007 Things James Bond Has Done Stupider than Being a Woman or Black

As usual, fandom is up in arms about some bullshit. This time it’s a rumor that James Bond will be passing his license to kill to actress Lashana Lynch in No Time to Die, the next entry of the long-running franchise. This would of course make Lynch both the first black 007 and the first female 007. Personally, I think Lynch has the swagger and badassery to be a great 007 but others have lambasted this as a betrayal of the character. A recent poll has revealed that three out of four people do not want a female 007.

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For me, making Lashana Lynch a new 007 but not a new James Bond is a clever way of keeping the character of James Bond who he is, but freeing up the narrative to make 007 who she is. As a life-long Bond fanatic, I’m curious to see them try something new and confident that the world will keep turning if it doesn’t work out. First of all, making Lashana Lynch 007 isn’t “crazy.” And even it it were, there are plenty of times the Bond franchise has done things “crazier” than handing over the 00 designation to someone who doesn’t resemble the previous person to hold the title. Here’s my list of the Seven things Double-O-Seven has done that are stupider than being a black woman:

001 Become Japanese

That’s right, this wouldn’t be the first time 007 has changed races. Only instead of a reasonable explanation like James Bond retiring and passing the baton to a black woman, they like literally gave him a racial makeover in 1969’s You Only Live Twice. That’s right, in order to help him go undercover as a local fisherman, James Bond is given some sort of race transplant to turn him Japanese. For some reason, the procedure is also carried out by a bunch of hot, giggling girls in bikinis just to make it more James Bondy. Ultimately, turning Japanese just means putting James Bond in Spock makeup. Although the race operation is seemingly a painstaking process, it is magically reversed between shots later in the movie, making this plot point far stupider than having 007 be a black woman.

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002 Be a Fucking Clown

At a certain point in the early-eighties, James Bond became so goddamned stupid that they gave him literal clown shoes and a red nose in the movie Octopussy. In a getup that would make even the Joker and Harley Quinn blush, James Bond enters a circus arena and defuses a nuclear weapon dressed like Bozo the Clown, Ronald McDonald and Pennywise the Dancing clown had a conference call to decide what to wear that day. However they handle the passing of the baton in the new Bond flick, I can guarantee it cannot be any stupider than James Bond literally running off to join the circus.

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003 Invent Snowboarding

By the time Roger Moore got to his last Bond movie, they had to up the ante on stupid. So in the opening sequence, James Bond turns part of a snowmobile into a snowboard and cowabungas down a Siberian mountain to escape the Ruskies while a shitty synthesizer cover of California Girls blasts in the background. Wow, so fucking stupid.

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004 Surf into North Korea

The last of Pierce Brosnan’s movies, Die Another Day, is chock-filled with shit stupider than being a black woman. In the very first scene, James Bond infiltrates the most reclusive and secretive nation on the planet, a place almost completely cut off from outside influence, literally called “Hidden Kingdom.” Does he parachute in or dig an underground tunnel? No, he fucking surfs right across the 38th Parallel. If Douglas MacArthur tried that, the Korean conflict would definitely not be the “forgotten war.” Hell, even Dennis Rodman wouldn’t try a stunt this stupid. At least they didn’t play a Beach Boys song, that would make it almost as stupid as a later scene in the movie where James Bond gets a chance to…

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005 Be Invisible

Yes, the stupidity of Die Another Day subsides a bit after the surf opening and manages to be a regular movie for a while, even during the Madonna part. But it all goes down hill when the Ministry of Silly Walks from Monty Python shows up and gives Bond a car that makes him invisible. Yes, James Bond gets a gas-powered version of the Harry Potter Cloak of Invisibility. Yeah, I know that the military is developing versions of cloak technology but this was back in 2002, and even the Klingons didn’t have shit that literally made you invisible. Some assholes may think having a black woman as 007 is crazy, but I’m sure we’ll at least be able to see her.

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006 Throw his Peepee at Someone

So the canonicity of Never Say Never is disputed since may consider this to be an “unofficial” James Bond. But as far as I’m concerned, if James Bond is in a movie — especially if Sean Connery is playing him — it’s official. And in this movie, James Bond takes a jar of his own piss and throws it at a guy. For some reason it burns the guys eyes so badly that he falls into a bunch of glass and dies. I haven’t had a lot of urine tossed at me, but I don’t think that’s how it works. I do know that when we finally get a black woman as James Bond, she won’t be drowning her adversaries in piss.

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007 Not Be British

As crazy as it sounds, there has been casting drama around James Bond movies since the first 007 was announced over fifty years ago. Yes, even Sean Connery, widely-regarded as the quintessential James Bond, was controversial pick. Bond purists complained that Connery was Scottish so he couldn’t possibly be a British spy! Fortunately, Ian Fleming retconned Bond’s ancestry in a later 007 novel to give him Scottish roots, putting that furor to bed.

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But even the next James Bond wasn’t British, he was Australian. In fact, it would take over a decade of James Bond movies to finally get a British 007, and he was the guy who literally dressed up like a clown! After Roger Moore, it took another twenty years to get a British James Bond again. Timothy Dalton was born in North Wales. His pops was a Brit but Mom was an American with Italian and Irish roots. I love the Dalt but that’s hardly heraldry to write home about. What about Pierce Brosnan? Well turns out he was born in Ireland and is now a naturalized American citizen. And even when they finally got another British 007 in the form of Daniel Craig, there was still an outcry because — GASP — he was blond! So that means that only a paltry 1/3 of 007s up until now have been British. But guess who is British? Lashana Lynch. She was born and raised right in jolly old London, making her about as British as tea and crumpets or whatever. That’s right, as “crazy” as it sounds making a black woman the new 007, she is actually more qualified to be a British spy than the vast majority of actors who have taken up the designation. And I can tell you one thing, however No Time to Die turns out, Lashana Lynch will not be an invisible, piss-tossing, snowboarding clown in Asian face.

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Fear and Loathing in Batuu

Everyone Comes to Oga’s

I’m two drinks in by the time I get into line at Oga’s Cantina. My mom is shitfaced, I’m just a bit punchy. Something pokes me in the back and I spin to see a a couple of First Order Stormtroopers pointing blaster rifles at my gut. In my head, I know that this is “part of the fun.” Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just another area of Disneyland, it’s an immersive storytelling experience.

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The Black Spire Outpost on the Planet of Batuu is a galactic Casablanca, Oga’s Cantina the Rick’s Café American. Spies lurk on every corner as tourists drown their sorrows in Dagobah Slug-Slingers. For drama nerds on grad night and anyone off their meds this place is a paradise. But my visceral reaction at being forced into an improv class exercise with a couple of outer-rim concentration camp commandants is to be pissed off. If you read my post Life and Near-Death on Hollywood and Vine you know I have a reason to be “triggered” by a couple of guys in uniform pointing guns at me around tourist attractions. I react accordingly.

“Get your hands off me, Space NAZI!”

I yell it. Like, really loudly. In front of a bunch of tourists. It’s common knowledge that Star Wars Imperial chic is inspired by the wardrobe of the Third Reich, but it’s not exactly something you need to yell at some poor Disneyland cast member sweating under fifty pounds of plastic beneath the Anaheim Summer sun. And yet, there is something unmistakably eerie about these bumbling goose-steppers marching around my favorite theme park. Sure, tourists have been mugging with Captain Hook and Cruella Deville for half a century at Disneyland, but with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the resort has taken a bizarre turn that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of the Happiest Place on Earth.

