As a little boy, the one exception to television during dinner time came during one week in late fall, when a cable channel featured nightly broadcasts of classic Bond films. I sat at the top of the table, eyes glued to the screen. Doing something that was otherwise taboo only added to the films' appeal.
My father was a fan, and my mother likely approved purely on the grounds of it keeping me wholly enthralled. I quickly became enamored with Sir Connery's role as Bond in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever and, to an admittedly lesser extent, Never Say Never Again. However, Goldfinger changed everything in less than two hours.
Whereas McQueen and Dean had an everyman appeal, Connery offered something different. Like a debonair Buddha under the Bodhi Tree, he'd achieved perfect coolness enlightenment, though under the cover of Bond.
In Goldfinger, Bond travels to then-exotic Mexico, lively Miami Beach, sophisticated England, beautiful Switzerland and Fort Knox, Kentucky. He shares the company of beautiful women each stop of the way, last seen with Pussy Galore. He plays golf, chills Dom Perignon '53, enjoys martinis, sips a "30-year-old fine, indifferently blended ... with an overdose of Bon Bois". He wears a Rolex Submariner, and perfectly tailored suits, tuxedos and shoes from Saville Row. He carries a sly Walther PPK. He flies in private jets and drives a gorgeous Aston Martin DB5, with the added bonus of Q-approved machine guns, oil slick, rear deflector, ejector seat and more. He chases bad guys, and always wins. He always keeps cool, no matter how dire things become. He is witty, humorous and supremely confident. He filled my formative years with dreams of elaborate espionage.
As puberty came bumbling, it became clear through the acne and braces, that I was not growing into Sean Connery. Instead, I bore an uncanny resemblance to Fred Savage's character of Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years. That would've been fine if I were interested in chasing Winnie, but I wanted to chase bad guys through the Swiss Alps in a fully optioned sports car. With MI6 issuing a freeze on "00" hires, I went the high school and college route. I took up a more mundane profession, though the nature of it allows me access to places and people many would be denied, and I'm encouraged to be inquisitive and meet some of the world's most interesting people. I never fully got over Bond, though. My collection of Bond ephemera will attest to this.
This past Saturday, thanks to PlayhouseSquare's Cinema at the Square series, I saw Goldfinger on the big screen for the first time, for $5. I own the book (along with all the other Fleming Bond books), I owned the VHS version, I own the DVD, and I've seen the movie no fewer than 300 times, but I'd never seen it in a theater. Despite the opulent environs of the Palace Theatre, a truly stunning venue, I was again that boy at the dinner table. My thoughts raced to traveling, exploring distant lands; to blindingly fast mountain road passes in an Aston Martin; to craftily dispensing with the bad guys and saving the day; to fittings for bespoke suits and hand-stitched dress shoes; to sipping fine spirits at lunch. It was, and always will be, wonderfully transportive – as a great movie should be. I already had a starring Bond girl. Sometimes, reality wins.