Nobody did it better

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”.

Mr. Moore?”

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.

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