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You’ve always been able to buy Stormtrooper costumes and Darth Vader masks, but all the First Order-themed merchandise at Galaxy’s Edge seems a bit perverse in light of White Nationalism’s recent resurgence in the United States. The gift shop features well-pressed uniforms that would make Goebbels proud and little caps that would look at home on the head of Ernest Rohm. You can even purchase a kit of specific First Order rank insignia to track your own rise through the ranks of this Neo-Imperial genocidal galactic power. Why not pick up a recruitment propaganda poster, challenging kids to “protect” and “defend” the galaxy? Perhaps most sickening, is the blood red banner with the stark black cross emblazoned across a white circle. Close your eyes a bit and baby, you’re in Berlin. In a time when White Nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!” in the streets, the Disney corporation is gleefully rolling in the reichsmarks as they help normalize the fetishization of the Nazi aesthetic.

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But hey, aren’t the Space Nazis the bad guys?

Sure, but the strangest thing about Galaxy’s Edge is the supposed antidote to the First Order’s reign of terror. On the opposite end of Batuu is a gift shop for the Resistance, offering an array of sartorial homages to Mid-Century Communist Chic. Blink for a moment and you’d think you were in a military surplus store out in Burbank rustling around for Salvador Allende cosplay accouterments. Purchase yourself a Che Guevara-like fatigue jacket or a Fidel Castro-inspired military cap. Family fun for everyone.

So this is Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. One side is a Sieg Heil to Haute Couture, the other a pret-a-porter Politburo. In the middle? A food court. I hate to say it, but Batuu is the perfect expression of our nation’s current political polarization. Nationalists on one end of the spectrum, Socialists on the other, and the vast majority of people mindlessly gnawing on kettle corn in the center.

Stop Yelling at Me!

Earlier that afternoon I’m sitting around the Millennium Falcon Holochess table while a kid explains to me everything I’ve missed in the Star Wars universe since the Disney takeover — some shit about how Darth Maul got robot legs and why Ahsoka Tano has white light-sabers or whatever. Meanwhile, I elucidate the parallels between Palpatine’s ascension from Chancellor to Emperor and Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to Fuhrer.

A “cast member” calls out for the Red Group and we assemble with the rest of our flight crew. She delivers a well-rehearsed instructional monologue “in character” and I channel the power of the Force to prevent my eyes from rolling into the back of my skull. We clamber into the cockpit of the Falcon, I’m assigned an engineer slot, the kid is a gunner and a middle-aged couple are the pilots. The ride begins and I dutifully push the flashing buttons while the kid fires volley after volley of blaster fire. Meanwhile, the two pilots flail miserably about the controls and the Falcon careens against rocky walls as our shields falter. The squeaky-voiced kid suddenly turns into a seasoned Rebel officer, barking commands at the pilots.

“Pull up!” he shouts. The pilots shake their heads in confusion. “Push the lever!” he yells desperately.

“I’m trying!” the lady howls.

We seem to smash into every obstacle imaginable as the Falcon wobbles towards destruction. “PULL UP!” the kid tries again.

“Stop yelling at me!” the adult woman whines at the top of her lungs, like a sullen baby being scolded at.

I cackle with glee. So far this is my favorite part of the new attraction. The ride is whatever but watching a grown-up lose her mind from getting yelled at by a child is the most entertaining shit I’ve seen in years. Talk about immersive. The ride lurches to a stop and we all file out, the pilots storming off grumbling in embarrassment. I turn to the kid and admit, “I think you were the captain of that ship dude.”

The kid shrugs. “I guess. That lady didn’t need to be so mean though.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I assure him, “the Force will be with you, always.”

“And may the Force be with you,” the kid nods.

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The Lonely Debutante

It’s been a strange summer in Anaheim. Analysts and insiders had predicted huge crowds and agonizing congestion around the resort thanks to the highly-anticipated opening of the Galaxy’s Edge attraction. In fact, Disney did such a good job hyping up what a mob scene the ribbon-cutting season would be, that everyone took the hint and stayed away. Annual pass-holders were blacked out, locals were warned away and many tourists decided to hold off on visiting until the supposed frenzy died down. Galaxy’s Edge is far far away from a failure but somehow managed not to live up to everyone’s expectations of mass chaos.

Disneyland is like the haughty debutante who was so selective about whom she invited to her coming out party, that when the big day arrived, no one came. So Bob Iger sits alone into the empty ballroom, softly weeping into his tax returns.

Underlying the underwhelming opening Galaxy’s Edge are the ridiculous price-hikes made in anticipation of the new attraction. Normal families aren’t just turned off from visiting the resort, they’re priced out. This isn’t consumer frustration. It’s theme park gentrification. The result? The park has been a ghost town all summer. Hours-long rides have become walk-ons, normally congested walkways are near-empty and the park finally feels like the promised land of Walt’s delusional nostalgia-induced hallucinations.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the House of Mouse: That price-gouging the imagination of children has a limit. That monopolizing the memories of whole families has a breaking point. I dream of a Disneyland dark age. Roaming scavengers wandering the wasteland of the Happiest Place on Earth while stale popcorn kernels roll across the pavement like so many tumbleweeds. I smile at the thought of riding empty train cars in circles around Thunder Mountain ’till the sun sets. But before you label a crazed communist, some anti-capitalist crypto-currency counter-insurgent, let me make one thing abundantly explicit. Allow me to clear the air:

I am a Disney shareholder

Yes, I invested in a business I pray will fail. Not for financial gain, but to exercise a modicum of control over a company that has quickly and quietly gobbled our entire childhood, threatening to own the exclusive streaming rights to our collective imagination. I have Force visions of majority shareholders’ vast fortunes crumbling into oblivion like Malibu mansions gobbled up in climate-induced global catastrophe. Meanwhile I cackle in my ivory nonprofit tower as I use my worthless Disney stock for beverage coasters. Some investors expect a reasonable rate of return. Others want an opportunity to poke holes in executive golden parachutes with sharpened Churros. I yearn for Project Mayhem and Operation Goldeneye wrapped into one exclusive all-expenses-paid vacation to a day of reckoning for the ruling class.

The outlet mall at the edge of the galaxy

Opinions have been split among Disneyland fans and Star Wars buffs since Galaxy’s Edge was announced. To some Disney purists, adding a new section of the park is blasphemy. Many Star Wars fans cynically complain that the new attraction is a sickening display of Disney’s efforts to squeeze every last cent out of the franchise. I’m somewhere in between. I’m always interested to see new advancements in Imagineering, but often chafe at changes to my beloved park. I once called the Disneyland smoking section the “last bastion of freedom in America” before they turned it into a walkway to Galaxy’s Edge. When I found out you could no longer buy toy guns in Frontierland, I poured out a Dasani bottle in disgust and declared “this is the day Disneyland died.”

Yes, I will always miss Uncle Bruce chain-smoking cigarettes in front of the Rivers of America, smiling while my cousin and I pistol-whipped each other with orange-tipped Colt Peacemakers. But as Kylo Ren once wisely said: “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.”

The good news is, wherever your opinions lie, Galaxy’s Edge is good for Disneyland. The expansion has greatly improved the entire flow of the park, clearing up the usual congestion by allowing guests a way to take larger laps around the resort. This means fewer people clogging up the lines and walkways of the old attractions. If you are pissing your pants in anticipation of exploring Batuu, the attraction’s location at the back of the resort and the pissed-offedness of the park purists leaves Galaxy’s Edge honestly less crowded than the Citadel Outlet mall you see on the way to the park. If you’re a Disneyland fundamentalist, Galaxy’s Edge will clear out the rest of the park for your enjoyment. As the Master Qui-Gon once said: “Either way, you win.”

But what’s it like?

