The seamed and weathered face of Humphrey Bogart, shown left at the wheel of his 55-foot yawl Santana, is known to the movie-going public as perhaps the meanest ever to leer down the barrel of a loaded automatic. To Mrs. Bogart (the actress Lauren Bacall), it is known affectionately as the face that "looks as if it had run aground." Around the slips and moorings of the sun-washed marinas of California, however, it is the well-respected face of a dedicated skipper who would rather sink to the bottom than be called a party-boy yachtsman.
"Listen," snarled Bogie, casting a cold eye on the SI reporter, "I don't want those people to think, here's another one of those Hollywood sailors. And I don't want to be made to appear a horse's neck to the sailing group I belong to. I don't use a boat to drink on or to chase dames on. I use it to get away from things. Hemingway said that the sea was the last free place in the world, and I respect it and love it. I've been sailing since I was 6 years old, and I don't want to be made into a clown."
He took a sip of the Jack Daniels highball he held in his hand and looked disgusted. Across the room of his Holmby Hills mansion, his pretty wife sighed and rolled her eyes to the skylighted ceiling. "Bogie takes his sailing very seriously," she said soothingly. "You'll have to be patient."
Bogart took another sip of his drink and quieted down for the moment. In Hollywood there's an old saying about Bogart attributed to Restaurateur Dave Chasen: "After 11 o'clock at night, he thinks he's Bogart." It was only 11 o'clock in the morning, but a nasty spring rain was blowing against the windows, the whisky had too much water in it (Bogart is recuperating from an esophagus operation), the conversation was proving an ordeal and Bogart was ahead of schedule.
April 29, 1956
Actually, his wife explained, the off-screen Bogart has a duality of citizenship. In Los Angeles harbor and the seas to the west and south he's Captain Bogart of the Santana, an ocean racer which has won him many a yachting trophy despite being eight feet too short in the mainmast, the fault (as Bogart explains) of "some stupid idiot" who changed it from a schooner to a yawl before Bogart bought it.
On shore Captain Bogart becomes Citizen Bogart, the Vice-President in Charge of Public Relations for a civic organization known as The Holmby Hills Rat Pack. In practice, Bogart frequently mixes the role but never the cast. His boat crew includes no Hollywoodites and, thus, as Bogart explains, no Rats. And the Rat Pack (which includes Restaurateur Mike Romanoff, Singer Frank Sinatra, Wife Lauren Bacall, Actress Judy Garland) has only one Rat who doubles as a sailor—Bogart.
"I have an eight-man crew and no Hollywood among 'em," boasts the sailor Bogart. "One of the gang is in the ad business. One is a purchasing agent. 'Course, the actor Jeff Richards is pretty good crew. And I take out Dewey Martin now and then. No, Dewey is not in the Rat Pack. He hasn't the instincts of a Rat.
"I can never explain to these Hollywood clowns with the ulcers what it is that I find so peaceful on the boat. I'm constantly being asked three questions about the boat by nonsailors, of which this town is full of: One, how many does it sleep? The answer I always give is, 'as few as possible.' Two, do you fish off it? No, because you get blood on the teakwood and you never get it off. And, three, what do you do on board? That's a complicated answer. I say, well, you sail to wherever you're going and you get tied up at anchor. In the morning you get up and wash down the boat—right away you can see their interest dwindling. Then you have breakfast and sit around in the sun. You keep gazing out at the horizon. Pretty soon you see a sail out in the distance. Somebody says, it's so-and-so, giving the name of the boat. Somebody else says, no, it's so-and-so. By then it's time for cocktails before lunch. Then you lunch and you take a nap. By that time the boat you saw is in and it turns out to be none of those your eagle eyes said it was and this is good for a lot of conversation and reasons why they thought it was who it wasn't. Then it's time for cocktails. Then there's the day when there are no sails on the horizon—and somebody is sure to say, 'I wonder why there are no sails on the horizon. Maybe it's foggy off the mainland.' And this is good for a lot of conversation and pretty soon it's time for cocktails before lunch just the same."
Captain Bogart settled, satisfied, back in his chair.
"I think sailing is an acquired taste," his wife said coolly. "I'm a creature of the soil." (Bogart swore loudly.) "I love old terra firma. I think the Queen Elizabeth is just the right-size boat."
"A good wife"—snarled Bogart in the voice he uses to say, 'Drop the gun, Louie,'—"a good wife sails where her husband sails."
"I know," shot back his good wife, "and I throw up. I tried. God knows I tried. I don't think even Hump-phrey (she gave the pronunciation a contemptuous inflection) can deny that. I tried to love it, but I just don't. There are no eight ways about it. I get positively green and then Bogie leers at me and says, 'How would you like a nice warm cup of fish?' "
Bogie let it pass. "The trouble with sailing out here," he went on, "is that you have no places to go. On the Sound back East, you have all those places. Out here, you're out in the ocean immediately. You can sail to Catalina. You can sail to Catalina and back. You can go to the islands off the coast. That's it. Also, you don't really have different kinds of weather. In the summer we got a westerly that comes up at the same time and the same place every day—almost like a trade wind. In the winter it storms and blows some—but by and large you got a better class of sailors in the East. There's nothing wrong with 'em out here. On the International 14s and the Snipes and Stars, we got some good boys. The Star class is probably the best racing machine there is for a test of man against man. But we don't have the classes they have back East.
