By John LeBoutillier Special for USDR
The obituaries for Lauren Bacall praise the glamorous actress, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 89, for her incredible career, her life with Humphrey Bogart and her three kids — but they gloss over her infamous reputation for being difficult.
Bacall was known to be a terror — just ask Anderson Cooper.
Former Congressman John LeBoutillier recalled sitting next to Bacall at a 1982 dinner that Cooper’s mom (and LeBoutillier’s cousin) Gloria Vanderbilt threw at her Southampton house for Claudette Colbert.
“Gloria’s son Anderson was 14 at the time and he was at the table. The conversation turned to the Mideast and Anderson weighed in and said, ‘Something has to be done to help the Palestinians. We need a Palestinian state,’” LeBoutillier recalled, first on Joe Piscopo’s radio show Wednesday and later to me.
“Bacall, a big supporter of Israel, went nuts. She eviscerates this kid in front of everyone, humiliates the hostess’ son. Anderson was in tears.”
LeBoutillier said movie critic Rex Reed, a neighbor of Bacall’s in the Dakota, told him later, “She’s the most miserable woman. Let’s throw her in the swimming pool.”
The two men started looking for her, but LeBoutillier said, “I thought, ‘I’m running for re-election. What if I pull her arm out of the socket?’ So we didn’t.”
Through his rep, Cooper told me there were no tears but didn’t dispute the rest of LeBoutillier’s story.
I experienced Bacall’s anger firsthand 15 years ago when her longtime agent and friend Johnnie Planco introduced us at a party.
Knowing that she had starred on Broadway in “Applause” — a musical version of the 1950 Bette Davis movie “All About Eve” — I told Bacall I had just seen the film again and how well it had held up.
“I wonder why no one has done it as a stage play,” I remarked.
Bacall screamed, “We did. It was called ‘Applause.’”
I tried to make a distinction between a play and a musical — with music that the critics didn’t love — but Bacall was done with me.
Planco admitted, “[Bacall and I] did a lot of head-butting. She was a perfectionist. If she didn’t like someone, she did not suffer them. But she was a loyal friend and the sweetest lady. When I was sick, she called every day.”