Friday, May 26, 2017

Those Two Times I Met Roger Moore

I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Sir Roger Moore, the screen star and UNICEF ambassador who died this week, not once, but twice.

One of my friends, Lisa Bigazzi Tilt, was with me on both occasions, and most of the other folks present are still connections and longtime pals.

Just about everyone with us the first time probably was sad like me when news of Moore's passing started to hit the wires.

He was a memorable, friendly celebrity personality as is his wife, now widow, "Kiki" -- who accompanied him both times we shook hands -- was also a friendly person. 

The New York Times' A.O. Scott penned an appreciation of Moore that aptly names the second actor to portray James Bond as "the best" in the role. Though my personal favorite title in the series -- "Goldfinger" -- stars the "original" Bond, Sean Connery, I just smile thinking of each of Moore's turns donning spy shoes and gadgets.

In some ways, meeting Moore in person and experiencing his cheerful, genuine friendliness sealed his ranking as "the better Bond" in my book. Others with fun memories echo this sentiment. 

My first Moore encounter arrived in November 2002 via my longtime client IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

Lisa and I were working in the press room at the association's annual trade show in Orlando, now known as IAAPA Attractions Expo.

The 2002 convention was our fourth, and joining us from our public relations agency team was the "newbie" Dawn Brewer, still a great friend as is Lisa.

Moore was chosen to present a speech about his work with children and UNICEF's relevance to the "business of fun," and we enjoyed the longtime James Bond and "The Saint" actor's remarks at an executive breakfast.

Prior to the convention, we also hand-picked a few key media outlets to speak with Moore -- for a knighted celebrity, he was overly generous with his time, and also excellent at staying on message about Expo (which was difficult since national TV outlets like CNN and Fox News only wanted his satellite interviews to focus on the latest Bond film "Die Another Day" which happened to open the same week of Moore's visit to IAAPA's gathering).

Following Moore's breakfast remarks and his trek to a local TV studio for the aforementioned satellite interviews, it was my job to introduce Moore the actor to Roger Moore the film critic for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper -- the scribe Moore wrote a great piece about finally meeting his coincidental namesake. I was standing beside the Sentinel photographer who snapped the image appearing the next day, as shown here:



(Film critic Roger Moore is now writing MovieNation posts, including this remembrance of meeting the actor. Interesting to get a nod as "A P.R. wag" as described by the critic).

We next escorted Moore and his wife to the IAAPA Press Office for a trade magazine interview with another longtime friend, Tim O'Brien, then editor of Amusement Business and contributor to Funworld (IAAPA's monthly). As the interview got underway, a happy accident occurred (at least this is how I recall it when sharing this memory).

When Moore, his wife, O'Brien, our IAAPA client, Dawn and I gathered around a press room table, we offered fresh coffee to the Moores to be sure they were comfortable. Dawn was kind enough to bring the new brew, and without realizing it, upon offering sugar, I swear she said "Here is your coffee ... shaken, not stirred ..." with the straightest deadpan face (or perhaps she did not realize the correlation to James Bond's martini preferences).

A great big laugh was shared by all. Moore's bright blue eyes smiled with the unexpected chuckle (though my guess is that he regularly heard similar lines for most of his post-007 years).

We later joined Moore for an outdoor photo op with a British video game manufacturer who was showcasing an interactive football (soccer) video game for which Moore was not shy to play along and complete a few place kicks. Then like taking off in "Moonraker" or "Live And Let Die" Moore was soon gone in a flash. 

Sadly, I had no camera with me that November afternoon, and the images I snagged from others are no longer available, lost in a move or still packed away in storage. I dropped in the above left image from a EuropaPark event to give an example of Moore and his wife's age and demeanor in 2002. 

We did not think another Moore encounter possible, but the following year on a work trip to New York with Feld Entertainment, our merry band of Ringling Bros. publicists (including Lisa) went out in search of a late-night meal after we experienced the circus at Madison Square Garden.

As we approached an off-Broadway Irish Pub around 40th Street, we noted a town car driver awaiting his passengers when, you guessed it, Moore and his wife emerged from the restaurant.

I happened to be closest and called out, "Mr. Moore, great to see you and your wife again since the theme park convention" (or similar) to which he extended a hand and with his thoughtful gaze and handshake expressed "I remember -- that was fun!" before turning to remind his wife, who smiled back.

And away they went as we turned to find our Ringling Bros. clients standing agape. 

Like millions of others, I enjoyed Moore's "007" roles and campy-by-comparison-to-Sean-Connery approach Moore took to the character. "For Your Eyes Only" is my favorite for his work on the Cortina Olympic ski jump, downhill slopes as well as his climbing scenes at Meteora, Greece, a site I went out of my way to visit as inspired by Moore's work. 

Every single time I play backgammon, Moore's winning game in "Octopussy" comes to mind, and it was fun to see the actual board and dice from the scene in a "007" exhibition during the London 2012 Olympics.

My prom tuxedo was white because of Moore's wardrobe selection to roll double sixes. 

"Cannonball Run" gave Moore an opportunity to poke fun at himself as he did with witty remarks at the IAAPA press events.

And who could forget his "Moonraker" scenes in Rio de Janeiro (the city showcases Moore in many of the sites where he performed)?

Just last week on holiday in Paris, I experienced many of the sites of "A View To A Kill" and its Eiffel Tower opening sequence featuring Moore in hot pursuit of one of my favorite Bond Girls, Grace Jones. 

Moore even reprised his 007 likeness in support of the successful London 2012 Olympic bid, according to this article.

And he drove a Volvo P1800 like my parents' first car as a couple in Oklahoma City (I've wondered for awhile whether my dad selected the Swedish sports car inspired by the actor's role on "The Saint").

It will be fun to share these memories of Roger Moore for years to come, and to smile about them any time a 007 marathon appears or Carly Simon's "The Spy Who Loved Me" plays on the radio. R.I.P., Roger Moore.

Images via Pinterest and EuropaPark website

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