Saratoga Springs

After the events in New York City in Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond and Felix Leiter head up to the city of Saratoga. Bond is headed there to receive a payoff, while Leiter is investigating some shady racing practices.

They go from the Plaza, out to the Henry Hudson Parkway, through the Henry Hudson Bridge Toll, then through the Westchester County Toll and onto the Taconic Parkway.

Fleming writes that Bond stays at The Sagamore Motel which is right in Saratoga Springs. There is a Sagamore resort in the upperstate New York area, but it is 36 miles away from Saratoga Springs. The Sagamore in the novel is within walking distance (1/2 mile) of the Saratoga racetrack. Fleming might’ve been familiar with the Sagamore and “transported” it (or the name, anyway) to Saratoga Springs for the sake of novel.

Saratoga Race Course has been racing thoroughbreds since 1863, so when Bond and Leiter showed up on the scene, it had already been around for 90 years or so. The morning after their arrival, they head over to the track at dawn, to catch a look at Shy Smile.

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Saratoga Race Course at dawn, close to the year in which Bond and Leiter were there.

That afternoon, Bond familiarizes himself with the track and betting process, then downing a few Bourbons and Branch Water with his dinner outside the sales ring.

The next day is Bond’s race – The Perpetuities Stakes. Bond settles in to watch his horse, never making the bet which he knows will now fail, thanks to Leiter.

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Bond has agreed with Leiter to give the payoff to the jockey of Shy Smile for ditching the race. For this, he has to head to a most un-Bond-like place, the Acme Mud and Sulphur Baths. Reading Bond’s pure disgust for the place gives you the shivers he experienced:

Outside the bus the smell of sulphur hit Bond with sickening force. It was a horrible smell, from somewhere down in the stomach of the world. Bond moved away from the entrance and sat down on a rough bench under a group of dead-looking firs. He sat there for a few minutes to steel himself for what was going to happen to him through the screen doors and to shake off his sense of oppression and disgust. It was partly, he decided, the reaction of a healthy body to the contact with disease, and it was partly the tall grim Belsen chimney with its plume of innocent smoke. But most of all it was the prospect of going in through those doors, buying the ticket, and then stripping his clean body and giving it over to the nameless things they did in this grisly ramshackle establishment.

The place was likely something like this establishment:

Saratoga Sulphur and Mud Baths- Eureka Park Saratoga Springs

Bond went through the entire experience, getting and seeing a bit more than he wanted.

Mud-Baths

The above picture is from a different establishment, but it gives you idea of what Bond experienced in the bath. This one is even nicer than the experience Fleming describes for Bond. He describes the beds as “coffins” in the novel.

After meeting Felix back at the Sagamore Motel, they go to dinner at “the ‘Pavilion’ , the only smart restaurant in Saratoga.” Whether this is a reference to what is now the Pavilion Grand Hotel, which has been some business in some shape or form since the 1800’s, I’m not sure.

After dinner, Bond and Leiter talk about their next stop – Las Vegas.

Voisin

In Diamonds Are Forever, after smuggling in the Diamonds and taking Tiffany case to dinner at 21, James Bond spends the day in his Astor hotel room writing his report to M. He takes a break for dinner.

Bond sent the cable ‘Collect’ via Western Union, had his fourth shower of the day and went to Voisin’s where he had two Vodka Martinis, Oeufs Benedict and strawberries. Over dinner he read the racing forecasts for the Saratoga meeting, from which he noted that the joint favourites for The Perpetuities Stakes were Mr C. V. Whitney’s Come Again and Mr William Woodward Jnr’s Pray Action. Shy Smile was not mentioned.

Voisin was a famous Park Avenue French restaurant that operated from 1913 until the late 1960’s. Originally located at 375 park Avenue, that building was torn down and the restaurant moved in the early 1950’s to 575 Park Avenue – which still exists as The Beekman.

The meal was pretty standard for Bond – the Martini’s, Eggs Benedict and the strawberries – a meal replicated in some form or another several times throughout the novels.

Also of note is the reference to William Woodward, Jr. This was a friend of Fleming’s who he met at their mutual friend Ivar Bryce’s farm in Vermont. In Andrew Lycett’s biography of Fleming, he says that Woodward and Ian had a “cool, sardonic friendship.” Fleming also pronounced him “one of the best Americans he had ever met.” Fleming also told Woodward that he should divorce his wife – advice that actually might’ve been the right thing to do.

Woodward also introduced Fleming to the Studillac. After Woodward’s shocking death, Fleming honored Woodward by writing him into the book as well as by using the Studillac.

