Its 1997 and my first year as a producer on the Golden Globes. Im joining a mission impossible team of great professionals led by the legendary Dick Clark. They all have an easy, familiar way with the many superstars who come in for rehearsal. I am doing my job in a state of awe. Ive never seen such a collection of big celebrities in one place at one time.
Its the Saturday before the show, and so far weve seen Tom Cruise, Halle Berry, John Travolta and Nicole Kidman. But my eyes are glued to the Beverly Hilton ballroom entrance for the arrival of one actress Lauren Bacall.
You see, as a kid growing up in Chicago, watching old movies on a black-and-white TV, I wanted to be Humphrey Bogart. He was the ultimate tough guy with a soft heart, connoisseur of the world, whiskey and women. And the woman he chose, onscreen and off, was Lauren Bacall. She was and always will be Bogies baby. In their first movie together, To Have and Have Not, she was beautiful, regal and in a class by herself. In the film, she delivered these immortal lines: You know how to whistle, dont you, Steve? You just put your lips together and...blow. How steamy was that moment?
Well, if you were an alien from outer space, all you would have to do is watch the whistle scene, and youd instantly know how and why earthlings have sex. And today Lauren Bacall is coming in to rehearse. I have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to actually talk with a woman who seemed so absolutely unreachable from my little Chicago apartment. Suddenly Im wondering if I can be free and easy and cool or even just not stupid around her.
But before I can figure it out, she swoops in. Protected by a swarm of her people, she seems to be heading toward me. I look around. Yes, she IS heading toward me.
I have to come up with something to engage her in conversation. Ive got only one bullet in my chamber. My wife, Bridget, is the daughter of an Academy Awardwinning actor, the late Edmond OBrien. He won his Oscar for The Barefoot Contessa, a movie that also starred Ava Gardner and...Humphrey Bogart. Bingo! Bacall must have known my wifes father!
My wife abhors name-dropping and the fakeries of show business. She would lose all respect for me if I used her dead father, whom I never met, to curry favor with Lauren Bacall. I decide to use it. But first, I have to address her: Should it be Miss Bacall or Lauren? I go for Lauren. Her real name is Betty anyway, so whats the damage?
Hi, Lauren, Im Barry Adelman, one of the producers.
Wheres Dick Clark? She smiles sweetly, but its like shes worried that the restaurant has run out of lobster and shes going to have to settle for the shrimp. I fill the silence: Dick should be out here any minute. Why dont you have a seat? We should have you up onstage rehearsing next.
Next turns out to be forever. The star who is currently onstage is very needy, and Im running out of small talk. After another eternity, I play the father-in-law card.
Heres something you might find interesting...My wifes father was Edmond OBrien.
Icebreaker par excellence! Big, wide, warm, sexy smile! Oh my God, Eddie OBrien! What a wonderful actor! I adored him! Do you know, when they were making Contessa in Italy, Bogie, Eddie, Billy Faulkner and I would go out every night. What fun that was! My head is swirling. I cant focus on what is more amazingthat Lauren Bacall just said Bogie to me or that she just called William Faulkner Billy.
For the next 20 minutes, Lauren and I become fast friends. After her run-through, she joins me at a table. We chat, we schmooze, we network, we even talk. When she gets up to go, she gives me a big hug and a kiss. As I watch her leave, I smile a world-weary smile, rub my chin and give a little whistle.
The next night is the Golden Globes. Three hours full of twists and turns and thousands of backstage decisions. Its live TV, a living, breathing monster.
Amid this frenzy, a stage manager rushes over to our producers table behind the set. Barry, Lauren Bacall wants to see you right away! Dick Clark shoots me a look that shows hes a bit impressed but perhaps a tad slighted that she doesnt ask for him. I straighten my tux and find her by the greenroom. Flashing a big grin, I spread my arms for a hug and say, Lauren!
We need more wine at table seven, she says, then makes a perfect pivot and exitsbeautiful, regal and in a class by herself. Im too dry to whistle.
Barry Adelman is executive producer of the Golden Globes and Executive VP, Television for Dick Clark Productions. His personal P.S.: Dont miss the Globes, January 11 on NBC.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times