Honestly, Galaxy’s Edge is pretty cool. The Bisti Badland-like spires of Batuu blend beautifully with the Bryce Canyon-inspired hoodoos of Thunder Mountain. The skillful use of forced perspective makes the relatively contained area seem like it spans for miles. I’m not the first to say that the sight of a full-sized Millennium Falcon made me tear up a bit. And the fact that you can’t even catch a glimpse of the rest of the park, let alone the outside world, makes Galaxy’s Edge feel as immersive as advertised. It doesn’t quite feel like you’ve landed on another planet, but it does feel like you’ve been loaded into a hub-world level of the Knights of the Old Republic video game. At the end of the day, the Millennium Falcon is the best place to watch the fireworks in the whole park and Oga’s Cantina is the only place in the where you can grab a drink. Galaxy’s Edge isn’t the first place I head to in the park these days, but it’s usually where I end up.

A galaxy of stars sparkle above my head as I stroll the streets of Batuu waiting for the fireworks to start. I see a familiar figure lumbering toward me. The Mighty Chewbacca. It’s funny, I know he’s just an off-season college basketball player in a furry suit, but I feel the same way I do when I used to see a friend in the hall at school.

“Hey Chewie,” I tilt my hat.

“Narf narf narf narf narf,” Chewie nods with recognition and pats me on the shoulder as if to say “good to see you!”

It’s a simple illusion in a park filled with smoke and mirrors, but it’s an effective one. I’ve “known” Chewie all my life so naturally he “knows” me too. So when he greets me as an old friend, everything around me turns stunningly real.

I’d love to stay and play a round of Holochess, but Chewie is a busy beast. He waves goodbye and walks over to a young boy in a wheelchair. The mighty Wookie leans to one knee, and the starstruck boy beams with happiness from the confines of his chair. My liberal guilt glands go into overdrive seeing someone with different abilities than the other children treated with dignity and respect. I find myself weeping openly on the outskirts the Black Spire Outpost. Those Strormtroopers may not have be real bad guys, but this dude in the Chewbacca getup is a real good guy. America may continue goosestepping towards corporate-sponsored authoritarianism until Disney owns the rights to the Constitution itself. But if all this Resistance bullshit tells us anything, it’s that no entity is powerful enough to control us all. Disney may own the rights to Star Wars, but the Force belongs to us.

See you at the park.

Doom at 25 and DUSK at Dawn

The first person shooter (FPS) is a mainstay of modern gaming. From the yearly churn of AAA titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield to genre-benders and indie games like Superhot and Portal, it’s clear to see that FPS are big business. It’s been a controversial journey to the top. In an industry legendary for its insanely graphic portrayals of senseless violence, FPS have a reputation for being the most depraved and dangerous variety of games. This week marks the 25th anniversary of Doom, the game that blew the doors off the genre. As veteran gamers ruminate on a quarter century of strafe-strafe-shoot, there’s a unique opportunity to reflect on the cultural impact of first person shooters.

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The original Doom title screen.

To most gamers, playing a FPS is relaxing way to blow off some steam. But to non-gamers, there is something terrifying about millions of young men stepping into the shoes of mass killers and mowing down legions of enemies. In a world where mass shootings have sparked a divisive culture war over America’s unique gun culture, FPS can seem as tasteless at best and enabling at worst. Sure, Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto have been lambasted for their shocking violence too, but these are third person games. There is a certain disconnect inherit with controlling a character from the outside. Yes, you may control the game but you are watching someone else do your bidding. When the game is first person, there is no denying that it is you who is perpetrating the destruction.

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Doom lets you mow down legions of demons and mutated zombie soldiers.

Doom wasn’t the first FPS but it defined the genre for nearly a decade. It introduced multiplayer to the fold. It pushed graphics to the next level, making players feel like they were part of a three-dimensional world. Doom ushered in a generation of modders and level editors who created their own custom versions of the game called WADS. Many of these individuals went on to successful careers as game designers. Doom was also the first FPS to garner major public backlash. The powder keg was the Columbine shooting, when it was discovered that the two boys who committed the heinous act were avid Doom players.

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The Columbine shooters would have committed their crimes without the help of violent games.

A false narrative emerged that Doom was the gateway drug of teen violence. Innocent children would be turned into psychotic killers from playing violent shooters as the thinking went. At the time I knew that this theory was patently absurd and all the evidence around the behavior of gamers conducted in the ensuing decades have supported this refutation. One study showed that aggressive games like football were more likely to bring out a young man’s violent tendencies than video games.

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Playing Football is far wore for teenage boys than playing Doom

Disproving the game-to-violence pipeline is as easy as debunking the gateway drug theory. Does everyone who smokes weed become a heroin addict? Of course not. But those predisposed to be heroin addicts are gonna smoke some weed on the way to hitting bottom. Weed is a checkpoint drug, not a gateway. The same goes for FPS. My friends played as much Doom as the Columbine shooters and you know how many of us went on to become mass shooters? Uh…none. That being said, the kind of guys who think it’s a cool idea to pepper the school library with a few rounds and toss some pipebombs around the cafeteria are also probably going to play some Doom along the way. So FPS are part of the culture of mass shootings but they are not the cause or even the symptom. Doom is window dressing in the grand tragedy of America’s mass shooting epidemic.

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Nearly two decades after Columbine, kids still don’t feel safe at school.

A quarter century later, Doom lives on. The franchise is no longer the top dog in the genre but it remains relatively relevant. The newest entry can be enjoyed on a variety of platforms. You can play it on your PC like back in the old days, lean back on your couch with an Xbox controller, cart it around on your Nintendo Switch, or even experience the game in virtual reality on PS4. The original version continues to be sold on the popular Steam platform and the mod community is still at it, producing a steady stream of WADs every year. The website Doomworld even does gives out awards to the best WADs each year, sort of an online Oscars for Doom levels. Various modders have created higher-resolution versions of the game, including a fan who used neural networks to upscale the graphics. The original designer John Romero even announced that he will be releasing a new episode of the original game, a “Megawad” as they are called.

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DUSK is a thrilling throwback to the heyday of classic shooters.

The hotly anticipated FPS DUSK was also launched this week (read my review here). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the game dropped on the day of Doom’s quarter century anniversary. The game certainly owes a lot to the granddaddy of shooters and its spiritual sequel Quake. It’s also indebted to some of the forgotten gems that emerged as part of the wave of Doom “clones” released in the mid-nineties such as Duke Nukem 3D, Redneck Rampage among others. DUSK is wildly violent and genuinely disturbing in many respects. It’s also glib and cartoonish, reminding players that despite all the bloodshed, first person shooters are pretty ridiculous and anyone who plays one and then goes on to perpetrate a mass shooting has problems that go way beyond playing video games. After all, video games don’t shoot people, guns do.

Life and Near-Death on Hollywood and Vine

Sirens are blazing as I crouch in my car, breathing hard, hands shaking. I peek over the dash at the black sports car that just crashed into me during a high-speed pursuit with the police. The cops are swarming the vehicle, guns drawn, yelling orders at the suspect. The guns are aimed at him and therefore me. I realize I’m caught in the potential crossfire. I make eye contact with one of the officers. He motions his gun down slightly and I’ve seen enough movies to take the hint.

GET DOWN.

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I hit the deck and try to remain still, try to stay calm. I glance at the passenger side window and see swarms of tourists with their phones out filming. I can see the questions in their eyes. Is this real? Is this a movie? I know all too well it isn’t make believe. I start to wonder, is this how it all ends? Do I die on a hot summer night in a shootout on the corner of Hollywood and Vine?

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Four days earlier I’m standing on the sidewalk as vintage cars circle the block during the filming of a Hollywood movie. It’s a 1960s period piece starring Christian Bale as legendary race car driver Ken Miles.

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My whole neighborhood has been converted into the decade of Kennedy and the Beatles, James Bond and Jane Fonda. They’ve restored the store fronts to their mid century former glory, replaced the street lamps, park benches and mailboxes with period accurate relics, and lined the streets with dozens of classic cars. Every anachronism has been removed to transport the neighborhood into the past. Hundreds of crew-members equipped with millions of dollars of equipment have taken over four square blocks to create this grand illusion, this epic testament to the suspension of disbelief.

