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New Postage Stamp Gives Bogart His Due : Commemorative Issue Honoring Film Legend Unveiled in Hollywood

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five decades after Humphrey Bogart left his hand- and footprints in the wet concrete of Mann’s Chinese Theatre’s courtyard in Hollywood, sticky homage was again paid to him in the same spot Thursday.

With a blast of multicolored confetti, a brass band and Bogie’s widow and children in attendance, the Bogart postage stamp was unveiled in a red-carpet ceremony.

The third issue in the U.S. Postal Service’s highly successful Legends of Hollywood commemorative series, the first-class stamp features a pensive Bogart slated for a print run of 195 million.

The crowd of stamp collectors, tourists and postal officials was no doubt tamer than the one that turned out in August 1946 when Bogart left his prints.

Instead of rushing for autographs, the philatelists rushed to nearby post office tables where they could buy first-day Bogie stamp sheets and get them hand-canceled.

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“I’ve got Elvis, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe,” explained Barbara Swenson after getting a batch of Bogart stamps.

Not a serious collector, her interest was piqued by the Elvis Presley and Hollywood issues. She grew up in Los Angeles and finds something irresistible about possessing mini-visages of her hometown stars, which she frames and places on her den wall.

With 500 million Elvis stamps snapped up, the issue is the Postal Service’s all-time bestseller, bringing in $36 million. The Monroe stamp, the first of the Hollywood series, was 1995’s bestseller.

Postal officials are hoping for more of the same with the Bogart prints. “It’s wonderful for us,” Postal Service spokesman David Mazer said of the revenue-boosting sales.

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Not that they expect to see Bogart, Hollywood’s wry tough guy, gracing many utility bills.

“Pay your bills with flag stamps,” Mazer advised, pointing to his mother-in-law as a good role model. “She bought five sheets of Marilyn Monroe and put them away.”

Actress Lauren Bacall, Bogart’s widow and 1940s co-star, joked after the ceremony that she would plaster her entire house with them.

Gamely granting brief, individual interviews to reporters after the unveiling, Bacall said Bogart would have been surprised at finding himself on a stamp.

“He was not a man who sought attention or affection,” she repeated to reporters who asked the same questions when they had their moment with her.

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“He was a man who cared about the quality of his work and the quality of his life,” she added. “He just didn’t think in terms of his notoriety or receiving honors or awards. He didn’t believe in awards.”

Did that mean he wouldn’t have liked the memorial stamp?

No, she insisted. “I think he would have been impressed with the fact that he was on a stamp. It’s extraordinary.”

What’s more, he was even a letter-writer.

“He wrote me a lot of letters,” she recalled as her two children by the stamp’s honoree, Stephen and Leslie Bogart, stood beside her. “He also wrote letters to friends of his when he wanted to comment on things that he either approved or disapproved of that they had done or been involved in.”

Bacall told the crowd seated on Hollywood Boulevard that the stamp premiere had left her more emotional “than I’d planned.”

Indeed, she at times appeared sad listening to accolades for the man with whom she shared a celebrated romance and marriage before he died in 1957.

Not everyone was wrapped in nostalgia. At 17, tourist Jon Brooks of New York City said Bogart meant nothing to him.

But he still stood in line for stamps to take home as a present for his parents, who like old films.

“They’re too cool for this,” 19-year-old Sarah McGinn said of Brooks and another indifferent friend.

She admitted to a little more enthusiasm. After all, she said, “It is Humphrey Bogart.”


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