Fifteen minutes to nine:
The Red Phone in Bond’s flat gives its loud, distinctive jangle. It’s the Chief of Staff. “At once, please, James. Special from ‘M.’ Something for everyone. Crash dive and ultra hush. If you’ve got any dates for the next few weeks, better cancel them. You’ll be off tonight.”
The archetypal, irreplaceable 007
Sean Connery was a Scottish National Party separatist and a bit of an eccentric; and also, I am assured, a good guy. He lived in gated, ultra-posh Lyford Cay in New Providence, only fifty miles from us on Eleuthera. He was intensely private—hard on visitors, who were always trying to see him. Appropriately, he chose to live where he filmed so many escapades—romancing lovelies while fighting sharks, frogmen, tarantulas, barracuda, octopi, gorgeous spies and implacable villains.
He used to go to this little bistro outside of Lyford Cay. The restaurant belonged to the sister of a good friend. We would go there whenever we were in Nassau. One night my friend I and had just returned from a northern fishing trip. We brought back salmon, some of which was featured on the menu. Seated a couple of tables over were Sean Connery and his wife Micheline, feasting on our fish.
The waitress, my friend’s niece, gestured toward us, telling Sean we were the ones who’d actually caught the salmon. As he was leaving he stopped at our table and thanked us.
Another friend who was at the table, but not on the fishing trip, shook hands with Mr. Connery and said, “You’re welcome.” We of course gave our friend action for having taken credit for something he had no part of. He said he didn’t care what we thought—it was one of the highlights of his life. He tells the story of shaking Sean Connery’s hand quite often.
Here is another snippet that would otherwise be lost to memory. My friend Garry Clark, our manager on a dozen Churchill tours, runs a fleet of limousines and private cars in London. In 1989 he drove for the cast of the third Indiana Jones movie. Once, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and screenwriter George Lucas were out for a stag night on the town. Behind the wheel, Garry was in stitches the entire ride. “Each of them was taking turns, telling the other two how far past it they were.”
Bond girls? Sure, but what about Bond cars?
Every car nut growing up in that era was struck by the great cars in Ian Fleming‘s thrillers. Sean Connery drove them with verve and assurance. Each of us conjured up the sensation of being pressed against the seatback under the urge of the car’s terrific power.
Early on there was Bond’s supercharged 1930 Bentley 4 1/2-liter coupe. Arch-villain Sir Hugo Drax ambushed and totaled it on the Dover Road in Moonraker (1955). Drax himself drove a Mercedes-Benz 300S cabriolet. “Bond had once dabbled on the fringe of the racing world,” Ian Fleming writes. “Lost in memories, he heard again the harsh scream of Caracciola‘s great white beast of a car as it howled past the grandstands at Le Mans.” Or the huge silver grand prix Mercs of Lang, Seaman and von Brauchitsch, “drifting the fast sweeping bends of Tripoli at 190, or screaming along the tree-lined straight at Bern with the Auto Unions on their tails.”
“He disagreed with something that ate him”
Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, drove a Cadillac-powered Studillac in Diamonds are Forever (1955). Leiter let it out on the Taconic State Parkway, doing 80 in second. Then his “hook” slammed the column shift into high on the way to 100. (Leiter’s “hook” had replaced his right hand, eaten by a shark in Live and Let Die, 1954, Fleming wrote: “He disagreed with something that ate him.”) The Studillac didn’t impress Bond. “This sort of hotrod job’s all right for kids who can’t afford a real car,” he told Leiter.
Most memorable of all was Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 (DB3 in the original text of Goldfinger (1957). Hollywood immortalized it with trick machine guns, rotating number plates, ejection seat, water- and oil-sprayers, a bullet-proof deck shield, and knock-off hubs which extended to rip the guts out of opposition vehicles.
Never seen in the films was Bond’s Bentley Continental S2, which he called “The Locomotive.” It appeared in the novel Thunderball (1961). Fleming called it “the most selfish car in England….. Some rich idiot had married [it] to a telegraph pole on the Great West Road.” Bond bought the wreck, straightened the chassis and fitted a new engine.
Next he had Mulliners fit a custom body: “A trim, rather square convertible with only two armed bucket seats in black leather. The rest was all knife-edged, rather ugly, trunk.” [Not “boot”?] The Bentley was battleship grey, “painted in rough, not gloss…. She went like a bird and a bomb and Bond loved her more than all the women at present in his life rolled, if that were feasible, together.”
I was stricken by The Locomotive, envisioning this incongruous Bentley heading to “work.” That was in the mysterious, unmarked building on Regent’s Park, “Universal Exports,” cover for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Ian Fleming wrote:
The twin exhausts—Bond had demanded two-inch pipes—he hadn’t liked the old soft flutter of the marque—growled softly as the long grey nose, topped by a big octagonal silver bolt instead of the winged B, swerved out of the little Chelsea square and into King’s Road. It was 9 o’clock, too early for the bad traffic, and Bond pushed the car fast up Sloan Street and into the park. It would also be too early for the traffic police, so he did some fancy driving that brought him to Marble Arch in three minutes flat. Then there came the slow round-the-houses into Baker Street and so into Regent’s Park. Within ten minutes of getting the Hurry call, he was going up in the lift of the big square building to the eighth and top floor….