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Author Topic: Manners and Morals : Nightlife of the Gods  (Read 939 times)

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Offline GaneshHariharan

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Manners and Morals : Nightlife of the Gods
« on: October 21, 2009, 04:59:03 AM »
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  • Along toward dawn one morning last week, Screen Actor Humphrey Bogart was sitting, in person, in Manhattan's not quite haut monde saloon, the Stork Club. It was the hour when it is virtually impossible to decide whether a rumba band goes bonkle bonkle tonk, or tonkle tonkle bonk; when waiters' arches ache, and blondes brush the hair out of their eyes in a queenly way. Bogart, who was sipping happily on a drink, decided to send out for two 22-lb. stuffed pandas.

    A lackey rushed, muttering, to Reuben's, an all-night restaurant which for reasons best known to its management, keeps such an example of the toy stuffer's art on sale. He bought two large specimens for $25 apiece. Bogart welcomed them jovially, handed one to Manhattan Wholesale Grocer Bill Seeman, his drinking companion, and with the other under his arm, departed for the much more elegant El Morocco. All in all, it was a small thing. A nothing. It was not as though he had settled down amid El Morocco's zebra-striped decor with a live giraffe.

    Perilous City. But a great city like New York is full of perils. Three evenings later an attorney named Chester Mandel went into night court, and got a summons charging Bogart with simple assault. His client, an ultra-shapely young female named Robin Roberts, pulled her off-the-shoulder dress low on the port side and, as photographers leered happily, disclosed three marks on her upper bosom or lower shoulder. She explained that they were swellings and contusions.

    Miss Roberts, a model, then told her simple story. She, too, had been at El Morocco in the small hours, and as she was leaving in a dignified way with a big manufacturing person from Philadelphia, she came within range of Bogart's panda. At this exact moment a funny person asked her if she wanted the beast. She emitted a tinkling laugh and reached for it. Then this awful person, Bogart, charged out of nowhere at her.

    He yelled: "I'm a happily married man!" seized her wrist, and "dumped" her. "It hurt," she cried. "I was also humiliated. I said, 'Where do you think you are—in the movies? Keep your damned doll!'"

    "A Lovable Character." The next day the tabloids bloomed with cheesecake and photographs, re-enacting the whole affair for posterity. El Morocco banned Bogart "for life" in a pronunciamento delivered in tones as sepulchral as if he were being sentenced to the electric chair. It was, the management explained, his second offense —he had once insisted on keeping his hat on and threatened to push his cigarette in a customer's face.

    Bogart's wife, Actress Lauren ("Baby") Bacall, issued a loud, public critique of his actions while in the bar at "21." "This husband of mine has to go out and get loaded," said Baby. "That's what happens when you're pushing 50. This burns me up . . ." She added: "You can quote me on this: my husband is wonderful."

    Bogart sternly denied that he had ever hit a lady in his life, described himself as "a lovable character, about as vicious as Margaret O'Brien." When New York Post Home News's Columnist Earl Wilson asked him if he had been drunk, however, he replied moodily: "Isn't everybody at 4 a.m.?"

    Glorious Vindication. The next day Bogart was gloriously vindicated. Miss Roberts testified: "Why, judge, all I did was touch the panda . . . I said, 'May I have one of the dolls, please?' just as my family taught me. I wouldn't have tried to take it. I wasn't brought up that way." But the judge ruled that Bogart had simply been using enough force to defend his property and threw the case out of court. Miss Roberts, losing her poise for a moment, cried: "How do you like that!" Nobody was listening to her. As she left the court, a swarm of Bogart's admirers booed her lustily; at week's end, El Morocco barred her from its property, too—for life.


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