Author Archives: Sean McCord

Lauren Bacall by herself

Here we go again.

Humphrey Bogart was my gateway to classic Hollywood. I started out a fan of his tough-guy gangster films, then moved up to the classics. When Lauren Bacall was introduced in To Have and Have Not, I too fell in love with her. How could you not? Sultry, sexy, elegant, with that smoky voice and eyes you could get lost in, I totally understood why Bogie fell for her so hard.

In 1983, Lauren Bacall was performing onstage in L.A. in Woman of the Year. I got tickets to go with my dad and his wife on July 31st. I remember the date because it also happened to be my sister Shannon’s birthday. For her birthday present, I found a hardcover copy of Lauren Bacall By Myself and brought it with me.

A few days earlier, I had met a woman at a UCLA drama reunion event (I can picture her face but forget her name) who played Helga in the L.A. run. When I mentioned that I was going to the show and bringing the book, she offered to meet me and bring the book to Ms. Bacall.

So there I stood, like a stagedoor Johnnie, when “Helga” came out and found me. I handed her the book with a note inside, explaining that it was my sister’s birthday and asking Ms. Bacall if she would kindly sign it for Shannon. Helga disappeared for several minutes, then came back and beckoned me in.

And a moment later, I was standing in Lauren Bacall’s dressing room.

She was unbelievably gracious, especially considering that she had just spent two hours onstage singing and acting her heart out. She thought it was very sweet that I got this book for my sister. I confessed that, even though it was a present for someone else, I had also read it. She laughed at that, and thanked me. I stammered a few words about what a big fan I was of her and Bogie. I almost regretted it the moment I said that, for he had been gone 25 years at that point and she had since created a great career for herself, but she gave me another, very soft thank you, and I could still see a great deal of tenderness in her eyes.

Our meeting lasted only a minute. She signed the book to my sister, cupped me on the side of my face for just a second, and then I was whisked out of there. It all happened so quickly but it made an indelible impression. It is not everyday that you get to meet a living legend, but especially one so caring and classy.

Lauren Bacall was 89 years old when she passed away today, the last of her kind.

Lauren Bacall's signature

Robin in the hood

I have two Robin Williams stories.

The first was about 30 years ago in L.A. I went out one night with Richard Clark and another friend to a nightclub. It should be emphasized that this is not something we normally did, but we had heard about this hot place near Crescent Heights and decided to check it out. We stood in line for some time before we finally got in, and ended up at a table near the door. Here we were, three single guys in our twenties, in a swinging L.A. nightclub in the 80’s, and completely clueless about what we were supposed to do next. Then Robin Williams suddenly appeared.

He stood in the doorway with two very attractive young woman. They could have been actresses, dressed to the nines and very glittery. We were maybe twelve feet away, stunned into momentary silence. Robin Williams was looking around at the very crowded nightclub and seemed to be pondering whether or not to actually come in. The three of us looked at each other for just a split second, then we all stood up and started gesticulating madly “Come join us! Sit here!”.

I wish the rest of the story is that he and his entourage came to our table and that we all had a wild night, but it didn’t happen that way. We actually established eye contact for just a moment, but he waved us off and disappeared back out into the street. All these years later, I remember nothing else about the nightclub or even the rest of the evening, other than the fun time we could have had.

Later, we all learned what a difficult time that was in his life as he was trying to quit his addictions. His son Zac was born in 1983, but at the time we saw him in that nightclub, he was having at least one affair with a cocktail waitress who later sued him.

By 1990, I was living in New York and worked in a spectacular toy and comics store in Greenwich Village. In December of that year, Robin Williams came into the store with his family. It was now five or six years later and he looked like a very different person, more relaxed. Zak was then about 7, and Robin had a new wife and a toddler. They were shopping for unusual imported toys. I showed him several robots and, at one point, I made a joke and he laughed.

Let me repeat that. I made Robin Williams laugh.

That totally made my day. I thought for just a second to mention the whole nightclub incident from some years before, but how was he supposed to react: “Oh yeah, how’ve you been?”

Instead, I played it cool, sold him some toys, and everyone walked out happy.

It is strange to think that we now live in a world without Robin Williams.

Flirting With Disaster; or, When Sean Met Sally

Your Big Blue Host

(image courtesy April Muniz)

On May 14, 2014, I had the distinct privilege of hosting the Big Blue Door Jam, a night of story-telling with the theme “Flirting With Disaster”.

If you are in the Charlottesville area, you should definitely plan to attend more of these events, and take Joel Jones’ Telling True Stories classes. Joel is a fine teacher and you learn a great deal about one of the most intrinsic human experiences: telling stories.

As host, my job was to keep things moving, introduce the story tellers, remind the audience of other events, and to announce the evening award winner. While the ballots were being counted, I also had a few minutes to tell a story of my own.

You can listen to me tell it here, or read the text below. It’s one of my favorites.

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“Bo Regards”

My contribution to the 2014 24/7 show at Live Arts in Charlottesville, VA. I was given a cast of two women, one men, and one female cameo; the theme of the evening was “wishful thinking” and my prompt was “ex-pat in Paris”. I had to write a play overnight, and as I sat down to write, I learned that my own Uncle Bo had passed away that day. This is the result.

Written on January 24 and performed on January 25, 2014. With Noel Derecki, Amy Barrick, Maria Trapnell, and Mendy St. Ours. Directed by Barbara Roberts.

Full text below. All photos courtesy of Lance Buckley’s 24/7 flickr feed.
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My First Comic

JLA #83

“Where Valor Fails… Will Magic Triumph?”

In the summer of 1970, while on vacation in Santa Cruz, CA., I bought my very first comic book. I had seen Archie and Disney comics before, and I knew Batman and Superman from the TV, but I had no idea that they existed in an integrated universe. And who were all these other masked heroes on the cover? The comic was JLA #83, the second of a two-part JLA/JSA crossover, and I must have read it dozens of time until it finally fell apart.

I recently reread an archive version of Justice League of America #83 and my gawd was it a good story! I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was also my first Denny O’Neil comic, a marvelous writer who went on to redefine Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman. In JLA #83, however, he wove a fantastic tale of two earths (Earth 1 was the home of the contemporary DC heroes and the Justice League; Earth 2 was home to the older WWII-era versions of those same characters in the Justice Society) that are slowly merging as a result of alien machinations in the hope that both will be destroyed in order to release enough energy to build a new planet. The images of startled people seeing their doppelgangers on the street, stretching away into the horizon, and the Spectre stretching his body into a thin membrane just to keep the two earths apart, seared themselves into my memory and inspired my own imagination for decades.

Interestingly, after all these years, I finally read JLA #82, the first part of the story. Although I had been curious about it, it turns out that #83 was really the best one to get. There was no reliable source for these comic books back in my hometown, so I had to content myself with Archie and Disney again for a couple of years until we got back to Santa Cruz. Finally, in the summer of 1972, I picked up another JLA/JSA crossover, JLA #100, written by Len Wein. I’m looking forward to re-reading that soon!

JLA #100

Justice League of America #100


“Lulu” was my contribution to Barhoppers 2013, with Claire Chandler as Lulu, cameos by Gene Donovan and Elizabeth Derby, and directed by Sean Chandler. This was recorded at Milli Joe’s Coffeehouse in Charlottesville VA on August 13, 2013. The text is below.
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Hamlet 1979

Thank goodness for parents with deep archives! My mother emailed me this scan recently of a piece that I wrote for my sophomore college English class that my teacher liked so much, it ended up in the student newspaper. In 1979, we were lined up at gas stations to get our rations based on whether we had odd- or even-numbered license plates. I wrote this when I was 18 years old.