But I’m not here to gawk or celeb stalk. I’m just trying to walk my dog Moneypenny over to the convenience store to get a bottle of Coke.

A PA armed with a walk-in talkie outstretches his hand before I cross the street.

“Can you hold? We’re about to do a take.”

“Sure,” I shrug as the dog paws at the PAs feet, “I wouldn’t want to disrupt the space time continuum.”

Another voice across the street yells “Rolling!” An army of crew repeat the order and then a disembodied voice calls out “ACTION!”

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The street comes to life as a glossy facsimile of five decades ago. Extras in period garb cross the street. A huge metal bus lurches around a corner past the restored store front. A man in a beautiful white convertible zooms down the street. From the other side of the intersection, a pretty young lady with her hair up, eyes masked by turtle shell sunglasses, putt putts an old green Chevy with exaggerated fins down the block. I notice no one is smoking and I can’t help but laugh. Hollywood never get things exactly right.

After less than a minute, the word “CUT!” echoes down the street and the PA motions for me to continue my stroll. I lead the dog past the sign that reads “Businesses Open During Filming.” A week earlier this tiny strip mall was half empty and slightly dilapidated, a sad husk of mid century real estate. Some thrifty location scout had seen the potential in this building and nursed it back to health. The liquor store and laundromat have been repainted with period signage. I smile at the antiquated prices they advertise. The empty storefronts have been converted into movie sets. I notice one of them has a two liter plastic bottle of Shasta soda with modern labels. I chuckle again. Never exactly right.

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The proprietor of the laundromat is in high spirits, standing in front of his store holding court as he watches the filming. He’s full of gossip, telling us that “Matt Damien” is going to be in the movie. He seems at home in the middle of the action, and announces that he’ll be running the dryers free of charge all week as compensation for the hassle to his customers.

The owner of the liquor store is less enthusiastic. The filming has scared off his usual clientele and the film crew is too well fed by craft services to give him any business. I repeat my joke about disrupting the space time continuum which fails to garner a smile. I pay for my bottle of Coke and lead the dog off the cool tile floor back into the sunshine of the 1960s.

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Four days later I’m driving down Hollywood Boulevard toward’s Mann’s Chinese theater. I had just got my car back from the shop four days earlier after a fender-bender and am enjoying my first real drive in my newly-fixed auto. My wife is with my in-laws so I’m treating myself to a night at the movies. I remember the last time I was on the Boulevard. I saw Spiderman getting arrested. There’s always free entertainment in Tinseltown. At the corner of Hollywood and Vine I cruise into the left hand turn lane. As I yield I hear sirens approach. I spot a black sports car barreling down the opposite left hand turn lane. I assume he is planning to make a turn as well but he does not yield. It’s too late to do anything by the time I realize he isn’t stopping. I raise my hands in front of my face and brace for impact.

I’m sitting at the edge of the couch, a rum and Coke shaking in my hand. I can’t get the moment of the crash out of my mind. I close my eyes so hard I see spots. I have trouble breathing and put my hands in front of my face as though the car is still coming at me.

The force of the head-on collision sends my head thrashing backwards against the headrest. I lower my hands to get a better look at the person behind the wheel of the other car. The glass is tinted. I can’t make out the face of the individual. The car is the only face I see, a monster with a mangled bumper snarling at me. The invisible driver guns the engine, sending my car ten feet backwards in the intersection. He tries to reverse, but our bumpers are intertwined. Two beasts locked together in combat, defending their driver. Before he tries to drive forward again, I slam the car into park and yank the emergency break back as hard as I can.

THIS SONNOVABITCH ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE.

Two days later I’m standing in front of an X-Ray machine. The cops need to know how badly I’m injured. It could be the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony for the man who nearly killed me. The technician snaps the first image and tells me to turn to my right for the next. It feels like they’re taking a mugshot. For a second I put myself in the shoes of the guy responsible for it all. What was he doing that night? What was he running from?

I return from the doctor’s office in better spirits. My shoulders are throbbing, my neck aches and my back feels as crumpled as my bumper. But I’m happy to be all in one piece. I take Penny for a walk to the liquor store and the park. The place is swarming with crew and cars queued up for the next take. As Penny rolls contentedly in the grass, she attracts the attention of a couple of the background actors leaning against their vintage car enjoying a smoke and we strike up a conversation.

“So do you guys own these cars?” I ask, genuinely intrigued.

“Yep,” the man affirms proudly.

“So they put out a casting call for actors with vintage cars?”

“That’s what we do.”

It turns out this is a whole cottage industry in Hollywood. People who make a living driving old cars in period films.

“They want to make the films as accurate as possible,” he explains before leaning in conspiratorially, “although technically this scene takes place in 1963 and my car’s a ’65.”

Hollywood. They never quite get it exactly right. The guy tells me about some of the other pictures he’s worked on and complains that Quentin Tarantino doesn’t pay well.

“He’s doing a movie about the Sharon Tate murders. You know, Manson.”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” I nod.

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I can see the crowd gathered around me on Hollywood Boulevard, holding their phones as they film the grizzly scene. A man in the apartment above gets the establishing shot. A man with a selfie-stick on the opposite corner gets some coverage. Eight police cars are visible, with more to arrive. At least a dozen police officers are taking cover behind open car doors with their guns aimed at the black sports car. The man filming above posts it on Instagram with the caption “One of the bonuses of living in Hollywood…you’re never short of free entertainment.” I’m pinned down in the car below, an unwilling extra in the free live show. I understand but resent the peering phones pointed at my position, filming me like a caged animal.

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My phone follows the vintage station wagon drive down the street. Of all the fancy, rare cars that have been driving around our block the past week, this was the one I was compelled to shoot a video of. When my mom was a kid, her mom used to drive an old station wagon like that. I’ve seen plenty of sports cars in old movies but not grandma’s station wagon. Mom told me about the time they went to see 101 Dalmations at the drive in. Her and her little brother got in their pajamas and hopped in the back of the station wagon. But when they arrived, the movie was sold out.

My mom had a pretty happy childhood I think. There’s only three sad stories she ever tells me about the 1960s: The day she broke her front teeth on a skateboard, the day John Kennedy died and the night they had to turn that station wagon around without seeing the movie.

A voice calls out “CUT!” and the cars lurch to a stop. The woman driving the station wagon looks at me and I sheepishly put the phone away.

“Did you get it?” she asks.

“Uh yeah.”

“Can you send it to me?”

“Sure.”

I open my wallet and pull out a business card, but she yells out her phone number instead. Anachronisms are allowed between takes I suppose. I type in the number and send the video. A PAs radio squawks that it’s time to setup the next shot. The woman in the station wagon yells “Thanks!” and drives back to her position. I cross the street and pull out the phone again. Might as well get a reverse angle. A police officer steps into the street to stop the oncoming traffic so the film crew can get their shot too.

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Crouched in my wounded vehicle, I stare in disbelief as the officers charge down Hollywood Boulevard with their guns drawn, barking orders. From the show of force I assume my attacker is extremely dangerous. Is he armed? Would it matter? I think of all the young men gunned down for less if anything at all. So many guns. I’ve never seen so many guns. It looks like a damn movie. But it’s not. I’m in shock. Disbelief. I can only think of one thing. No one will ever believe this. So I scramble for my phone and start filming. As I lift the black object above the dashboard I hope no one thinks it’s a gun.

It’s twenty-four hours later and I’m watching the brief video over and over again. I inspect every detail like it’s the Zapruder film. I’m trying to figure out how many officers there were. How many guns were drawn. I switch back and forth between my footage and the footage of the guy in the apartment above. It’s not enough. There were so many people filming while this happened. Where hell did it all go? I scour social media trying to find just a second more video, find that angle that would help it all make sense. All those people with that video of me and I couldn’t access a frame of it.

