Wait for it - Keith Quinn has a Lauren Bacall Story?

15 August 2014

Yes, I know you'll all be screaming, 'here's old Quinn in the first week of his rugby website now asking us to believe he has a hare-brained story which involves him and the late Lauren Bacall!

But its true! It really is! And it has a rugby connection!

So let me first say that I feel very sad for dear Lauren Bacall who has recently passed away. What a great and glamorous career she had and what a great star she really was.

I met her way back in the late 70s or early 80s (I've got to be honest here and say I can't recall exactly what year). She was invited to come to New Zealand to take part in the local fund-raising 'Telethon' series.

New Zealanders of a certain age will remember these shows. They were basically a nation-wide hook up of TV stations where local TV talent (some local people were called 'TV stars' - though not me) and they sat on a 'panel' in front of the cameras and did silly things on screen after fans at home had pledged to pay to see them do it. The money raised over about 24 hours all went into a very worthy cause for that particular year. These telethons went on for years until like a lot of things on TV they 'ran out of puff.'

This particular time about five or six well-known TV personalities from USA and Britain were flown to New Zealand to take part and one by one they were distributed to each of the four main centres. The great Lauren Bacall came to Wellington and at the Wellington Show buildings in Newtown I was introduced to her. I was also to be a panellist that night.

Of course she had absolutely no idea who I was (a New Zealand rugby commentator would hardly be ringing any bells in Hollywood right?) but I was thrilled to meet her. I had seen a lot of her movies, as we all had. She really was big time!

And she was really nice. As I recall she had no minders or anything like that - just Lauren sitting there waiting as we all were to do our 'thing' on screen.

Soon it came for a new 'panel' to go out in front of the cameras. As I had been in a conversation with Lauren (see how easily I am calling her by her first name?) I ducked in behind her as we walked out into the lights.

As I recall there were four of us in the panel. While I can't recall who the fourth was I do remember that the 1974-76 All Black captain Andy Leslie was right there too. We all sat down and for about half an hour we joshed with the public and did silly things. The phones ran hot and money was raised. I was right next to the Hollywood star - and lovin' it!

At one point someone rang up and said they'd donate $50 to see the 'panel do 20 press-ups each.' As that would have been grossly unfair and undignified to ask a real lady to be involved in that activity the rest of the panel got down on the floor and huffed our way through them. Andy I remember did his no sweat but your friendly commentator was wheezing heavily by about press-up number six! I think I got through in the end but red-faced and puffing I went back to my seat.

Lauren played her part superbly in another section of 'our time together.' A local hotel donated a dish for us each to eat on screen. That would be easy I thought; even then eating was one of my hobbies.

Four young men in with large chef's hats then elegantly brought out four silver platters and one each was placed in front of us. The cover plates were whisked away and there - was garnished tripe and onions in all its - ugh -glory!

Me being a committed pie and chips man in those days I nearly gagged and really struggled to chaw down a couple of tiny mouthfuls. Grinning at the cameras through clenched teeth.

But next to me the worldly Bacall ate (most of hers) in a truly delicate, graceful and delightful way. 'Tripe,' she said, 'was one of her favourites.'  People in the live audience clapped and cheered and a whole bunch of money from north to south was donated. Shortly after that our time on screen was over we were all hurried off set.

Out the back, with a bit of a 'goodbye' but without so much as a peck on the cheek the star was whisked away. Out to a car she went being rushed to the airport to later turn up at much the same show in Christchurch.
And my fleeting time with Humphrey Bogart's wife was over.

I must salute my family here; they have put up with my re-telling off this tale many times over the years. They'll be shrugging if they're reading now. Only today on the occasion of the great lady's death has my story gone public. Though I often wonder in those years of loneliness up in Hollywood did the great lady ever think of me?

Na - probably she liked the smooth All Black captain much more! Damn him!

By the way if you want checking to see if my story here is true, give Andy Leslie a call - gee I hope he remembers!

Or else head into the dusty halls of TV1s archive building. Maybe the tapes of the epic meeting between one great person and one would-be-if-he-could-be are still there, waiting to be re-told.

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