Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lauren Bacall: Remembering an actress and a song

“We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our own late late show
Sailin’ away to Key Largo
Here’s lookin’ at you kid”

~“Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins

The name Lauren Bacall conjures up memories of more than classic movies. For a kid growing up in the 1980s, hearing the name brings back memories of junior high dances, slow songs, and gallons of teen angst.

Little action
Lauren Bacall was a prolific actor, but by the 1980s had not been in too much. Internet Movie Data Base reveals a few productions, but nothing I had seen. All her best work in movies had been done in the 1940s and 1950s. Instead, what I remember more is not her acting, but her name mentioned in a song – “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins.

The junior high dance
“Key Largo” was released in 1982 and made it all the way to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. More importantly, it was one of the slow songs we danced to at St. Joe’s junior high in Coaldale.

There was nothing like a junior high dance. Sounds Unlimited provided the sound, and it was all the popular stuff of the time – “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” by Loverboy, “Innocence” by Harlequin, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” by Toronto, and much, much more.

You had all the guys sitting huddled on one side of the gym, and all the girls on the other side. Guys would walk across the great divide and ask girls to dance. Hopefully they said yes. If not, they made the slow walk back to their side. Then, the boys stood across from the girls on the dance floor, moving awkwardly from side to side in some sort of rudimentary dance.

Then there was the slow dance. That was reserved for a girl you really liked. For shy guys like me, it was a long walk to ask a girl to dance, and an even longer walk of shame to my seat if she said no. The soundtrack included, “Straight from the Heart” by Bryan Adams, “Ball and Chain” by Aldo Nova, and of course “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins. These dances were like sweaty hugs where we moved slow, and turned even more slowly.

That was when I began to dream of finding my dream girl, a dream I have still not seen come true.

What St. Joseph's School in Coaldale looks like today. It is really not that much different from 30 years ago
when I graduated from there.
Parting thoughts
Oddly, I would see Lauren Bacall in the decade that followed – “All I Want for Christmas” in 1991; “Ready to Wear” in 1994; “The Mirror Has Two Faces” in 1996; and “My Fellow Americans”, also in 1996.

Yet, whenever I hear the name Lauren Bacall as I did when she recently passed away, it reminds me not of any role she played. Instead, it’s that song “Key Largo” that transports me back to a simpler time, when I first discovered girls and how frightening it could be to ask them out, or even just to a dance.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid.

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