the Director of the New York Public Libraries I once had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Lauren Bacall to pitch the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as the repository for her papers. Accompanying Bob Taylor, then Chief of the Theatre Collection at LPA, we visited her at her home in The Dakota. To this day, I am torn about which was more exciting—meeting Bacall or being in The Dakota!
Actress Lauren Bacall sits atop a piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano at the National Press Club Canteen. They are at the canteen to entertain the servicemen. February 10, 1945.
Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, 1957-2004, NARA ID 198606.
Overlooking Central Park, we sat in her bookcase lined living room, discussing her career and family and her collection. The bookcases were filled with leather bound volumes—one each for every play, movie, or performance of her life! Each volume contained an annotated script, newspaper reviews, Playbill, etc. Her collection was so well organized that it was an archivist/librarian’s dream! Bob was eloquent in pitching LPA as the appropriate place for the collection given her attitudes about Los Angeles and how New York had become so important to her life. I remember pitching the contribution to scholarship that the collection would bring to an already rich theatre collection—how future generations would benefit from her materials.
It was clear that sitting in the room enabled her to relive her life just by glancing around the room and how difficult it would be for her to be faced with empty shelves. I pitched the gift of deed and later delivery of material at a time convenient for her and her children. She was generous with her time, told wonderful stories in that husky Bacall voice, and promised to think it over. Not sure what she decided nor who will get the collection. Still hoping for NYPL!
As we were leaving, she pointed to a large trunk near the apartment door and said “That’s Bogie!” She also had his papers!