Here is the interior of Voisin, just as James Bond would’ve seen it:

voisin-interior

Also see: Remembering Voisin, The Always-Moving French Restaurant

Taconic State Parkway

In Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond and his good buddy Felix Leiter take a road trip from Manhattan to Saratoga.

“Almost due north up the Hudson. In New York State. Just south of the Adirondacks and not far short of the Canadian border. We’ll take the Taconic Parkway. There’s no hurry, so we’ll go easy.

Leiter impresses Bond with his car, the Studillac, and then they’re off and running.

They wrangled cheerfully over the respective merits of English and American sports cars until they came to the Westchester County toll and then, fifteen minutes later, they were out on the Taconic Parkway that snaked away northwards through a hundred miles of meadows and woodlands, and Bond settled back and silently enjoyed one of the most beautifully landscaped highways in the world, and wondered idly what the girl was doing and how, after Saratoga, he was to get to her again.

The Taconic State Parkway was built beginning in 1927, and the 105.3 mile highway was completed in 1963. From the beginning it was meant to show off the wonderful scenery of that part of New York State. It was built as a road to drive on and enjoy, rather than to make good time. The excellent Wikipedia entry on the Parkway shows the lengths the engineers went to:

Landscape architects like Gilmore Clarke worked closely with engineers and construction crews during the Taconic’s construction, often on site. Some features of the road’s design address practical considerations and increase safety. Curves that climbed or descended were banked to increase vehicle traction and permit better drainage. Likewise the curves in undulating terrain are located to reduce blind spots at crests and keep the sharpest turns out of valleys. These also make sure that views of distant landscapes open up on downgrades and on long curves, when they are less distracting.

Closer to the road, on the northern sections in Columbia and Dutchess counties, the road was routed to showcase a nearby view of wooded hillside or a farm. Since trucks were not permitted on the road, in many sections tree branches overhang the roadways, creating a park-like feel. The curve of the northbound Amvets bridge over Croton Reservoir echoes the surrounding hills. On the medians and berms, plantings were carefully planned to maintain continuity with the surrounding woods. On the descent into Peekskill Hollow in Putnam Valley, the trees and shrubs above the retaining wall on the east side were transplanted from the path of the highway, which retained the appearance of the local forest and saved money. Overpasses, both carrying roads over the parkway and carrying it over roads, were faced in native stone. The grade intersections, usually a feature engineers tried to avoid, helped keep local east–west routes open and connect the parkway to the landscape it traversed.

Bond certainly enjoyed the scenery during his ride with Leiter.

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21

When James Bond is posing as Peter Franks in Diamonds Are Forever, he can’t help but ask his intriguing cohort Tiffany Case out to dinner. They agree that after their smuggling job is over that they will have dinner in New York at 21 on Friday night.

21 is a historic restaurant located at 21 West 52nd Street in Manhattan. Like Sardi’s it is a hangout for the rich and famous. It was once a speakeasy during Prohibition (never busted) and has been in its current location since 1929.

They talk shop, with Bond discreetly trying to get information from her about her employers, consume several vodka martinis (shaken, and not stirred and with lemon peel) order dinner and Clicquot Rose champagne.

They were interrupted by the arrival of the cutlets, accompanied by asparagus with mousseline sauce, and by one of the famous Kriendler brothers who have owned ’21’ ever since it was the best speak-easy in New York.

“Hello, Miss Tiffany,” he said. “Long time no see. How are things out at Vegas?”

“Hello, Mac.” The girl smiled up at him. “Tiara’s going along okay.” She glanced round the packed room. “Seems your little hot dog stand ain’t doing too badly.”

“Can’t complain,” said the tall young man. “Too much expense-account aristocracy. Never enough pretty girls around. You ought to come in more often.” He smiled at Bond. “Everything all right?”

“Mac” was Maxwell Arnold “Mac” Kriendler. Fleming interjects a real person into the narrative here, likely he had dined at 21 and knew “Mac” from those visits.

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Sardi’s

After James Bond discovers that Felix Leiter has been doing a front tail on him in Manhattan in Diamonds Are Forever, the pair decide to go for lunch and drinks to catch up, having not seen each other since Leiter was brought to The Everglades wrapped in bandages in Live and Let Die.

They moved out on to the street and Bond noticed that Leiter walked with a heavy limp. “In Texas even the fleas are so rich they can hire themselves dogs. Let’s go. Sardi’s is just over the way.”

Leiter avoided the fashionable room at the famous actors’ and writers’ eating house and led Bond upstairs. His limp was more noticeable and he held on to the banisters.

Bond goes to the washroom to clean up a bit, and take stock of his impressions of Leiter. He then returns to the table.

