Lauren Bacall at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago in 2005 for a book signing luncheon | PHOTO BY AL PODGORSKI/SUN-TIMES
With that deep, unmistakable voice and those cat-like green eyes, Lauren Bacall was a shoo-in for Hollywood stardom. The big screen couldn’t get enough of “The Look,” that chin-to-chest, upward glancing eyes that became her on-screen signature move.
Bacall was also a hit on the theater stage, having earned two Tony Awards for best actress in (of all things) a musical: in 1970 for “Applause” and in 1981 for “Woman of the Year.” Chicago recognized her theatrical achievements in our fair city, bestowing upon her the prestigious Sarah Siddons Award for the aforementioned shows in 1972 and 1984, respectively.
In 2005, I had the chance to meet Bacall at an “author series” book signing at the tony Ritz-Carlton Chicago — “meet” being such a relative term.
It was a midday event with a roomful of ladies who lunch, who, looking back now, ridiculously stared at the legendary actress eating her lunch — oh so gracefully — with her tiny dog, Sophie, sitting in the chair beside her (no the pooch did not eat HER lunch off the elegant china place setting affronting her).
When it was my turn to obtain the actress’ autograph in a copy of her second memoir, “By Myself and Then Some,” Bacall graciously smiled, chit-chatted about her beloved Sophie and how she was “the unconditional love of her life these days,” and remarked how she loved being in Chicago again. Then she graciously signed “Lauren Bacall” (in such a gorgeous script) to the book I set down in front of her. Our meeting was concluded.
And of course, there were countless times Bacall and her famous husband, legendary screen actor Humphrey Bogart visited Chicago for promotional tours for their latest films, or one of many celebrity-filled War Bonds rallies (including one in Soldier Field in 1945).
Or to stop by the Sun-Times and say hello to iconic newspaper columnist Irv Kupcinet and share a repast (and a cocktail or two) at that famous “Booth One” at the Pump Room. (Many Hollywood stars made it a point to visit with the columnist during a train trip layover between New York and Los Angeles).
In 1999 Bacall received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Bacall’s ties to Chicago ran deep.
Film legend Lauren Bacall is awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival presented by festival founder and artistic director, Michael Kutza. | Scott Stewart/Sun-Times