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It’s magic hour in Hollywood. The villain of the movie that’s become my life sticks his hands out of the car in a sign of surrender. The police officers continue to yell at him to get out of the car. I dare to peek a bit higher above the dashboard. He opens the door and slowly moves into the street. I see the officers follow his movements with their sidearms. I sigh breath of relief as I realize the weapons are no longer facing in my direction. The suspect lies down and the officers approach from his left in a practiced formation, stiff as tin soldiers. I open the driver’s side door and take cover behind it. A police officer appears to my left.

“C’mon sir.”

I nod and he escorts me to the sidewalk. I glance back and see the other officers handcuffing the suspect. I turn back to the sidewalk and am greeted by a firing squad of cameras and phones pointed at me. I look down to hide my face and see stars. The Hollywood Walk of Fame. I see the names of Kirk Douglas and Jimmy Stewart etched into the grimy sidewalk.

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Three days later I’m watching Matt Damon’s stunt double belt Christian Bale’s in the face. Director James Mangold calls “CUT!” This is the disembodied voice I’ve heard all week. The real Matt Damon and Christian Bale emerge before the cameras. Bale looks like a nondescript middle aged man in good shape. I wouldn’t have recognized him from this far away. Damon’s face on the other hand is unmistakable. Mangold calls out “ACTION!” and I gawk as I finally get the answer to “who would win in a fight, Batman or Jason Bourne?” I won’t spoil it for you.

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The suspect is being escorted to a squad car. An officer tells me to sit down. Are you kidding me? I’m not sitting down on Hollywood Boulevard. He asks me what happened and I give him a brief statement. I keep my cool, start laughing even, trying to shake it off like I’m some guy in a movie. I glance to the officers still in the street and quip, “that was actually pretty badass!” like I was some kid who just got off a roller coaster. Strangers crowd around me and I tell the story over and over again as they film me. I keep talking. It’s the only thing that keeps me calm. People offer me drinks and pat me on the back.

“You’re a hero dude!” one bystander says.

“You’re famous man!” his friend adds

“Technically you stopped that guy!” a lady comments. I laugh, technically she’s right. I did stop him.

The officers try to convince me to go to the hospital. I’m not going to sit in the back of an ambulance with a gray blanket wrapped around me like some pathetic victim. I act like one of the guys. I stand around the officers with my arms crossed, cracking wise and retelling the story.

“Of course it all happened on Hollywood in Vine,” I shake my head in disbelief.

“It’s Hollywood,” of the officers remarks. Helluva time for a Chinatown reference.

The sun has almost set but I keep my Ray-Ban aviators on like I’ve been deputized by the highway patrol. After all, I’m technically the guy who stopped the perp. The officers joke that they’ll tell my wife I tackled the suspect single-handedly and handcuffed himself.

My wife.

I see her emerge onto the corner of Hollywood and Vine. She’s radiant. My leading lady. Penny’s at her side, our trusted sidekick. We all three embrace.

The tow trucks have arrived. Our vehicles are still locked in combat. The sports car is crumpled but my VW still looks like he’s still in fighting shape. German engineering. The tow truck tries to pull the sports car away from mine but they’re stuck together, like two boxers who refuse to give up. The officers have me get behind the wheel of my car and put it in reverse. No joy. The cars are fused together.

“Looks like they’ve bonded,” an officer jokes. I recognize him as the guy who motioned for me to get down in the car. One of the other cops has an idea.

“What if we have the two trucks pull them apart?”

“Draw and quarter them like an old Western?” I chuckle.

The officer nods. I smile. Only in Hollywood.

It’s magic hour in our little neighborhood. Penny and I stand outside our building as the film crew finishes their last shot. The rent-a-cop outside our building tells me to hold. The disembodied voice calls out “ACTION!” and the street comes to life as the 1960s once more. The old cars prowl the streets as the young actors stroll the sidewalks. I see an iPhone in the passenger seat of one of the cars. Hollywood. Never quite gets it right.

“CUT!” the action stops, “That’s a wrap!”

The cast of vintage drivers cheers. I can’t help but smile. The police officers open the street back up to traffic and I see my wife pulling into our block. My leading lady.

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It’s twilight on Hollywood and Vine when the two cars are finally loaded up onto their respective tow trucks. The driver assigned to the sports car is a massive man and he pulls the bumper off my car with his bare hands and tosses it onto the other truck. The round “VW” insignia on the front of my car falls to the street. I pick up the reflective shield and wipe it off with my shirt. Not a single scratch. German engineering.

The next day I’m on the phone with LAPD. The driver was twenty-three. No insurance. Drunk as a skunk, blew twice the legal limit on a Breathalyzer. He wasn’t a bank robber or a murderer, just a stupid drunk kid who almost killed me in a Nissan Z with tacky decals. It’s just the same. I’m not the lawsuit type anyway. I’d feel greedy going after some rich old bastard. No use suing some dumb kid whose got nothing. There’s only one thing I want.

“I hope this kid turns his life around,” I tell the officer, “and I hope someday he has a chance to apologize to me.”

The stars in the sky mirror the ones in the pavement on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. The tow trucks are lurching off and the officers are starting to disperse. There’s some old guy in uniform telling the boys in blue what a good job they all did. Not a word of praise for me, the “hero” of the film. At least according to my adoring fans on the sidewalk. Hollywood. They never quite get it exactly right.

With my wife in arm and dog at my feet, I glance back at the corner of Hollywood and Vine one more time. Next to Jimmy and Kirk I notice a name I didn’t see on the walk of fame before. Edgar R. Murrow. I think of his catchphrase and smile as the black sports car is towed into the horizon.

“Good night and good luck,” I muse.

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Still Not George Lazenby

Ten years ago, in the still nascent days of celebrity social media presence, there were no such things as verified accounts. There were no check-marks or official pages to verify who was actually a real person of note and who was trying to use someone’s name for their own vanity or self-promotion. Social media presences were something associated with younger talents, as baby boomers had not invaded Facebook as of yet. It was also a time of relative innocence regarding social media and people were more willing to let themselves be cat-fished be those pretending to be someone else. It was during this period that I accidentally, but not quite innocently become a perpetrator of such a cat-fish. This is the story of how I finally got my comeuppance a decade later. It all started as a joke.

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As a long time James Bond aficionado and the writer/star of the greatest play of all time, Nobody Does it Better: The James Bond Musical, I consider myself to be a master of 007 trivia. It was because of my hubris that I became involved in a petty squabble with a dude from Britain about piece of minutiae regarding the oft-overlooked Bond entry On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  The 1969 film, which starred then-unknown Australian model George Lazenby as the intrepid secret agent is the only time a James Bond actor in an official Bond film has played the part only once. Long regarded as the black sheep of the Bond canon, the film’s reputation has improved drastically as of late, with some hard-core Bond fans even considering it the best of the series. It’s certainly the entry truest to its literary inspiration and has a lean, hard-nosed quality that the series would not fully embrace again until the Daniel Craig era. Since the film is so good and yet such an aberration in the classic Bond canon, there is a bittersweet quality to the film that has haunted me for years. What if Lazenby hadn’t mucked up this opportunity? What if the producers had stayed with this badass interpretation of the character rather than delve into the over-the-top campiness that defined the next two decades of Bondom? As someone who has made stupid decisions and squandered chances to do some great things at key moments in my life, the legend of George Lazenby was a cautionary tale for me. It served as a hard reminder of roads not taken.

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Anyway, back to the squabble. While perusing Facebook, I came across a trivia quiz about the film that claimed to be difficult. I scoffed and clicked on the quiz, confident that I would ace it. Indeed I got every question correct except for one, which asked for the hometown of side character Ruby Bartlett, with whom Lazenby’s Bond enjoys a brief dalliance midway through the film. An easy question, Ruby Bartlett is from Lancashire. Or so I thought. My answer was marked as incorrect, sullying an otherwise perfect score. I was blindsided and offended and decided to send a nasty message to the guy who created the quiz. In retrospect, I realize what a toxic dick I was being when I wrote:

“Ruby Bartlett is from Lancishire dumbnutz!!”