There was a medium dry Martini with a piece of lemon peel waiting for him. Bond smiled at Leiter’s memory and tasted it. It was excellent, but he didn’t recognize the Vermouth.

“Made with Cresta Blanca,” explained Leiter. “New domestic brand from California. Like it?”

“Best Vermouth I ever tasted.”

“And I’ve taken a chance and ordered you smoked salmon and Brizzola,” said Leiter. “They’ve got some of the finest meat in America here, and Brizzola’s the best cut of that. Beef, straight-cut across the bone. Roast and then broiled. Suit you?”

Sardi’s is a world-famous restaurant located near Broadway in Manhattan. It opened in 1927, and is known for the hundreds of caricatures of actors, singers and other show-business figures that line its walls.

The “Brizzola” ordered by Leiter is probably actually “Brizola” which is a rib-eye steak. Bond later concludes that while the Nova Scotia salmon couldn’t compare to his beloved Scottish smoked salmon, the Brizola was all that Leiter said it would be.

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Hotel Astor New York

When James Bond is in New York City as Peter Franks (but traveling as James Bond, if that makes sense) in Diamonds Are Forever, he is booked into the Astor Hotel by the diamond smuggling organization he is working for.

Because of that, unlike in Live and Let Die at the St Regis, Bond does not get the top suite in the hotel, just a standard room. He spends most of a weekend there, including most of the day on Saturday when he sat in his air-conditioned room, avoiding the heat and composing his report.

Tiffany Case is also staying at the Astor, and as Bond leaves her at her door Friday night, she suddenly kisses him and then pushes him away.

In the short story 007 in New York, Bond also stays at the Astor.

The Astor. It was as good as another, and Bond liked the Times Square jungle – the hideous souvenir shops, the sharp clothiers, the giant feedomats, the hypnotic neon signs, one of which said BOND in letters a mile high. Here was the guts of New York, the living entrails.

The Astor was located in what is now Times Square in Manhattan. Built in 1904, it played a large role in making Times Square the center of New York. The hotel operated until 1967 , it was destroyed in 1968 and replaced with a 54 story office building – One Astor Plaza.

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Astor on the right, in the year the Diamonds Are Forever was written
Astor on the right, in the year the Diamonds Are Forever was written. Across the street you can see the BOND sign mentioned in 007 In New York.

Same year, Astor on the left this time.
Same year, Astor on the left this time.  The BOND sign is on the right.

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Undated. You can see the BOND sign on the right in this one, too.

Pennsylvania Station, New York

The original Penn Station was built in 1910 and was destroyed in 1963 to make room for the new Madison Square Garden.

In Live and Let Die, it is the setting for Bond and Solitaire’s exit from New York via The Silver Phantom.

After Bond is dropped off at the drive-in by his cab, Bond walked quickly through the glass-covered concourse and through gate 14 down to his train. 

So Bond walks through the glass-covered concourse:

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and finds his gate. Is that the correct 14 there on the right?

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Went down the stairs:

penn-station-stairs

Down to the track level.

You can get some good footage of this location in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train.

James Bond in Harlem

In Live and Let Die, James Bond spends an evening in Harlem, accompanied by Felix Leiter.

Harlem is a large neighborhood on the northern section of Manhattan.

After Martinis at the St Regis, they take a bus to Harlem. First stop is Sugar Ray’s which is on Seventh Avenue at 123 Street.

This was a real spot, owned by the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Bond and Leiter “walked under the canopy” and slip into a booth.

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This photo is from 1950. For more on Sugar Ray’s check this post from Harlem Bespoke and this article in the New York Times.

Bond and Leiter have Scotch-and-soda – with Haig and Haig Pinchbottle scotch. They listen in on a conversation at a neighboring table – one that is cringe-inducing to read 60 years later.

Next, they go to Ma Frazier’s on Seventh (“further up the avenue” Leiter says) for the “best food in Harlem, or at any rate it used to be.”

The restaurant is “cheerful” and they eat a meal of “Little Neck Clams and Fried Chicken Maryland with bacon and sweet corn.” which Leiter refers to as “the national dish.”

From my limited research, I haven’t found a real Ma Frazier’s in Harlem. This map from about 20 years prior to Bond’s visit points out a few locations mentioned by Fleming and might provide some clues:

map-harlem-1932

Next to Seventh Avenue, you’ll notice Gladys’ Clam House, and then up a block to the left, you’ll see Tillies, which specialized in fried chicken. I wonder if Fleming based Ma Frazier’s on a couple of places. There could’ve actually been a Ma Frazier’s, but I haven’t found any reference to it. You can see above that they would’ve passed Tillies on their way to the Savoy.

