She stepped out of the limo at the Marriott and in that husky memorable voice exclaimed "Now why am I here?"
My heart skipped a beat as I stepped forward to greet Lauren Bacall, the featured speaker for the University of Kentucky Center on Aging Foundation's annual dinner event we had been planning for a year.
We had been corresponding through her assistant for months but clearly I would have to get her up to speed quickly. She had a speech to give to 500 guests.
The anxiety I felt was dissipated by her charm, elegance and gracious manner.
She welcomed me into her suite to chat while she changed clothes and redid her makeup, talking as you would with a longtime friend about clothes, aging and "girl stuff."
She had asked for many amenities in her room such as cheese, fruit, special water, tea and Grey Goose Vodka which we provided (but which were not used).
My husband joined us later as we waited to escort her to the ballroom and they also chatted like old friends.
The discussion turned to all things Kentucky, including bourbon. My husband, Bob, offered to get her some Makers Mark and she was very excited at the prospect that she could take the small bottles back to her friends in New York City, mentioning Henry Kissinger in particular. Bob took her comments seriously and immediately left for the Liquor Barn to get them for her.
At the end of the evening, after she had entertained the audience with stories of her life, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and the "rat pack," she invited my husband and me back to her room where she was grateful to find Makers Mark bottles waiting. We talked for awhile and she signed her movie posters we had purchased for decorations at the event.
As we left, she handed Bob the unopened bottle of Grey Goose and invited us to visit her in New York. I wish we had. Her card is still in my Rolodex.
In the elevator, I read the inscriptions on the posters and knew these were items I would always treasure: "To Lindsey and Bob — thanks for a great night, Lauren Bacall."
Thanks Bacall, for sharing your greatness and graciousness with us and the world. Rest in peace.
Lindsey Ein is the former director of the University of Kentucky's Center on Aging Foundation.