His father is famous for inhabiting a world of intrigue and shadows, but on this summer’s day, Stephen Humphrey Bogart’s modest, split-level Ridgewood, N.J., home is swimming in light. Still, Bogie is here: in the 46-year-old offspring himself, who has the coloring of mother Lauren Bacall but the sloe eyes, bow-shaped lips, and receding hairline of his dad; in a giant African Queen poster that greets you at the door; in a certain Best Actor statuette perched on the mantel; even in an ashtray marked ”The Stork Club,” currently being utilized at the kitchen table by the younger Bogart, a pack-a-day man to his father’s four.
These seemingly innocuous mementos could be viewed as badges of suffering. Filled with anecdotes involving the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and Jason Robards, Bogart: In Search of My Father, written by Stephen Bogart with the late Gary Provost, is part Bogie biography, part a son’s sad, though ultimately uplifting, tale of loss and unwanted inherited notoriety (Bogie died of cancer in 1957, when Stephen was 8 and his sister, Leslie, was 4). ”I always felt I was accepted because of who my parents were or because my father died,” says Bogart, ”and then over the years he just got bigger and bigger.”
To avoid being branded ”Bogie’s boy,” Bogart, a former TV producer, denied his identity: Then, 11 years ago, he wed second wife Barbara, who encouraged him to accept his heritage. The final step was writing the book. ”It closes a chapter in my life … [and] reinforced that my father would have been a fun guy to have as a friend, to joke with. He liked to play golf, sail. He was well-read, an excellent chess player … a very interesting guy.”
And his son? ”Now I’ve done something other than be born … I did this and I wrote a novel [Play It Again],” he says, brightening. ”Now people can’t say, ‘Ah, he’s just … ‘ I’m not ‘just.”’