Let’s make this perfectly clear from the start: I’m a Sean Connery man. Nothing in Bondism matches that holy quartet of Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball. And only McCartney’s opening tune for ‘Live And Let Die’ touches the early themes, culminating in Nancy Sinatra’s sublime ‘You Only Live Twice’.
Connery was cool, sex, credible, fit, believably ruthless, self-centred, hard as fucking nails – and had that liquid voice. Moore was never much more than a caricature with a lazy eye. Increasingly podgy, unconvincing and slightly too old. Whilst Sean came from the same school that gave us Emma Peel, Roger was the Terry Wogan of the spy world if you will.
As Sean Connery once said, he played Bond, whilst Moore parodied the character. Connery looked like the man who would drive that Aston Martin; Moore looked like the guy from the showroom who sold it to him.
However, for all that, I have a place in my heart for Roger Moore. Roger tried to have me arrested once.
It is, to date, one of only two times I’ve had to fend off the law as I did, and this was perhaps the closest I came to a night with an old blanket in a cold concrete holding pen with serial drunks and other hopefully minor offenders awaiting the morning’s dock appearance.
This is what happened. To start, I need to go back to 1975 or so; Auckland. I was part of a close-knit bunch of aspiringly arty wannabes centred around a few flats in the inner city. I was in Brooklyn apartments much of the time, but also spent hours in flats in Courtville and the dark pre-gentrified side of Parnell (Bath Street and such). One of our group was a handsome driven young man who came from a wealthy Northland family and had aspirations to be an actor. He was studying at Theatre Corporate under Raymond Hawthorne and supporting himself with waiting work at the chic (Auckland only had one in those days) eatery Le Brie in Chancery Lane. We spent a lot of time together and were as close as you could be with Marc, who had a decidedly roguish side to his often-charming personality – girls loved him until he didn’t pay back the few dollars he’d borrowed, or return the car on time. He looked sharp, with his then-vogueish scarfs and fur coat (it was the tail-end of the Roxy Music and glam era). He also was sharp, in the other sense.
In early 1976, Marc left Auckland, leaving a few debts (not to me) and a few more upset hearts, the kind that would always forgive him. But, I think he had to leave for more than a few reasons.
Fast forward to late 1983 and I arrived in London. I was living in NW6, in West Hampstead, and I decided to find Marc. I had an address in Southwark, and in those pre-Internet days, it took detective work to track down people who had largely, for whatever reason, disappeared. The address was old but it was worth a try.
A to Z in hand, I took a train, changed train and then walked and walked. I got lost for a while but eventually I walked into a council estate and up two flights of stairs. I knocked on the door with the number I had on my bit of paper on it. Nothing. I knocked again. I began to walk away and the door opened an inch. A female voice, “who is it?” “I’m looking for Marc.” “He doesn’t live here anymore.” I began to walk away again and got 50 metres or so when I heard my name called. I looked back and there was a slightly older version of Marc.
“Come in, quickly, quickly”, he said, looking furtively in each direction. I did and after the surprised hug from him and the ‘how did you find me’ back and forth, asked why the secrecy? “They are looking for the piano”, and he pointed to an expensive looking grand piano in the living room. Sidestepping the question of how “they” managed to get it up here and in the door – and why Marc would want one anyway – he said he’d not made the payments and “they” wanted it back. He wanted to keep it. “I’ll sort it out soon”.
Best not to ask any questions I decided and spent the next few hours with Marc, who was clearly living an interesting life, especially given my sheltered antipodean life to date.
Eventually, he offered me a ride home as he said needed to head out and drop something off to a ‘friend’. Sure, I didn’t fancy the walk through the council estate/train/change train/walk. It was by now dark and getting colder, and nothing is bleaker than a wet grimy urban London Autumn evening far from home.
So off we went in his Mini. Marc drove like a maniac but he always had done. In Auckland, his cars were usually vintage and borrowed so speed was rarely an issue. The Mini, being Cooper, had the speed option so we did. In situations like that, I usually assume a happy ending and tune out. We turned up a narrow dark lane somewhere, I guess, near Primrose Hill. “I have to drop something to a friend”, he said as he parked in under a tree.
I sat there for about half an hour and then a white Rolls drove very slowly past me. It stopped and then moved on. Twenty minutes later it went past me the other way, again slowly. I wondered where the hell Marc was – and there was the Rolls Royce again, gliding up the lane. I waited for Marc.
Another ten minutes. I was getting pissed off. There was a tap on the window and I looked at the torch shining in at me. Two gents in blue were gesturing for me to vacate the car. I did.
“Who are you?”
I gave my name.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m waiting for my friend, who has gone into one of those houses. To be honest, I’m sick of waiting.”
The questions came in rapid fire and I explained I was a newly arrived New Zealander who was a little overwhelmed by the big city. They nodded as if that made sense – English, as a rule, think New Zealand is more primitive than Wales and Liverpool combined (Liverpool is part of Ireland, aside from The Beatles and Echo & The Bunnymen). Worse than France. “This is Mr. Moore’s driveway and you can’t stop here”.
“Roger Moore. James Bond. It’s his London home and he’s unhappy that you are in it. If you don’t leave shortly we will have to find your friend and escort you both off to the station. You will be charged with trespass.”
I shrugged my shoulders, pleaded colonial oafdom again and thus an inability to understand such concepts, and they leant into the car, shining a torch through it before leaving. I had, they said, ten minutes to leave.
I was, therefore, thrilled when Marc arrived back within 5 of those minutes, and I told him the story.
He went shades of deep ashen and asked if they had looked anywhere. Only the torch I explained with a smile. He reached over the back, pulled up the floor carpet and showed me a dozen or so small white plastic bags. Marc was selling something and that was a delivery. I hadn’t the slightest idea.
I caught the train home.