"Actually, I took up sailing when I found out I was beginning to throw clubs on the golf course. I used to play to a six-handicap in golf. I've been taking it up a little again. I think I could get down to an 11-handicap."
Is the Rat Pack specifically barred from the Santana, Bogart was asked.
"Not at all," sneered Bogart. "It just isn't any place for a Rat. I take Mike [Romanoff] occasionally. He always shows up in costume. Mike has a costume for everything. But he's always correct. He shows up absolutely what you call 'yar.' He has a yachting costume which looks like it was out of those old historical archives—you know, showing the royal family of the czars at Sevastopol or on the Black Sea. But it's correct stuff and Mike has the rubber-soled shoes, the nautical cravat and a stickpin in it. He also has a basket of champagne and food from his restaurant. You have the feeling Anastasia will be along soon.
"Sinatra? Frankie's definitely not a sailor. Frankie's got to have lots of action—plenty of room to move around in. The minute you'd drop anchor, Frankie would start to pace around the boat like a caged animal.
"I figure you can stay around the bars five days a week and drink and hell around, why fuss up a nice day on the sea? The minute I get on a boat I can feel this [tapping the nape of the neck] loosen up. My boat never has a woman aboard, which means we have a pretty good poker game and pretty good talk. You know, about politics and other things besides pictures. This way we can talk pretty good patois. You know, sailors have patois like doctors—certain lingo, certain names for things."
Doesn't his wife mind his being away each nonworking weekend?
"I had it out with her," snarled Bogart. "I told her, 'Any time you want to come aboard there's a berth for you, and your clothes are on board.' But she gets sick and squeamish and she has children and the house to run."
"Wait a minute," protested his wife. "I learned how to sail. I don't pretend to be as good as he is but I know pretty much about it. I used to be chef on board...."
"Actors are frowned upon in certain yacht clubs," Bogart put in thoughtfully. "They're there for wild parties instead of the business of sailing...."
"Bogie has been admitted to membership in any yacht club he cared about joining," Mrs. Bogart interrupted. "He's considered to be a man who knows as much about sailing as anyone, and he's accepted in the club as a sailor who's as good as any sailor there...."
"I'll tell you," said Bogie suddenly, "I do the same things sailing a boat as I would do if racing an automobile. The trick is to use your sails correctly and be sure you're going in the right direction.
"My handicap is 41.9. But I need a lot of wind just to get my boat to live up to its handicap, I'm so under-rigged. But I've won my share. We do all right."
Was there ever a temptation to cheat on the rules during a race?
"Cheating doesn't enter into it," said Bogart flatly. "A liberal interpretation of the rules can enter into it. I've never been protested against in my life. I've protested...."
"Naturally," cut in his wife, dryly.
What about the race from nearby Newport Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico, in which more than 100 yachts will start May 3? Will there be many protests, or liberties taken with the rules?
"The Ensenada Race is not the kind of race that lends itself to any of that. It's more of a trip than a race. It's not long enough really. Fact is, most races are won at night. A lot of fellas relax and go to sleep or party. The guy who keeps sailing all night long wins. I change sails all night long! I change sail at midnight or 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. or any time the wind conditions call for it."
He lapsed into glowering silence. "I like to race by the rules. A lot of people get mad at me. But I take the position it's all right to bump and shove and behave badly when you're racing little dinghies. But when you got 26 tons, it's something else again.
"In the race around the Channel Islands, which I have won, it takes five or six days. I suppose it's possible to start your motor overnight, if there's no wind. But I don't know anybody who'd do it. Corinthian Yachtsmen is the word for that kind of integrity, if that's what it is. But when you race up there around Richardson's Rock, it's possible to assume you've gone around it in the fog when, as a matter of fact, you haven't. If you haven't, it's possible you've shortened your course by two or three miles."
How often are you in close quarters?
Bogart's lips peeled back in the familiar third-reel sneer. He hissed. "Why, any stupid jerk would know that in a triangular race you're in close quarters all through the race."
There was another silence.
"How many knots will your boat do?" he was asked.
Bogart looked as if a gun had been pulled on him. "Why, you stupid idiot!" he roared. "Your speed depends on the wind. If there's no wind, it won't move! If there's a 100-mile-an-hour gale...Oh, nuts." And the Corinthian Yachtsman stalked away.
Mrs. Bogart sighed as she escorted the reporter to the door. "You'll have to forgive Bogie..." she murmured. "It's just that...."
"It's just that he's Bogart," prompted the intruder.
And Mrs. Bogart's face broke into a beatific smile.