Swank 101 With The Master Spy
Debonair? Elegant? Suave? Hear enough of those high-falutin’ words in a single sentence, and Roger Moore has to come to mind sooner or later. But you’d have to add "humorous" and "witty." Alrightey then, a few more Moorisms please, like courteous, kindly, affable, swanky, and mannered. Now for the good news: I’m not only describing the actor, but even more so, the person.
One night in the Beverly Wilshire Bar, there he was, I don’t know how long he’d been sitting, but there was no mistaking him. Alone, in a booth, looking as fresh as a sprout, with neither a single crease in his mood nor his clothing. It was a nice feeling to assume that he had any number of concealed high-tech weapons and gadgets at his disposal, and we were all going to be well-protected from anything. When a server came up to me and said “Mr. Moore would like you to come over when you have a minute”, I accepted the deployment unconditionally.
I sauntered up, introduced myself, and he immediately got up, shook my hand and thanked me for stopping over. Smoothly, imperceptibly, he just started to converse . “The Gerswhin was superb!”, he said, “I’ve always loved Gershwin.” (I had played at least a couple of Gershwin tunes, not realizing Moore was in the room). We talked about how timeless the songs are, and how much fun it is to find new ways of playing them over the years. It was only moments until I realized that Roger Moore sounded exactly like he does on screen, it was uncanny. And his volume was so discreet. Cool was having a visit with me, and simply revealing its wonder. His flashing eyes were luminous as halogen while he rattled off some Gershwin trivia, including how George actually had a rented home not a mile from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he spent his last living day on Earth.
When someone comes into your life, and can tell you things about your parents or family members, things that you never knew, it’s like walking into a room in your home that was always there, but you'd never been in before. Roger Moore did this for me. I mentioned knowing that he did a film with my father yet I knew nothing about it. He so politely interjected: “It was an awful film. You aren’t missing much.” I smiled. But he went on to say that he had the most fun with my father on the set, and that they were cast with Shelley Winters, whom he said adored my father. Roger and he were continually staging mock angered arguments in front of her as to whom she belonged to, and which man claimed her for his own, much to the raptured delight of Winters. I never knew this stuff. He told me it appeared like nothing was troubling pop, bad script or not, and he’d arrived at a point in his career where he could sail through work and focus on more human life pursuits. The film was a comedy, and that made the air lighthearted for the two of them. I was awed. Without knowing the response I’d get, I told Mr. Moore that my father must have deeply enjoyed working with him, and that I even had a snapshot showing this, of both of them horsing around a bit between takes. It gave Roger pause. I saw him sit back slightly, while an immense happiness came over his cool brow. I capped it by saying that the fact that my father had worked on something, anything, with Roger Moore, made me even prouder of pop. And, quite cosmically, it was to be the last English-language film my father ever made.
They say that if you can laugh at yourself, then nobody can put you down. This gentleman was not just loaded with a sense of humor, but also fun to just hang with. Before long, insisted on getting me a shot glass of some great Scotch. “May we have one for Tony please, the same,” he deftly signaled the server. Soon I was slightly rolling with Roger as the walls started to move ever so slightly. When I asked him what it was, he said simply, “It’s very good isn’t it? Take your medicine.” Wow. Roger was so classy, he didn’t labor with brand names unless ordering or comparing. It was like saying, “Now don’t dally, I know you’re on the clock. Save the thanks for later and tip that glass back!” I did find out later that the medicine was in fact, McCallan. (Although the James Bond martini routine does come to mind, I must say this prescription fit the mood far better). In the arena of the smooth and the debonair, James Bond had just been topped by Roger Moore.
Time came for us to go back to our respective evenings, we said good night and I thanked him before buzzing back to the piano bench, drenched in an aura of flammable golden vapor. Next night, I happened to be down in the hotel basement in the employee lounge, when all of a sudden, Edwin the barback ran in and exclaimed: “Tony! Mr. Moore is upstairs in the bar and he says ‘Tell Cobb to get his ass up here now!’”