/ 13 February 2008

Bogart’s ‘secretary and mistress’ dies in New Orleans

Verita Bouvaire Thompson, the reputed long-time mistress and confidante of Humphrey Bogart, has died. She was 89.

Thompson died of natural causes at JoEllen Smith Living Centre on February 1, according to her boyfriend, Dean Shapiro (58), a New Orleans writer.

In 1982, Thompson wrote a revelatory book called Bogie and Me: A Love Story in which she described a 14-year secret love affair with Bogart that overlapped his marriage to Lauren Bacall. Subsequent Bogart biographies corroborated her story.

Between 1950 and 1956, Thompson travelled with Bogart and prepared his toupees, made his Scotch-and-soda drinks and responded to his fan mail.

She was described as Bogart’s ”toupee-minder, bartender, boat-mate, traveling companion, confidante, adviser and mistress” in Jeffrey Meyers’s biography Bogart: A Life in Hollywood.

”It’s hard for people to accept that the Bogie and Bacall myth wasn’t really what it was,” Shapiro said. ”They were supposed to be this great Hollywood couple, but Bogie was carrying on with Verita on the side.”

Thompson and Bogart were a perfect fit for each other, Shapiro said. ”She could trade cuss word for cuss word and shot for shot with him. She liked to drink, he liked to drink,” he said. ”They did a lot of crazy things together.”

Estelle Mackey, a 25-year friend of Thompson’s from Santa Monica, California, said Thompson taught her ”to live your life to the fullest and enjoy every day because you don’t know what’s going to happen and you can sleep when you’re dead”.

All the way to her death, her friends said, Thompson adhered to a striking style and outlook reminiscent of the 1940s and Bogart’s movies, dressing in Chanel suits, high heels, hat and gloves — with a whiskey smash in hand.

”Her idea of water was like WC Fields’s idea of water: you dunk your hands in it to clean them,” Mackey said.

Born in 1918 in Nogales, Arizona, Thompson was raised by her paternal grandparents and lived most of her youth in northern Mexico. After being named runner-up in the 1935 Miss Arizona Pageant, she moved to Hollywood and got a small part in a Western film before taking up residence in Mexico City where she studied wig making.

She found work as a hairstylist in Hollywood and worked for Gary Cooper, Charles Boyer, George Raft and Ray Milland, Shapiro said.

Thompson met Bogart at a cast wrap-up party for the blockbuster film Casablanca in 1942.

”Bogie didn’t like to dance, but honey, we danced the night away and from that day on, we were lovers,” she said in an interview with the Times-Picayune newspaper in 1998.

”He called me ‘Pete’, introduced me as his ‘secretary and mistress’, because he said, ‘That’ll throw ’em off; they’ll think it’s a rib,”’ she said in the interview. ”He kidded me constantly. He was a sweet guy, a fascinating guy and oh, darlin’, did we had fun!”

When the affair began, Bogart was married to actress Mayo Methot and Thompson to her first husband, Robert Peterson, Shapiro said. He said the clandestine affair lasted until Thompson’s marriage to cinematographer Walter Thompson in 1955, overlapping Bogart’s marriage to Bacall. Bogart died in 1957.

Later, she entered the restaurant business and opened Verita’s La Cantina on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and followed that with several other restaurants. She moved to Natchez, Mississippi, in the late 1980s and began living in New Orleans in the 1990s, where she opened a piano bar in the French Quarter called Bogie and Me. — Sapa-AP