“You hate school, kid.”
How perceptive! I would be honest. “Yes, I do. How did you know?”
“I think you’re cutting it short. You gonna get there on time”?
A presumptuous comment that needed to be treated in kind. “That’s why I jumped into your Jag. They can move. I figured that if anyone can get me there in time, it would be you”.
He laughed. “I bet your teachers find you a real pain in the ass”.
How the hell had he assessed that? He bore extra scrutiny.
“It’s OK, kid. My teachers found me a real pain in the ass”.
Growing camaraderie. He understood. I could even plead with him then. “Look… I got teachers just waiting to bust me. They can never pin me. If I’m ever late, that’ll be their chance. They’ll hang a millstone of detentions around my neck…”
“I get your drift kid. You pay for the speeding ticket?”, he laughed.
“Where you from?”, I asked. He was American but had… maybe an accent?
“The City”, he replied absentmindedly.
He laughed. Clearly I was untraveled. “New York City”.
Now I try to act like maybe I do know something by popping a question. That’s always a good cover. Turn the tables. “Where at? It’s a big city, New York”. Of which I knew nothing at the time.
“Riverside Drive. Nice view”.
That flummoxed me. The only Riverside Drive that provided me any frame of reference ran along the L.A. River in Burbank. Nice view?
The conversation ran on. We rapped. Maybe this guy wasn’t to be feared after all. But just after we crossed Vine… fittingly enough… it suddenly hit me I might know who he was. I let loose a short laugh.
“Kid, you gonna share the humor with us?”
I gave him a suspicious look. “I just had this flash you’re Humphrey Bogart”.
He gave it a thought… then replied. “I’ll level with you, kid”. He let that sink in for a moment. And finally let on… he was Bogie’s second.
His second?! Oh, great. Maybe this guy can spill some real dirt. “What’s he like? In real life… Bogie?”
He shakes his head dismissively, then informs me matter of fact and directly: “he’s a c**t, kid. Just a c**t”. And dear reader, you know what I mean by a c**t.
He’s a what?!
I’m only sixteen. Just barely sixteen. C**t?! My ears! I am shocked. In those days we were nowhere near as precocious as today’s teenagers… even in Hollywood. My mouth drops. Jaded as I might be, living in Hollywood, Bogie was still something of a hero to me. I have to confirm what I just heard. “You mean he’s… just a c**t?” This was more dirt than I had bargained for.
“Yeah, kid. A real c**t”. He starts to complain. “I’m the poor bastard that’s gotta jump out of the burning airplane, get on the bucking horse. He never does any of that stuff himself. Afraid to bust his ass. Just a wimp”.
Even more dismissively: “Kid, he can’t even get it up”.
Even at just sixteen, I knew what that meant. Was Bogie’s second filling in for him on that front as well?
“He can’t hold his liquor either, kid…”
On it went. Clearly Bogie’s second had only contempt for the man. Well… he wouldn’t be the only big name actor known to be that way. I shook my head. It was clear, however, that the second did know Bogie really well.
Contemplating, things eventually began to clear. Hollywood was a small town. A second would never ever dare talk about their boss like that. Maybe while in their shower, but certainly not publicly anyway. Plus, seconds barely got paid anything. Nowhere near enough for a big fat Jag like this.
“We’re at your stop, kid”.
I took a moment to gather myself, then turned to the driver and said: “Thank you so much, Mr. Bogart. And your performance was really great”. Caught out, he could only laugh. His parting words: “you’re quick, kid. You may even graduate”.
Well, those were the most encouraging words I’d heard in weeks. And from Humphrey Bogart! I did graduate. Never got to tell him. He apparently didn’t last much longer. Pity. I finally did arrive at Riverside Drive on the Hudson to live there for a while, even. And then… after many other adventures, I eventually washed ashore in Sag Harbor: Hollywood East. My God! Never did escape Hollywood, did I? They’re all around me now… on the East End. Bacall hangs out here as well at times. What will she say when she reads this story? Hmmm… maybe one day she’ll give me a lift and I’ll get the real poop.
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