The response was stinging.

“She’s from MORECAMBE which is IN Lancashire (correct spelling). Now, what’s that Yank expression, oh yes…dumbass.”

So although technically correct, my response was not specific enough for this British (maybe Australian?) trivia wonk. He had me. I was bested. Again, I’m embarrassed by what an immature jerk I was at the time and now regret what I did next.

I created a Facebook account for George Lazenby. Not a fan page. An account. For the express purpose of being an asshole to this guy. These days such an account would get shut down immediately and certainly wouldn’t fool most people. But ten years ago it was uncharted territory. With everything setup, I sent a message from Mr. Lazenby with this subject line. Great Quiz!

I imagine how I would feel when I saw that message come in from George Lazenby. I would be elated, being recognized by the George Lazenby for my incredible quizmaking prowess. Of course it was a feint, a trick. The body of the message read as such:

Not. You are a supreme bag of douche. As someone who fucked both Ruby Bartlett AND your mom let me say: Suck my Octoballs Thunderpussy!

Sincerely,
George

Now I imagine how I would feel after quickly realizing it was not from George Lazenby and was in fact a very mean-spirited prank. Again, as a more mature and professional person I am now very embarrassed about my behavior and if the guy who made that quiz is by some improbable chance reading this, I apologize. We’re both fans of James Bond and I should have been a good sport about you besting me with a trick question.

But at the time I had a good laugh and moved on with my life, forgetting I had created this fake page. But then something strange happened. At about this time I made a post about the experience with the title I am (Not) George Lazenby. Here’s an excerpt:

Out of the blue, people started friend requesting me…I mean George. So I accepted. I figured people realized this was a joke and wanted in on the fun. And then they started messaging me, telling me what an honor it was to be friends with the George Lazenby.

The fans poured their hearts out about what an impact George’s performance had on them, and how much they admired him. I responded to each message with a pleasant, but patronizing “Thanks, mate.” I was so freaked out by this outpouring of love for George Lazenby that it took me about two hours to compose that stupid message. I debated for a good forty-five minutes over whether the “mate” was too Australian or just Australian enough.

And then I had my first scare. One of my…er…George’s friends sent a message about coming to a book signing to meet me…er…George. I freaked out. What happens if this guy starts babbling about Facebook at the signing and George is like “I don’t have a Facebook account, mate!” and then Scotland Yard hunts me down and I get extradited to England and sent to the Tower of London for identity fraud? I’d be the black sheep of Bondage! No self-respecting Bond fan would even play a round of GoldenEye64 with me!

Then the guy messaged me to tell me that it was an honor to meet me…uh…George, and that he was sad we didn’t get a chance to talk. Phew. Talk about a close one. My Facebook fraud had brushed against reality and no one knew but me. And then I started thinking, do these people really think I’m George Lazenby?

Maybe my Facebook George was like Santa. Even though all signs point to bullshit, people still want to believe. Was I doing my fellow Bond fans a great service, or was I playing them for fools? I couldn’t decide. Every time George made a new friend, or someone sent him a heartwarming message, I considered shutting down my account. But I couldn’t bring myself to it. People wanted to shower George Lazenby with love and admiration, and who was I to stop them?

And then the real George was in the news. Divorce. A nasty one. The support came rushing in. People from all over the world were offering their kindest thoughts and messages of hope. Our friend from the book signing sent the longest and most thoughtful. He told of his own personal experience going through a divorce, and the wounds it had caused. He opened his heart and soul to George Lazenby. It was the most wonderful letter I’d ever received, and I felt like a sneaky little bastard reading it. I only wished that I could some how deliver it to George, and erase my memory of it. I’m sorry George. And my sincerest apologies to the loyal friend you don’t know you have.

For most of my early twenties this story was a regular hit at cocktail parties or during discussions with fellow Bond fans. Eventually I came to the decision that it was not ethical to maintain this account. I created an email account with a random name I’d never remember and associated the Facebook account with it. I created an extremely long automatically generated password I would also never remember and let go of it all. There was no way I’d every be able to get back into the account. I deleted the blog post excerpted above and never told the story again. Until what happened last night.

As part if its Throwback Thursdays programming the North Hollywood Laemmle was exhibited one-night only screenings of one 007 film for every one of the pre-Daniel Craig Bonds. Since Lazenby was only in OHMSS that was obviously the one they would screen. But there was an added perk. Lazenby would be there for a Q&A! I wrangled my entire family to go see the movie with me as sort of a pre-birthday celebration.

Living in New York and Los Angeles I’ve had a few conversations with public figures of about the same level of “celebrity” as Lazenby. I have a general set of rules for these encounters: Don’t act weird, never ask for an autograph and for heaven’s sake no selfies. There’s a strange relationship between the general public and public figures. We all have a personal relationship with them, but they don’t have a personal relationship with any of us. It’s a dynamic we should all respect. In terms of autographs, that has for better or for worse become an industry. Human leeches stalk celebrities, camp out at airports with stacks of 8x10s, get as many signatures as they can and then auction them off on eBay. Gross. Most celebrities know about this and unless they are at an event that is an official signing, they feel taken advantage of when people ask them for autographs because they are profiting off of them with no compensation.

In terms of Q&As, these are generally not signings or meet and greets. The celeb usually hangs out backstage with their handlers, comes out for the session and then exits through the back. I figured this was how George would roll. But just in case I had a chance to talk to him, I brought a couple pieces of memorabilia, including a copy of the Playboy magazine that Bond reads in the flick. It’s a fun gag  in the movie because Bond stories have often been published in Playboy and Bond himself is a literal playboy. If I had a chance to get him to sign it I might ask, but mostly I  just thought it would be fun to say “Hey remember this? Cool right?” Like I said before, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to meet him anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the lobby and saw George chatting with fans and taking pictures. He seemed pretty chill and open to talking to fans. When I got into the theater George sat down in the front row. I was still wary about talking to him. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But I figured what the heck, he seems pretty down-to-Earth. So I strolled up with the Playboy in hand and introduced myself. He politely said hello and shook my hand. I sensed things were cool so I showed him the magazine.

“Remember this?”

He starred at me flatly. “No.”

“Oh, thought you might like to take a look, it’s the one from the movie.”

“Yeah I know.” Was he fucking with me?

His friend sitting next to him seemed interested so I decided I pulled out a copy of the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and showed it to them. The friend said “Oh cool he’s got a copy of the book!”

And then I blurted it out. I asked George to sign it. And I immediately regretted it.

George Lazenby looked at me coldly. “No. I’m not signing anything.”

I said “Okay that’s fine. Nice to meet you!” and walked off.

I wasn’t sad that I didn’t get a signature. I didn’t feel attacked. He didn’t yell at me. I was just embarrassed. I grew up a weird nerd who was often bullied by the cool kids. Eventually I learned confidence and honestly a big part of that was fashioning my sense of style and wit on James Bond. And yet in that moment I was instantly transported back to grade school. I was just a fucking nerd. I had broke one of my celebrity sighting rules and it had blown up in my face. I was crestfallen.

As I walked back to my seat with my head down I suddenly remembered the whole affair with the trivia quiz, the George Lazenby Facebook account and my stupid, bullying behavior towards a fellow fan. This was my comeuppance. I deserved this. That’s what made it feel so bad. I wasn’t some poor downtrodden fan. I was an asshole getting bit in the ass by Karma.

