“I was never my favourite subject” Lauren Becall
Okay so she has written a number of books about herself which takes away slightly from this assertion. However in her defense, although the books are by her and are based on her life, she does spend a lot of time answering questions and focusing on the other people in her life rather than just on herself. And to be honest it suits my purpose and I’d like to think based on the interviews with her I’ve read, she would agree, …with herself. I think it was demanded of her that she talk about herself but mostly in the context as one half of one of the most famous Hollywood pairings ever. In fact, one could go even further to suggest that the demand for her story was really about the demand of stories of Bogart, of Sinatra, of the golden time of Hollywood and her role as the sole survivor, the last eye witness of this incredible era, rather more than a demand for her story.
A quick recap of the life of one Betty Perske, better known as Lauren Becall, takes us on a journey that includes the likes of Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra and of course, the man himself, Humphrey Bogart. Her career spans the spectrum from film noir, to comedies to modern classics like The Sopranos and Family Guy. Her’s was the voice that launched a thousand ships, that ‘smoky sexual growl’, that ‘throaty purr’ that left you in doubt as to who was in charge. And then there was ‘the look’, the chin pressed against the chest , the eyes tilted upwards to face the camera.And while it may have been born out of nervousness and a last ditch effort effort to steady her uncontrolled shaking, it captured the world’s fancy and imagination thrusting upon her a reputation that was full of mystery, an allure that catapulted her into overnight stardom after just one film, To Have and Have Not. She was only 19 when she made it and met Bogie and boy, how could she have known just how much her life was about to change forever.
Becall may not have liked talking about herself, but she at least she would have had an awful lot to talk about. After all, to say her life was interesting is to say Bogie liked the odd tipple or two. I would not mind in the slightest if I was in her company and she hogged the air space. What I do mind is being in the company of others who would do well to take note of her words. I am a good listener but lately even my listening tolerance has been sorely tested by folks who either a) talk exclusively about themselves , their family and their doings or b) folks who think they are having a conversation with you but actually they are not. A dialogue by it’s very definition means two or more participants, so I call these folks monologuers; they are simply talking at you, with no real idea of ever listening to you or what you might have to say in return.
Sometimes I fear for the art of the conversation as I encounter more and more people who have failed to grasp the basic tenets of reciprocity; that talking to someone is about an exchange of words, with an emphasis on the word exchange. It is not, nor should it be, a one way journey – all give and no take. And unless you have lived half the life of someone like Becall and can entertain me with stories about Sinatra or Peck, I am really not that interested in listening to you talk about yourself ad nauseam.
And finally, to those who talk at you, who say something but never wait for your response and simply continue talking as if you had responded, I say, loudly , “The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”