On Being a Humphrey Bogart Fan

I honestly can’t remember when I became a fan of Humphrey Bogart or Casablanca but it’s been quite a ride, certainly not what you read in Hollywood fan magazines. An early recollection of seeing a Bogart movie was in the summer of 1973, a year before President Nixon resigned. I was near a divorce. Adding to the mood of this particular day, it was thundering and raining. All of a sudden, I heard Bogart’s voice on TV; I ran to the den and was transfixed to Key Largo. An early movie tech noir scene: Bogart and Lauren Bacall on a wooden dock in Key Largo, Florida, just before a hurricane and a few minutes before meeting Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), the gangster. The ending was predictable in this non-socially redeeming movie but something (a favorite word) told me that one day, I’d have to find that wooden dock and stand on it, barefoot, to absorb Bogart’s molecules. Maybe this fixation was sentimentality because the movie was made in 1948; the war was over, I was three, and my parents were young, alive and nurturing; dreamy innocent days of hope and promise. Even now, I still stare often at old Bogart black and white photos; a cigarette always in hand and a handkerchief fluffed out of his sport coat pocket. Maybe if I was older back then, we could’ve been friends.

When technology brought the VCR, I acquired a copy of Casablanca, which ushered in an obsessive-compulsive stage of my mid-life. I realized how much I loved everything about Bogart; how great the movie; how magical the screenplay; how tender the love story between ‘Rick’ and ‘Ilsa.’ Rainy days and Mondays for years to come would find me watching Casablanca. Of course along the way, I absorbed other Bogart movies even when he played a negative guy as in Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Cut to early summer in 1998. While an eyeglass sales manager, something (that word again) made me start writing a novel about oil; I knew nothing about writing nor oil so perhaps attributes of synchronicity and spirituality? And if I was an antenna, responsive to universal direction, then I thought it was time to take my writing on location and at the same time, look for that wooden dock and fulfill a promise to find Bogart molecules. I flew to Miami and drove to Islamorada, right next to Key Largo and spent a few days writing, relaxing and searching. On the last morning, just off a highway, I found a saloon which advertised the actual dock from Key Largo was around the back. Surreal surroundings; a few birds overhead, no people, blue sky and a decaying old wooden dock greeted me as did Goosebumps. I really did it. However, I had to change an image around. The dock where Bogart and Bacall stood was so badly decayed that I was afraid to stand barefoot on it and absorb molecules so I stuck my bare big toe and still felt molecularly injected and inspired. It was worth the trip. I love being a Bogart fan.

Cut to March 2004. My oil novel reached 400 pages and a bottom desk drawer; abandoned for six months. A rainy Sunday morning: my outdoor tennis game was cancelled and I had pent-up energy. What could I do? For the 50th time, it was Humphrey Bogart and Casablanca. Some folks say, “Why bother watching, you know all the lines.” In the last scene, Bogart shoots the bad guy; Claude Rains picks up a bottle of French mineral water, Vichy Water, to celebrate. During the 1940’s, anything with ‘Vichy’ in it was connotative of conspiring with the Germans, so Rains throws the bottle of Vichy Water into a metal garbage can. Synchronicity and spirituality abound again. The moment the Vichy Water hit bottom, I screamed, “My goodness!” My wife thought I was having the big heart attack like Fred Sanford from TV. A novel had suddenly appeared in my field of dreams, involving Bogart and my favorite movie Casablanca. My novel, Vichy Water, was published in 2010. ( http://vichywater.net ) I owe a lot to being a Humphrey Bogart fan.

Post-script. Bogart passed in 1957. A few years ago my son got awfully close to the aura. A long story; he escorted Lauren Bacall for six New York City blocks then she hugged and thanked him but my son never mentioned me or Humphrey Bogart or Vichy Water. Maybe Ms. Bacall is on HooplaHa now as we speak.

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