I slumped in my seat. I was humiliated. I wanted to leave. My family reminded me about the whole “never meet your heroes” trope. That was even more embarrassing. George Lazenby isn’t my “hero.” If it had been Sean Connery, one of my actual heroes, I wouldn’t even have bothered talking to him. I’d respect his space and figure I’d get shot down if I tried. But Lazenby? He’s the guy that did one Bond movie that only nerds like me know about. He was just hanging out in North Hollywood talking to fans.

After a few minutes, the theater manager came up and announced there would be a trivia contest. I perked up. This was a chance to redeem myself. To make up for missing the question about Ruby Bartlett from ten years ago with Lazenby himself sitting right there in front of me. I knew every single answer of course, even winning a prize for answering a question about Telly Savalas’ reading habits. And one of the last questions was “What magazine does Bond read in the movie?”

This was my moment. I stood up in the audience and held the magazine in the air. The crowd went wild. They cheered me. I beamed with pride. I may be a nerd but I was king of the nerds. As I sat down my dad leaned forward. “Feel better Junior?” he asked. I nodded. I felt like a million bucks.

Eventually the Q&A began. As a bit of context, Lazenby has a reputation for a couple of things. He always brags about how many women he’s had sex with, complains about money and tells stories that probably aren’t true. I’ve seen him do this a couple times in interviews and documentaries. And sure enough as the questions began, he launched right into it. At first it was charming. What fun to hear a real James Bond talk about living the James Bond lifestyle. But eventually it started to outwear its welcome. He launched into a long rambling story about having sex with multiple women in a hotel room in China while his pregnant girlfriend was in his boat during the largest storm in history. We all started to feel wildly uncomfortable and grossed out. It was extra icky because I was sitting next to my mom, my sister and my wife. I looked over at them. They were disgusted. This wasn’t any fun. Lazenby capped off the story doing a racist Chinese accent and made a point to inform everyone he was not being paid for this appearance. Yeesh. Tacky. Eventually the theater manager thanked him and they rolled the picture.

Almost immediately after the movie began, I noticed George had left. I suddenly felt grateful that I had a chance to talk to him. If I had hesitated or waited, I would have missed my chance. When the picture finished and the lights came up I felt a feeling of catharsis. As I stated earlier, whenever I watch this flick I get that weird feeling of missed opportunity. I always feel bad for George and wished he hadn’t squandered his chance to be a great Bond. For the first time, I didn’t. George got his kicks and was kind of gross. He clearly didn’t embrace the character  like Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. He’s not a dick or a bad person and he wasn’t particularly rude to me. But for the first time, I don’t really care that he only did one James Bond flick. It actually made the movie even more special. An interesting transition between the Bond of the 60s and the Bond of the 70s. A fascinating footnote to the storied and sordid saga of cinematic Bond. But at the end of the day, the world had had enough of George Lazenby. And you know what? So have I.

See you ’round mate.

 

The First Flop Far Far Away

In the wake of Solo‘s lackluster opening weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Released in, 1969 OHMSS was the first “flop” of the James Bond franchise and there are marked similarities between the 6th official Bond film and the 2nd Star Wars spin-off. OHMSS replaced beloved Bond star Sean Connery with an unknown younger actor named George Lazenby, the production was plagued with bad press regarding on-set drama and the script was laden with ham-handed references to previous entries. The story also portrayed a softer side of James Bond. We saw him experience a moment of heartache that helped us understand why he would grow into such a cynical womanizer as the years went on.

 

Audiences balked at the idea of a new actor portraying cherished character and OHMSS under-performed at the box office. Critics rang a death knell for the James Bond series and predicted the character would drift into irrelevance in the 1970s and beyond. The producers panicked and orchestrated a quick course correction. Sean Connery returned for the following film which doubled down on the tried and formula for the series. OHMSS became known as the black sheep of the Bond saga and Lazenby disappeared into obscurity.

As the years wore on Lazenby’s solo turn as the world’s greatest secret agent was re-evaluated by critics and fans alike. Eventually it became regarded as an underrated classic and one of the best in the series. By the time I became interested in James Bond there were some hardcore fans who went as far as to say it was the best Bond film.

I hope that someday Solo will be regarded as an underrated entry in the Star Wars saga. It’s far from a perfect film and an ultimately an entirely unnecessary one. And yet it tickles a place in my heart that I haven’t felt since the first entry in the series. The criticisms leveled at the film are precisely what I enjoyed about it. I like that we see a fully-formed Han Solo rather than see him become Han Solo. We saw how that approach went down with Anakin in the prequels. I enjoyed that the film checked off all of the boxes one would expect in a Han Solo film. I loved that it fixed the Kessell run parsec problem and we see Han shoot first. I like the little references to the old expanded universe lore. Fundamentally I just enjoyed Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo. He’s cocky, funny and charming. Like Lazenby he has big boots to fill. No one will ever be Harrison Ford just as no one will ever be Sean Connery but Ehrenreich does a better job than anyone expected and I think anyone else would have been able to pull off.

I’m not worried that one flop far far away will tank the Star Wars universe or ruin anyone’s career. I am worried that Disney and Lucasfilm will learn the wrong lessons from taking a loss on this entry. I’m worried they will make an illogical course correction and steer the franchise in the wrong direction. It’s debatable whether OHMSS is the best Bond film, but history has been much kinder on it than the next entry, Diamonds are ForeverDiamonds was regarded as a welcome return to form for the superspy but now routinely ranks among the worst films in the series. Whereas Lazenby’s bond was youthful, athletic and energetic, Connery is doughy and disinterested in Diamonds, thoroughly phoning in his performance. While OHMSS is a tightly-plotted hard-nosed adventure film, Diamonds is a bloated self parody that lazily drifts between set pieces. The style of OHMSS maintains a timeless quality whereas Diamonds is a dreadfully tacky exercise in 1970s excess. James Bond remained successful for decades to come but in retrospect it really lost its way after their first flop. One need only look to Moonraker or Die Another Day for that reality to sink in. I hope that the next Star Wars film will not be the Moonraker of the series.

The reputation of OHMSS as a flop is actually misleading. Although not a box office phenomenon like its predecessors, the film did make money. And I’m confident that as the years go on Solo will eventually roll into the black on Disney’s ledgers. I hope that Disney chooses to move forward with another Solo or Lando film despite this disappointing take, much in the same way Warner Brothers continues to churn out DC movies despite horrible reviews and mediocre earnings. But even if Solo turns out to be the George Lazenby of the Star Wars universe I will always cherish this charming but troubled $300 million disaster.

 

The Last Jedi: An Honest Trailer Totally Destroys How Everything Wrong with an Epic Take-down Should Have Ended

It is a magical moment at the movies. Sitting with my sister, my best friend, the Leia to my Luke, the person who I saw Star Wars for the first time with, seeing something we had waited our whole lives to see. The return of Luke Skywalker. The Jedi Master takes his sister’s hand and my sister takes mine. I am one with the movie and the movie is one with me. As a jaded “older” Star Wars fan in my thirties, it’s harder and harder for me to suspend my disbelief these days. And yet there I am, fully transported to a galaxy far far away. It’s not a perfect movie. With the exception of The Empire Strikes Back there is no such thing. And yet opening night of The Last Jedi is about as close to a perfect movie-going experience as I can imagine.

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On the way home I check Twitter and am truly shocked. Some hard-core fans hated it. The Last Jedi has a lower audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes than The Phantom Menace. There’s a petition on Change.org to have it removed from Star Wars canon. Some douche on Instagram burnt his own Star Wars t-shirt and declared that Star Wars is dead. I don’t think these guys represent all fans or even a majority of them. They are simply the loudest voices, the “alt-fans” of geekdom, the “Make Star Wars Great Again” contingent of whiners. And it’s time to shut them the fuck up.

