While traveling in Scotland in 1997 on what had become an annual quest to play as much golf as I could afford on the great links courses in the game’s country of origin, I briefly met Sean Connery in St. Andrews. I knew that the renowned Scottish actor was a member of the Royal & Ancient and kept an apartment near the Old Course. Over my many visits, I always hoped to catch a glimpse of him, but never had.
Though Connery, who died Oct. 31 at age 90, appeared in scores of movies, there was only one role that ever mattered to me: James Bond. From “Dr. No” and beyond, I parked myself in the middle of the front row of the movie theater, spending my paper-route money on admission and following every move made by secret agent 007, usually with my mouth crammed full of Milk Duds. (I still remember how I would empty the box into my yap just before the picture started and then let the chocolate mass slowly dissolve, like a cow chewing cud. Those were the days.)
It was a crisp sunny day in early September, ideal for a round on the Old Course, just a block or so from my B&B on Murray Park, where the solid, affordable side-by-side residences of the Auld Grey Toon catered to nutty golfers like me. However, no golf was being played anywhere that morning as the entire country had come to a standstill to watch the funeral of Princess Diana on television.
After watching the moving celebration of her storied-but-tragic life in my room, I bolted out the front door of the B&B and discovered I was the only person out in the fresh sea air in the historic town. I then noticed a tall gentleman had turned the corner on the same side of the street I was on and was striding toward me. With a start, I realized it was Sean Connery.
After years in show business, I seldom was starstruck, but this was James Bond with his gambling acumen, ease with glamorous women, love of martinis “shaken, not stirred,” and owner of a car even cooler than the Batmobile. By the way, Connery was the only Bond whom I didn’t consider an imposter in the role. Even when I read the Ian Fleming novels over and over, Connery and Bond were one in my mind’s eye as I turned the pages avidly following his adventures while saving the world from destruction as only he could.
One of the oldest bits from my stand-up comedy days was a James Bond takeoff on how one would obtain a “license to kill” similar to what he possessed. Do you go to the DMV? Is there a vision test? Do you have to shoot someone in front of an inspector? If you pass, do you get an actual license for your wallet? It was a bit I never tired of telling.
So, there I was as my earliest childhood hero was steps away, looking debonair in a gray tweed cashmere tam and camelhair coat. I ran up to him and gushed, “Mr. Connery, I’m your biggest fan! Thank you, so much!” I probably looked to him like that second-grade idiot with his cheeks bulging with Milk Duds.
He graciously smiled in that cool lopsided way of his, shook my hand, and said, “That’s very kind of you. Thank you very much.” He went his way, and I went mine. I hope he knew how much that brief encounter meant to me. May he rest in peace.
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