The Last Time I Saw Betty Joan Perske

August 13, 2014
Posted by Jay Livingston

One late autumn day about five years ago, I had come out of Central Park and was walking east on W. 72nd St.  Dusk on a weekday. The entrance to the Dakota was free of tourists. Nobody leaning forward to peer in through the vertical bars to see the spot where John Lennon died – just the silent doorman in his gray coat.

I walked on.  An old lady,  bent over and walking slowly, almost painfully, with her tiny dog, was coming towards me. Her face  looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place her.  Who was she? Where had I seen her?  After she had gone past, I turned and watched her move slowly on. A few moments later, she turned and went into the Dakota.

She looked something like this:

I waited till she had gone inside, then walked back and approached the doorman.  “Excuse me,” I said as politely as I could, “but who was that woman who just came in here?” 

He paused for a minute as if trying to decide whether this was a violation of a tenant’s privacy. “That,” he said, “was Miss Lauren Bacall.”

Lauren Bacall 1924 - 2014

[I used this story in an earlier post about names. Until the late 20th century, performers with ethnic or difficult  names changed them (or had them changed by Hollywood studios) to something more “American.” Now, they are more likely to stick with what they’ve got. I’m all for being multicultural, but I still think that Lauren Bacall is a perfect name for her. I have a hard time imagining what Betty Joan Perske would look like.]

No comments: