by sir Taki Theodoracopulos
Thespianophobia is a very rare disease that afflicts very few. Its literal meaning is an excessive dislike of actors, and I’m afraid I am one of those afflicted by it. Fortunately in my case my phobia is limited to male actors, my memories of actresses I’ve personally known being the most alluring and enchanting of my youth. The reason for my affliction was diagnosed as deriving from the disproportionate influence monosyllabic trained seals (actors) have in politics. Mostly in America, that is. Totally ignorant and completely uneducated, solipsistic actors parrot left-wing clichés and woke pronouncements like those lovable parakeets we keep in cages for our amusement. The irony of course being that in this James Bond issue, two of the most famous agents, and one infamous villain, were very good friends of mine. Go figure, as they used to say in Brooklyn.
I’ll start with Louis Jourdan, the wonderful French matinee idol of “Gigi,” “The Swan,” and the unforgettable “Letter from an Unknown Woman.” Louis played the villain Kamal Khan in “Octopussy” late in life, once the romantic roles were over. I met him when I was young, in the Hotel du Cap, where his cabana was next to mine. Louis would read Baudelaire poems and exclaim how beautiful they were, while his wonderful wife Quique would beg him to read scripts. “No one’s making a movie of Les Fleur du Mal this year Louis.” His other passion was classical music and we would compete in naming the tune with each other. Louis and Quique gave a dinner for me in their home in Hollywood on my way back from Vietnam, and they produced some pretty famous stars for yours truly. Late in their life I used to stop in the Costa opposite Spetses where Louis took a house each summer having discovered tennis. He was gracious and a good friend until the end well into his nineties.
As was Roger Moore, as gracious and gentlemanly as Louis, whom I met in the late Sixties when he moved to Gstaad, back then a tiny alpine village where everyone knew each other. (No longer). Roger was a good friend of the man I worked for, William Buckley, the conservative writer and owner of National Review. Roger was conservative in his politics but didn’t dare say so as Hollywood is known to blacklist right – wingers. He loved to drink and tell jokes, and never have I met anyone who knew more jokes. Although his father was a policeman Roger was taught early on to speak proper English by his parents, and he certainly looked the part, elegant and upper class. He enjoyed telling stories about his father on the beat swinging his club. He once said to me how much he missed Atticus, a column I used to write in the London Times. “As much as I miss James Bond?” answered I. He drank his good wines and dined elegantly until the end. His three children are friends of mine and next – door neighbors in Gstaad. A very pleasant souvenir was when Roger and I got lost driving out of Milano – we had visited our tailor – and a Polizia Stradale car signaled us to stop. (Roger was driving the wrong way up a street.) Once the policeman saw him, he quickly hollered into his radio, “Madonna, e zero, zero sette…” he then escorted us all the way to the motorway and pointed us towards Switzerland.
The original Bond, of course, was Sean Connery, and Sean was the last Bond I met, and in funny circumstances at that. I was in an Italian New York restaurant during the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The place was empty except for two couples, my wife and I being the second one. Then the tiny lady from the other table walked over to ours and asked me whether I was Taki. I stood up and gave my usual answer in the very few times I have been recognized in public. “Alas, yes.” She then introduced herself as Micheline Connery, and a great fan of the Spectator. I still had not clicked as Micheline went back to her table. On our way out I noticed her companion. This was the tall and tough looking first Bond in the flesh and he gave us a very wry smile, as if to tell us “you may be a friend of my wife but I’m a Scot and I don’t speak to strangers.”
Needless to say, soon after that – it was around fifteen years ago – the Connerys moved to a village near mine in Switzerland. I ran into them one night and invited them to dinner. Micheline still read my column assiduously and agreed with my politically incorrect views. Sean kept giving me the tough guy look, his alluring baritone a reliable clue to his womanizing. He and I became fast friends in no time. The last time I saw him he was not feeling his best – old age and all that – but he still managed to tell me a fumy story about Noel Coward: “It was while filming the first Dr No, back in 62, and Sir Noel came down from his villa visiting the set. I was an unknown but he asked me to dinner. I accepted with alacrity. Once I got there I saw no one but a table set for two. Jesus Christ I told myself, I’m in for it. (Sir Noel was openly homosexual.) During an excellent dinner he asked me if I were gay. No, I said, not at all. But you were in the navy, he protested. You’re an actor. Nevertheless I am not and never have been, I told him. And we then remained very good friends until his death. A great man and friend.”
A typical Sean Connery story, bluff, hard and very touching.