Video: When Lauren Bacall Serenaded Leonard Bernstein
Friday, August 15, 2014 - 10:33 AM
In 1988, Lauren Bacall made a memorable appearance at Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday gala at Tanglewood, serenading him with "The Saga of Lenny." Stephen Sondheim's witty parody of "The Saga of Jenny" by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin poked fun at Bernstein's extravagant personal and professional behavior.
The video recently resurfaced on YouTube, and has been making the rounds since Bacall's death on Tuesday at the age of 89.
The friendship between Bacall and Bernstein – who were neighbors in the Dakota on Central Park West – went back decades. The recently published Leonard Bernstein Letters includes a telegram from the actress to the conductor, sent on the opening night of West Side Story on September 25, 1957. It reads: "It was worth all the Dexamyl. It's a smash, you're a smash and I'm thrilled for you. Blessings and love, Betty."
When Bacall's husband Humphrey Bogart became ill in 1956, she wrote a letter to Bernstein. "So sweet of you to take the time out to write, and so lovely to hear from you as always. Bogie is coming along," the letter read in part.
Bacall also delivered a tribute at a memorial service for the conductor in 1990, and narrated a documentary film on his life.