by Lora Lewis
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.3
He’s charmed his way through 18 films, 14 novels and countless exotic women. Equally comfortable in a tuxedo or loincloth, skilled at operating every vehicle from a jetpack to a submarine, he lights his cigarette with a Ronson that, should the occasion necessitate, comes in handy as a class four grenade. In a tight jam, he’ll flip his Aston Martin onto two wheels, spilling nary a drop of his signature “shaken, not stirred” Martini. He’s Bond, James Bond. And his sophisticated wiles, amazing escapes and razor-edged wit have made him an international icon.
Though the renegade playboy has been saving the world from villains for 40-plus years, 007’s brand of style and heroism has never ceased to intrigue. Once the classic rogue gentleman of our parents’ generation, the M16 agent has recently found new life as a counterculture trend, canonized by hipsters who continue to celebrate the Bond mystique. From deft references in the film and novel Trainspotting to the surprising European success of Bond-inspired cover songs, from Bond parties at urban nightclubs to 007 festivals at second-run movie houses, her Majesty’s suavest agent is once again so kitsch he’s cool.
You Only Live Twice
While die-hard Bondies find hours of pleasure in arguing over which of the five Bond actors embodied the true essence of the character, 007’s real importance as a Gen X icon lies not in the Bond physique but in his persona. What makes Bond popular with our generation is his cunning mix of space-age techno-savvy and yesteryear class. Like many of today’s under-40, HTML-speaking cyber-wizards by day, retro hepcats and kittens by night, Bond, too, exists somewhere between cutting-edge technology and the simple glamour of a bygone era. He uses ludicrously advanced technology in his career as a special agent, then conducts his personal life with a lounge lizard class that all but died with the Kennedy administration. Bond makes it hip to cull one’s lifestyle from the best of many eras, making him the ultimate poster boy for the wired generation.
Appropriately, Bond-A-Rama is getting the most hype from those old slacker favorites — lounge music and multimedia websites. With interest in retro-Americana at its peak, and European bands ready to take chances, Bond songs, whose airplay was recently restricted to elevators and waiting rooms, have suddenly found new life on overseas top-10 playlists.
The most successful of the new Bond-theme bands is Propellerheads, whose cover of the theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a chart smash in Europe. Their new single, “History Repeating,” featuring original Bond theme crooner Shirley Bassey, has already received the enthusiastic notice of critics and consumers alike. Their 007 cover was initially featured on the Bond Beats and Bass compilation Shaken And Stirred (Hypnotica), which gathered various artists to do homage to the Bond music legends. Another album of note is the David Arnold James Bond Project, a tribute to 007 movie themes that gives the classic tunes a turn-of-the-millennium injection.
Gen X Bondophiles can get reacquainted with the life and times of their favorite secret agent at numerous fan sites on the Web. (My personal favorite is Commanders James Bond Site at http://www.commanders.com/index.html.) Surfers can lurk around Bond chat rooms, peruse bulletins boards, read any number of film and bibliographies, even purchase nifty Bond gadgets. While most are pretty straightforward in terms of information and general content, some, like the aforementioned Commanders site, offer true insight into leading a Bond lifestyle. Their creative research and stylish presentation are the perfect place to start being a little bit Bond.
Shaken, Not Stirred
Most of us can’t afford a Bentley or Aston Martin, and haven’t quite earned our license to kill, but when it comes to eating and drinking, it’s easy to follow Bond’s lead. Start sipping 007 libations and indulging in his favorite culinary fare. And even if you don’t have wing machine guns on your wheels, you just might feel like you do.
Vodka: Medium dry Russian Vodka only. (Bond had a bad experience with Siamese vodka in You Only Live Twice.) Drink neat and ice cold as an accompaniment to caviar and smoked salmon. Serve in a small crystal carafe nestled on crushed ice.
Bourbon: Old Grand Dad, I.W. Harper’s, Walker’s Deluxe and Jack Daniel’s are the preferred brands. Have the entire bottle served on a tray with ice and a tumbler. Fill the glass halfway with ice, then add three fingers of whiskey. Drink the first glass in two hits, subsequent glasses more slowly.
Irish Whiskey: The perfect way to pass time in Dublin airport when you’re pursuing international intrigue. Combine hot black coffee, sugar and a large measure of whiskey in a wine glass. Float with chilled double cream.
Rye Whiskey: Canadian Club only.
Scotch: Dimple Haig with a splash of soda is acceptable.
Gin: Beefeater or Gordon’s with Angostura bitters or with tonic and fresh lime.
The Vesper: The closest thing Bond has to a signature cocktail. Three measures Gordon’s gin, one measure vodka, one-half measure dry vermouth. Shake together until ice cold. Serve in a deep champagne goblet with a large thin slice of lemon peel.
Negroni: One-third gin, one-third Campari, one-third Cinzano. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, or stir and serve on the rocks in a tumbler with lemon.
Americano: Mix Campari and Cinzano with large lemon peel and soda.
In Geneva, drink Lowenbrau. In the United States, Miller High Life. In Jamaica, Red Stripe. No English beers or ciders, ever: They belong in English pubs and 007 does not.
Wines are not a Bond specialty, but a 10-year-old claret will suit a meal of roast partridge. With 007 favorite sole meuniere, rose d’Anjou is a fine complement. If spaghetti Bolognese is on the menu, try the rawest, cheapest Chianti available. When it comes to Champagne, only decade-old Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, Krug, Pommery or Taittinger will do and is best accompanied with a $250 order of Beluga and plenty of toast points. Champagne also goes well with a meal of scrambled eggs. At lunch, Champagne a l’orange can be refreshing. Bond would show his disregard for snobbery by pouring Benzedrine powder into his Dom Perignon.
Like wine, liqueurs are not a favorite with Bond. He will, however, accept a glass of 10-year-old Calvados or a Stinger made with equal parts white creme de menthe and brandy, shaken with crushed ice and strained into a glass.
Just aren’t Bond.
And For Dinner…
The Bond meal is simple, quality fare — scrambled eggs with bacon or sausage and plenty of strong black coffee is suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late supper. Wash it down with Champagne as a sign that you enjoy such meals for their taste, not their cost. In more complex moods, eggs benedict or eggs en cocotte are satisfactory. An easy 007 lunch consumed in the M16 headquarters cafeteria is always a stack of ham sandwiches with mustard.
Dinner is, without question, either prepared by a restaurant, household help or the member of the opposite sex currently under one’s spell. Grilled sole, escalope of veal, steak with fries and cold roast beef with potato salad are all standard Bond fare. When traveling, stick to the simple dishes of each particular region. Try cold langoustine in France, tagliatelle verde in Italy or stone crabs with melted butter when on American soil. Wherever in the world you happen to land, and whatever cuisine you partake of, always scorn tea as an accompaniment. It’s the “flat, soft, time-wasting opium of the masses,” and has no place in any Bond meal.
The essence of the Bond lifestyle is the enjoyment of simple elegance. Quality is valued over quantity, sophistication over audacity. At a time when many of us, buffeted about by the chaos of modern life, are eager to scale back to the basic pleasures, our map to sane sensory gratification might well lie in the attachÃ© case of Agent 007. So what if we’ll never get that ejector seat or a watch with a rotary saw inside: don some fifties eveningwear, snap your fingers for caviar, and shake that Martini. There’s a little Bond in all of us, and he’s ready to bring on the classy good times. No octopus wrestling required.