When a mischievous James Bond swilled a pint of Banks's' best
Forget vodka martinis, shaken not stirred, this image shows what James Bond really liked to get his laughing tackle around – a pint of Wolverhampton’s finest brew, Banks’s.
You can almost hear a Black Country barman asking the smooth, tuxedo clad, spy: “We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond – the usual? And a Cherry B for the lady?”
This rare still is from an advertising campaign in 2000 featuring the late Sir Roger Moore, a man who played 007 with tongue firmly in cheek, a man who littered dialogue with such double entendre as: “Just keeping the British end up, Sir.”
And Moore, who died in 2017 aged 89, was at his most mischievous during filming for the commercial.
Director Theo Delaney revealed the 30-second shoot was intended to begin with a pub local “clocking” the celebrity, resplendent in white dinner suit and dickie bow, and exclaim excitedly: “It’s you, isn’t it?”
Moore, that famed twinkle in his eye, was to respond, “yes”, then turn to the camera and confide: “Worst thing about being a world famous megastar is the fact you can’t enjoy a pint of the famous pint brewed in the Midlands.”
Moore, however – perhaps not taking the assignment too seriously – decided the first take required ad-libbing.
“It’s you, isn’t it,” splutted the excited customer. Moore stared at the individual and in clipped, Etonian tones replied: “**** off!”
Perhaps it was a profanity Moore had yearned to utter on the exotic, glamorous Bond sets: Goldfinger: “I expect you to die, Mr Bond.” Bond: “**** that!”
It’s a typically Black Country come-back, but then 007, despite frequenting Monte Carlo casinos, VIP ski slopes and tarantula infested five-star hotel rooms, had his roots in our region. Cubby Broccoli should’ve added such blockbusters as “For Your Balti Pies Only” and “From Rushall With Love” to his famous franchise. Include in the mix “Dr Nah mate, you’re alright”.
Moore certainly shared the local art of laid back, self-deprecation. When once asked the secret of his success, he replied: “When I was doing The Saint on television, I had two expressions. As Bond, I’ve managed to work up to four.”
He recalled the advert during a 2016 appearance at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre, an “evening with” format that was one of the legend’s last stage performances.
“You’ve never been to Wolverhampton before have you?” asked compere Gareth Owen.
“No,” said Sir Roger. “But I did appear in a Banks’s Bitter advert. It was shot in Dublin.”
The Staffordshire former pit town of Cannock is an unlikely Bond haunt. Dare to demand a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, there and you run the risk of leaving through the pub lounge window.
Those who step out in safari suits run the risk of being taunted by local urchins or pelted with Greggs’ baked products.
And 007 would struggle to find an eatery that served his favourite dish – grouse, asparagus and hollandaise sauce washed down with pink champagne. He, and his latest squeeze, may have to make do with a Big Mac and large fries.
Come to think of it, Bond would find it hard to replenish his wardrobe of safari suits and dashing cravats – unless the man hit gold at one of the many charity shops.
Yet Moore’s spirit is strong in Cannock. Today, residents still state, as fact, that Moore – long before achieving fame – lived with his aunt in Sandy Lane, a well-heeled corner of the community. He was, they say, a frequent visitor to the Shoal Hill Tavern: perhaps it was there that the actor developed his taste for Banks’s.
Like all fine urban myths, the story is a mix of fact and fiction. Moore’s aunt did reside in Sandy Lane and he certainly visited her there. He may have even been a frequent visitor.
But I’ve uncovered no hard evidence to support suggestions he moved in – and, as a journalist, I worked the patch for decades. He was a fairly local lad. Mum Lillian Pope lived in Mere Green, near Sutton Coldfield, dad George was a police officer. And Moore, before 1960s series The Saint made him an international celebrity, lived in Rosemary Hill, Sutton Coldfield, with then wife Dorothy Squires.
He also enjoyed the historic sights of Lichfield, revealing in one interview: “I know Birmingham is close to Lichfield and I had lots of aunties who lived there. I remember going up there from time to time as a child to be paraded before them."
Think of the beauties bedded by Bond. Tumbling thoughts emerge of lithe femme fatales with foreign accents and cleavages that warrant pot-holing expeditions. Yet 007 liked ‘em from Cannock, although today he’d need to have developed a penchant for dramatic skin art adorning the women he pursued
Picture the scene. Bond brawling with an arch enemy, while a woman, tottering on high-heels and clutching a bottle of Bollinger, screams: “Leave it James – he’s not worth it!”
Cannock’s Carole Ashby, a pin-up possibly best known for her role as Louise, a member of the communist resistance in ‘Allo ‘Allo, was picked to be a Bond Girl in Octopussy and A View To A Kill.
Kim Mills, a blonde with coke bottle curves who lived in neighbouring Churchbridge, flaunted her assets in For Your Eyes Only.
My mate briefly went out with Kim, frequently dubbed a “local stunner” by the now defunct weekly newspaper where I served my apprenticeship.
With such strong links, it’s fitting that Bond’s last battle took place in Cannock. In the very year of his death, Moore read reports of two circus lions and a tiger kept in cramped cages close to the M6: the man’s concern for animal welfare had already earned him the title “the man with the golden heart” from animal rights organisation PETA.
With typical 007 aplomb, he offered to share an £800 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne with Prime Minister Theresa May if she pledged to ban wild animals in Big Top performances. In his letter to the PM, he stated: “Wild animals in real life must feel as if they’ve been captured by the fictional Dr No.
“Madame Prime Minister, it is time – past time – to do the right thing and finally bring in a ban. I will put a bottle of Dom Perignon '52 or Bollinger '69 on ice for the occasion and gladly pop the cork with you.”
Visit Cannock town, view the bandstand, walk the grounds of St Luke’s Church and come to terms with an unlikely truth. This is Bond country. Yet none of the many fast-food establishments have capitalised on the claim to fame. I’d certainly purchase a bacon butty from any cafe carrying the name, “Licence to Grill”.