"REMOVE THE exotic touches and what have you got? A dull, prosaic English policeman."
That's what Sean Connery said, during the filming of "Goldfinger," in 1964. Sean was already growing weary of the character, and the constricting fame of 007.
That quote appears in Vanity Fair's delicious article on how James Bond was transferred to the screen, from Ian Fleming's novels. (This year marks the Bond movie franchises' 50th anniversary.) The books, while quite popular, were not the phenomena they became after the Bond films took off, and after Fleming's death in 1964. They were reprinted endlessly. (Death can sometimes be a smart career move.)
The article by David Kamp is full of fascinating detail. Sean Connery was nobody's idea of James Bond. "Disaster, disaster, disaster!" remarked "Dr. No" director Terence Young when he discovered who his leading man would be. At that point Connery was known for appearing in one Lana Turner flop aptly titled, "Another Time, Another Place" and the incongruous "Darby O' Gill and the Little People." (Apparently Terence changed his mind, going on to direct two more of the early Connery/Bond epics.)
And there were more minor problems, such as Ursula Andress' accent. They simply dubbed her, post-production. As they did for Bond's second leading lady the "From Russia with Love" stunner, Daniela Bianchi. Even more interesting is how the screenwriters -- especially Richard Maibaum -- had to tamp down 007's brutality, fill Fleming's plot holes and dance around such matters as the author's interest in lesbianism, though they took that as far as they could. (Lotte Lenya was butch and beastly in "From Russia with Love." Honor Blackman -- the memorably named Pussy Galore -- was butch and sexy in "Goldfinger." Although naturally, all it took was a rough tussle with 007 to convince Pussy she was on the wrong track.)
It was Maibaum who came up with all the witty lines -- from Bond and his villains -- that have become so famous.
And if you don't feel like reading the article, you can at least feast your eyes on pages of Sean Connery at his physical peak. All the Bonds were handsome men, and the current 007, Daniel Craig, is sexy and buff indeed, but Sean Connery is the template by which all others are compared.
Plus he still looked great at the U.S. Open applauding -- fist-pumping -- the big win of fellow Scotsman, Andy Murray.
GRACE JONES! The name alone conjures up that wild and crazy era of the late 1970s, when everybody was doing drugs and most everything else in the balcony of Studio 54. The singer/performance artist, with her scary/hot androgynous persona, is still working, still looking good and still fearless. Jones will appear in a new show for one night only on Saturday Oct. 27 at Roseland. The concert, created by Philip Treacy, will include 15 couture costumes changes. She'll sing, too, though that always seemed beside the point, despite an impressive voice. (Many people remember her best as the villain from the 1985 James Bond film "A View to a Kill.") Go to ticketmaster.com for info.
I TOOK my old friend from Texas, Joe Armstrong, to dinner the other night at Donahue's Irish bar. He'd never been to this amazing place before, although it is home for many New Yorkers who like to congregate at 64th and Lexington. They all hope to be waited on by the owner, Maureen. (This informal cafe is called "my kitchen" by many of the famous like Matt Lauer.)
It is hard to surprise Joe who has already scored as a media maven for Rolling Stone, New York, New West, and on and on before he quit. (He is now a stalwart for the Paul Newman Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang for children with devastating illnesses.) He says these days, "The rat race is overrated" -- and I think he's right.
Anyway, Joe surprised me by giving me his own "Critter Observation." He was out in Steamboat Springs, Colo., visiting relatives. They warned him about bears, saying not to get within 300 feet of one. But he walked up amid the wildflowers one morning on a big mountain.
"I was once quoted in the New York Times saying -- 'life is lunch' -- but then I saw a 500-pound bear totally fixed on me about halfway up the slope above me. I took one photo and tried to calmly walk away because I didn't want this creature to have a taste of Texas!"
Bears are moving in on uncivilized humans because they are eating everything in order to go into hibernation. It's almost as bad as politics.
CONGRATS TO Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds on the occasion of their weekend nuptials and of putting one over on the paparazzi and gossip sites. Privacy is possible, if you really want it. (Are you listening, Lindsay?)
I THINK filmmaker Nick Cassavetes will soon be hearing from all sorts of people and groups, after his remarks on incest. His new film "Yellow" deals with it. But Nick, when asked about his own feelings on the subject said, "If you're not having kids, who gives a damn? Let people love who they want. Isn't that what we say? Gay marriage -- love who you want. If it's your brother or sister it's super weird, but if you look at it, you're not hurting anybody except every single person who freaks out because you're in love with one another."
Conservative pundits are going to have a field day. I doubt gay organizations are going to be thrilled either.
TO THANK her Yankee Stadium fans, who endured an unrelenting downpour a few nights back, Madonna gave them a surprise rendition of one of the oldies -- "Holiday." The place went totally berserk. Madonna's not going to change her I'm-not-looking-back ways, but it is said that even she was surprised at the crowd reaction. So maybe she'll sneak in a couple more of the classics as her "MDNA" tour proceeds across the country. Madonna returns to New York in November, for two nights at Madison Square Garden.
ENDQUOTE: I love this from pop queen Gwen Stefani, now reunited with her old bandmates from No Doubt. In a recent interview she was asked, after meeting and being attracted to her now-hubby, sexy singer Gavin Rossdale, "Did you make the first move, or did he?"
Gwen: "Oh, my God, are you serious? He did! I'm not that kind of girl."
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)