In the aftermath of my viewing of Argo on the way back from the US, the spy news just kept coming…
But let’s leave Jared Kushner and his back channels out of it for now. (Oo-er, missus!) I briefly mentioned the recent shenanigans in China in last week’s Apoplexy Tiny Letter… 1. Chinese Whispers What was going on there was very much of the State-vs-State nature of the kind of spycraft/espionage work that the International Spy Museum is so interested in. Although I’m not sure how this story below would have squared with the breathlessly adventurous atmosphere with which the Museum relates the tale of, say, Aldrich Ames:
The grisly Times story describes how
[t]he Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward.
One of the stories which has been repeated most often in the China revelations concerns the image of how one of the C.I.A.’s sources was shot in front of his colleagues in the courtyard of a government building — a message to others who might have been working for the C.I.A.
Right now, there’s no story for the International Spy Museum to tell about these Chinese developments, because – as the Times reports it, there’s still no agreement among Washington intelligence and law enforcement agencies as to whether the China breaches were the result of a mole or the hacking of the C.I.A.’s covert communications system. However, if one reads the story, it seems pretty clear what the implication is.
But until it all comes out in the wash, I suppose the International Spy Museum will have to focus on glamorous agents of international propaganda and persuasion such as Josephine Baker, Julia Child, John Ford, and Marlene Dietrich. 2. Saint or Persuader? Speaking of, who’s that handsome man…?
Roger Moore – Leslie Charteris’s The Saint before he was Ian Fleming’s James Bond – passed away last week.
— Ricky Monahan Brown (@ricky_ballboy) May 23, 2017
He may not have been a real-life, honest-to-goodness spy, as far as I know. But of course, he was the next best thing.
Certainly, his love life had a Bond-like aspect. Nine years after marrying his second wife, Dorothy Squires, Moore met Italian actress Luisa Mattioli on set. Per Ian Wiki, Squires refused to accept their separation, and sued Moore for loss of conjugal rights, but Moore refused the court’s order to return to Squires in 28 days. She went on to smash the windows of the house where Moore and Mattioli took up residence, and sued the actor Kenneth More for libel, as More had introduced Moore and Mattioli at a charity event as “Mr Roger Moore and his wife”. It took Squires seven years to grant Moore a divorce.
About a quarter of a century later, Luisa Mattioli took seven years to grant Moore a divorce after he took up with her old friend Kiki Tholstrup. Mattioli was scathing of her in the book she subsequently wrote about her relationship with Moore, Nothing Lasts Forever, describing how she felt betrayed by Tholstrup and discarded by Moore. As I’m a Generation X Brooklynite (of a sort), former NY Times film critic A.O. Scott would tell you I would have behaved similarly if I had been abandoned by Rog.
I have to assume that when Scott was walking through Brooklyn and heard a young father tell his toddler that The worst James Bond ever just died, he was in my old Park Slope neighbourhood where two-year olds aren’t allowed to leave the house without donning their Ramones t-shirts. Anyway, Scott’s argument runs as follows –
My James Bond is not macho compensation for lost imperial power, like Mr. Connery, or an anxious avatar of globalization, like Mr. Craig. He is a cartoon superhero in evening wear, a man whose mission is to embody — and, therefore, to transcend — a secondhand, second-rate age, to be cool and clever in a world determined to be as lame and dumb as possible.
Even for a Scottish Xer, that’s pretty compelling stuff.
But as compelling as it is, the true Xer must deconstruct the argument. Enter the blog’s favourite roaming Scottish public intellectual, Pat Kane, reacting to the lovely story referenced in the tweet at the top of this section – wherein, Roger Moore quick-thinkingly slips into Bond’s skin for a young boy of seven (and 30).
Sentiment allowed, I think, at this moment, so the Roger Moore story. Tho the Q of the best form of agency for boys/men does hover over it. https://t.co/RGRvxfrj7G
— Pat Kane (@thoughtland) May 24, 2017
Well, quite. But then, one couldn’t really blame Pre-Gen-X jobbing actor Roger Moore for that. During his later years as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, I toured UN Headquarters on a day the former Bond was visiting. The staff spoke with unconfined affection of a lovely man. No one I ever spoke to with first, second, or third-hand knowledge of the man he had become ever had a bad word to say for him. As I check some of the details for this post, I even see that Roger Moore was a spokesman against the production and wholesale of foie gras, even narrating a video for PETA on the subject. He’s credited with causing the department store Selfridges agreeing to remove foie gras from their shelves. So, here’s to you, Roger. With a raised eyebrow. 😉