Sometime in the early 1950s, the Hollywood star Lauren Bacall went to New York to meet a long lost relative. Her relative was none other than Shimon Peres, then serving in a senior position in the fledgling Israeli Defense Ministry.
“In 1952 or 1953 I came to New York, and people then knew that my original name was Perske,” Peres - whose tenure as Israeli president ended earlier this month - told Haaretz on Wednesday. “Lauren Bacall called me, said that she wanted to meet, and we did. We sat and talked about where our families came from, and discovered that we were from the same family.”
Both of Bacall’s parents were Jewish. Her mother, Natalie Weinstein-Bacal immigrated to New York from Romania, and her father, William Perske, was born in New Jersey to family that came from Poland. During their meeting, they discovered that Bacall’s father was a relative of Yitzhak Perske, the wealthy merchant and father of Shimon Peres.
“We’re from the same family, but I’m not exactly sure what our relation is,” says Peres. “It was she who later said that she was my cousin, I didn’t say that.”
To this day, Peres remembers the impression Bacall left on him during that early meeting.
“She was at the height of her career then, very beautiful and very strong,” says Peres. “She told me a bit about acting, about love, but she was not an easy woman. She had very strong opinions, looked after her honor, and was not easy to converse with. We had a very pleasant talk, but not much more than that. I don’t know much about the world of cinema, we were from different worlds. She was interested in what I was doing, but didn’t speak about it much. I think there was tension between her and her father, though I didn’t want to ask her about it. I didn’t want to go into her business.”
According to Peres, they met once or twice again at gatherings. “I think at one point I saw her husband, Humphrey Bogart,” says Peres. “He was more handsome in real life than in his films, and he was a very pleasant man.”