The old man steps gingerly out of his car, a beaten-down old wagon he admits he bought years ago for $500, back when he was traveling up and down the West Coast as a dairy salesman. At 88, life isn't what it once was for the man they call Jim. "When they know my name, they look at me and laugh, because I don't measure up to what they are thinking of," he said, a sudden twinkle in his voice. "But you? You can call me Bond. James Bond."
Ask any of the nearly 1,100 James Bonds in America and they'll tell you "diamonds are forever" — and so are names.
"I could be a midget, I could have had a clubbed foot," said 37-year-old James Alexander Bond of New York. "But no, I have this lovely name."
It's a name that has made him a secret agent in his own skin, a spy under the cover of unmet expectations. Forget saving the world and getting the girl ("I'm gay," he said) — James Bond can't even get food delivered to his Manhattan apartment.
"I have to give a fake name to the pizza guy. I mean, do you think a pizza for James Bond is going to make it?" he lamented. "Every time they use my credit card, I have the girl at the grocery store announce to her friend over the mic that James Bond is in line. Everyone comes up and stares."
Friday's "Casino Royale" will keep increasing one of the best-known names in film history. In 22 movies spanning four decades and six actors, James Bond has been imprisoned, interrogated, even tortured — but he's never been locked up just because of his name.
"I was about 15 years old and was driving to Disney World with my friend, I swear to God, [named] Howard Johnson [and] his girlfriend Dusty Rhoads," recounted James A. Bond, a freelance director. "A cop pulled us over. Howie had forgotten his license. 'What's you name?' Howard Johnson. 'What's your name?' Dusty Rhoads. He flashes the light at me and says, 'And I suppose this is Carvel' [referring to the ice cream stores]. I said, 'No, I'm James Bond.' We sat at the police station [all night] until they found our parents."
It's a burden of presumption that even those who enjoy the name have a hard time dealing with. "They are so beautiful, the guys who were James Bond. Sean Connery was a man's man. I mean, everybody loved him," James Ian Bond said. "Part of it is almost insecurity from that standpoint because I could never match up to those guys."
But this Bond, who makes his living as a director of sales and marketing at a pet vitamin company, says "you only live once," and sharing a name with the suavest, sexiest, most confident man of mystery in cinematic history has its benefits.
"It is amazing how famous the James Bond character is. I mean, it's everywhere — and when you succumb to it, it's fun," James I. Bond declared. "Being James Bond is actually a lot of fun. People project on me a lot, but it's never bad. I can go into a group of about 100 people, and it takes about four minutes before [everybody] knows who I am."
Not to mention, of course, its cachet when dealing with members of the opposite sex. "[It used to work] with hot women, for sure," James I. Bond argued. "I can't keep up [now], but my son borrows my license when he goes out."
The Ventura County, California, resident has four children, including three college-age daughters who refer to themselves as "the Bond girls," he laughs.
This fits right in with the Bond mythos, a franchise that has churned out sequel after sequel. Dr. James Bond, a veterinarian from Bozeman, Montana, made a sequel himself, passing the name on to a whole new generation.
"I did name my first son James," Dr. Bond said. "I always had a good time with it, I figured I might as well give it to him as a foot in the door. In almost any conversation, when you are introduced to people, their eyes light up and they pay attention."
He even got some attention on the gridiron because of it. "I grew up in California and would get the headlines for a football game," Dr. Bond said. "I remember 007 would make the headlines whether or not you did something spectacular."
It's a weird phenomenon, being James Bond, they all admit. "It's a hard thing to relate to. [The movie Bonds] aren't real. I'm real," confessed James Ian Bond, who also, coincidentally, shares his middle name with Bond creator Ian Fleming. "They are more real to all of us than I am — but I'm real.
"People ask me my name, and when I say it, there's always a pause," James I. Bond continued. "They look up and ask, 'What is that again?' "
It's an 88-year-old retiree and an NYC director. A 54-year-old father of four from Southern California and a pet doctor from Montana. It's the world's most famous secret agent.
"It's Bond," he said. "James Bond."
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