I’m sick of hearing about how Return of the Jedi  “should have ended” or listening to some wannabe without a single IMDB credit “totally destroy” The Force Awakens. If I wanted to hear “everything wrong” with Rogue One I would have asked and the next time an “honest trailer” pops up in my feed promising an “epic takedown” of The Ewok Adventure I’m honestly going to lose my mind. There is a toxic obsession with trying to ruin other people’s enjoyment of popular films and with the intense “fan” backlash over Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve finally had it.

The guys raging on Reddit and Rotten Tomatoes about The Last Jedi being worse than The Phantom Menace are not really fans of anything except their own sanctimonious opinions. I don’t think they’re even Star Wars fans. The overwhelming fan backlash over the prequels was understandable. There was some fairly thoughtful criticism of The Force Awakens, much of which I agreed with. But this snarling anger over The Last Jedi is nothing but a frothing frenzy of self-aggrandizing madness. This mean-spirited side of Star Wars fandom is not a sudden development and even the beloved original trilogy of films are starting to feel its rage.

It used to be the general consensus that the prequels were crap and the originals were unimpeachable. But then Return of the Jedi started getting hate among hard-core fans. The opening act is slow, Han Solo’s character is weak, the Ewoks are stupid and how is the Empire defeated by a bunch of teddy bears? Okay, valid points but I still love this movie. Then the original Star Wars started getting a brow-beating! The film slows down on Tatooine, there are pacing issues in act two, Mark Hamill is a bad actor, there are two climaxes, blah blah blah. Well, at least we have The Empire Strikes Back. Not only the best film in the series but one of the best movies period. Surely that classic is safe from the wrath of fandom, right? Well apparently there’s a huge “plot hole” regarding Luke being trained by Yoda in only a couple of days, the Millenium Falcon wouldn’t be able to get to Cloud City so quickly, and C3PO’s whining “ruins” the film. So when all is said and done, according to hard-core fans, there are really only about 47 minutes of Star Wars that’s actually any good. I honestly think that the average person likes Star Wars more than the average superfan. I don’t know what these guys want. They long for the old Star Wars yet hammer those films for their weaknesses. The Force Awakens was too much like the old movies but The Last Jedi is too different. Disney has been desperately trying to figure out how to please these idiots and I think it’s time to just ignore their bullshit. These fucks would probably complain about getting a backrub from Slave Leia while Yoda tickled their balls.

The Last Jedi is a bold attempt to move on from what we expect from a Star Wars movie. It’s weird, it’s different, and it’s occasionally jarring. But guess what? So was Star Wars. As conventional as the original trilogy seems, that’s because they established those conventions. In reality, the original Star Wars was an extremely bizarre, experimental and daring picture in its day. The best moment in the otherwise very safe The Force Awakens was the vision Rey had when she touched Luke’s lightsaber. The scene was unlike anything we had ever seen in a Star Wars film. The Last Jedi is a whole movie of that scene. It is the end of everything we thought Star Wars was and a promise of everything it can be. In that way it captures the revolutionary spirit of Star Wars by being unlike any Star Wars film in the past. Our villain Kylo Ren spells it out. “Let the past die,” he tells Rey and the audience, “kill it if you have to.” Our hero Luke Skywalker literally casts aside the past by tossing his own lightsaber away like Prospero’s staff.

The Last Jedi succeeds by challenging our assumptions about a universe we thought we knew so well. As the second entry in the new trilogy, we all assumed the film would contain a shocker as epic as “I am your Father” and Star Wars fans became obsessed with “calling” what the twist would be. Most of the theories revolved around our new protagonist Rey. We all assumed she had to be related to someone we already knew — a Skywalker, a Kenobi, a Palpatine, hell even a Binks! But the real “twist” of The Last Jedi is that we were all wrong. Rey isn’t a Skywalker, she’s nobody. The legendary Skywalker lightsaber is nothing. The Star Wars universe is much larger than we ever thought we knew. After decades of cloying “fan service” it was a huge “fan fuck you” and I loved it. Everyone obsessed with “calling it,” everyone who thought they were so smart that they figured it out was dead wrong. But, like, isn’t that what a twist is all about?

And what a twist indeed.  It deserves a place in the pantheon of “Rosebud is a sled,” “it was Earth all along,” and “Tyler Durden is the narrator.” It is a colossal meta-mash to the balls of fandom like we’ve never seen and it had me laughing with glee as I clutched my own crotch. What a fucking ride. What a risk. What a moment in cinema history.

But that doesn’t seem to be the biggest cause of rage directed at The Last Jedi. The true coup de gras behind the hate was the portrayal of Luke Skywalker, whose appearance has been awaited since before I was born. Yes I was brought into a world desperate to see the return of the great Luke Skywalker. We got glimpses of it in comics, novels and video games. Luke Skywalker finally wearing the traditional robes of the Jedi of yore. Master Skywalker overseeing the glorious return of the Jedi Order. The mighty Luke toppling AT-AT walkers with the flick of his wrist. Luke Skywalker, savior of the Galaxy in his clean white robes, lightsaber at his side, standing toe-to-toe with entire armies, defending the New Republic. We sat on the floor of our bedrooms, carpet strewn with action figures playing it out again and again. We knew this was the destiny of Luke Skywalker.

We were wrong. He’s a sad old man living on milk and fish in a crumbling ruin with a bunch of frog babushkas, spacecows and fuzzy penguins. Everything we knew Skywalker would accomplish, he failed at. He failed to re-establish the Jedi Order, he failed to protect the New Republic, he failed his own family and the entire Galaxy. No! No! That’s not true!  That’s impossible!!!! Nooooooo! Nooooooooooooooooo!

And then relief! Another twist! Luke has arrived! A glorious Deus Ex Machina for the history books. Clad in the Jedi Robes, beard and hair trimmed to perfection, lightsaber at the ready, defying the armies of evil! YES! SEE! We were right! This is what became of the great Luke Skywalker. He looked just as he did on the covers of all those books and comics. It was happening just like we played it out on that carpet with our toys. We were wrong about Rey but we were right about this!

And yet, the real twist was it wasn’t the return of Skywalker at all. It was what everyone thought his return would be — both in the audience and the Star Wars Universe itself. It was an illusion. He was a galaxy away, manipulating the minds of everyone. Moving himself across the battlefield like a kid playing with his action figure. And then he disappeared. After over 30 years of waiting to see the return of Luke Skywalker, we learned that he would never return at all. Eat your heart out Citizen Kane. This is a twist for the ages.

The fans took to Twitter. “This isn’t Star Wars! This isn’t Luke Skywalker! Star Wars belongs to us! You don’t understand Star Wars! We do!” But here’s the thing. No one owns Star Wars. Not us, not George Lucas, not even Disney. No one truly understands it either. The lasting appeal of Star Wars is as mysterious as the Force itself. Luke spells it out for us. The Jedi were hubristic. They thought the Force belonged to them. They thought only they understood it. As the old Star Wars fans we were the Jedi. We thought it belonged to us. We thought we understood it. We were wrong. If anything, it belongs to the children now. The young padawans in the audience. It’s hard for us old fans to pass on the series to the younglings like a treasured heirloom and in some ways The Last Jedi is a beautiful pang of that heartache. The ghost of Yoda tells Luke that the hardest part of having students is that “we are what they leave behind.” I think that a lot of the rage against The Last Jedi is from those who feel as though they are being left behind by their favorite franchise. In the end of The Last Jedi we see a young boy playing Star Wars on the floor with his friends, telling the story we just saw with a crudely-made Luke Skywalker “action figure.” It’s a bit on the nose but it’s a genius moment. He is both the old and the new generation of fans. He knows what happened to Luke Skywalker and so do we. Now it’s time to find out what happens to him. The biggest Galaxy in the Universe just got a little bigger and I’m excited to explore it with the old generation of fans, my own generation and the next. Luke Skywalker is dead. Long live Luke Skywalker.