On their third stop of the evening, they hit the Savoy Ballroom.

By the time they left the restaurant it was ten-thirty and the Avenue was almost deserted. They took a cab to the Savoy Ballroom, had a Scotch-and-soda, and watched the dancers.
Most modern dances were invented here,’ said Leiter. ‘That’s how good it is. The Lindy Hop, Truckin’, the Susie Q, the Shag. All started on that floor. Every big American band you’ve ever heard of is proud that it once played here – Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Galloway, Noble Sissle, Fletcher Henderson. It’s the Mecca of jazz and jive.’
They had a table near the rail round the huge floor. Bond was spellbound. He found many of the girls very beautiful. The music hammered its way into his pulse until he almost forgot what he was there for.

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Savoy Ballroom

Savoy Ballroom Vignette (Video featuring interior shots of Savoy)

The Savoy closed in 1958, and was torn down. There is a plaque that marks the location.

Leiter mentions that they won’t be able to go to Small’s Paradise, (real place, remained open until 1986) which you see on the map up on the right, on the other side of Seventh, but they do go into Yeah Man across the street. There isn’t much to be found about this place, which again was a real spot, other than the advice on the map above to “Go late!”

Finally, they end up at The Boneyard, a “small place on Lenox Avenue”, and unfortunately we’re not given more details on the location. Part of me wonders if Fleming based The Boneyard on the Lenox Lounge, a Lenox Avenue landmark that was in its prime during that time.

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It’s a complete guess on my part, but it fits the type of place Fleming was describing.

Glorifried Ham-N-Eggs

“He had a typical American meal at an eating house called ‘Gloryfried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still in the Hens’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at 2.30.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1963, p. 34)

Apparently Lexington Ave in New York did once house an establishment by this name:

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An interesting website called The Bondologist mentions this passage from Live and Let Die:

James Bond novels that were edited, censored and banned

Another example of the many edits made to LIVE AND LET DIE concerns Fleming’s description of American cuisine. In the fourth chapter of the novel, ‘The Big Switchboard,’ Bond enjoys a meal in the British edition:

“He had a typical American meal at an eating house called ‘Gloryfried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still in the Hens’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at 2.30.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1963, p. 34)

In the American edition the passage appeared slightly differently:

“He had a typical American meal at a restaurant called ‘Glorifried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still on the Farm Today’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at two-thirty.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Berkley Books, New York, 1985, p. 30)

In the American version the clever marketing ploy of combining ‘glorified’ with ‘fried’ to make ‘gloryfried’ is changed to ‘glorifried,’ it is described as a ‘restaurant’ and not an ‘eating house’ and the eggs are now advertised as being ‘on the Farm Today’ instead of still being in the hens. The time that Bond was due to meet Felix Leiter and Captain Dexter is also changed from figures in the British edition to words in the American edition. These cultural changes in the American edition were made because clearly the American editors were not nearly as amazed as Fleming – ‘the Englishman abroad’ – was by the different nature of American cuisine and culture. Perhaps they thought such references would be patronising for the American readership, as it would be instantly more familiar to them. It is perhaps ironic that the change was made to the slogan of the American ‘eating house,’ as Fleming, being the brilliant journalistic observer of other countries and cultures that he was, would surely have copied it verbatim from just such a place into his notebook for later use.

I think this might be the other New York location, but might be representative of Bond’s experience:

glorifried-ham-n-eggs

St Regis Hotel

In the New York portion of Live and Let Die, James Bond spends his nights at the St Regis, a hotel built by John Jacob Astor IV as a companion to the Waldorf-Astoria. The hotel opened in 1904.

They drew up at the best hotel in New York, the St Regis, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street.

st-regis-new-york-exterior

 Dexter unlocked the door of No. 2100 and shut it behind them. They were in a small lighted lobby. They left their hats and coats on a chair and Dexter opened the door in front of them and held it for Bond to go through.

He walked into an attractive sitting-room decorated in Third Avenue ‘Empire’ – comfortable chairs and a broad sofa in pale yellow silk, a fair copy of an Aubusson on the floor, pale grey walls and ceiling, a bow-fronted French sideboard with bottles and glasses and a plated ice-bucket, a wide window through which the winter sun poured out of a Swiss-clear sky. The central heating was just bearable.

The communicating door with the bedroom opened.

As noted by John Griswold, the St Regis only has 20 floors. (So his room should’ve been 2000) He notes that Fleming meant to place Bond on the top floor of the hotel, and the confusion may have arisen in the different between the British and American methods of floor counting. The second story is considered to be the first floor for buildings in England.

Bond is then reunited with Felix Leiter.

Before their trek out to Harlem, Bond and Leiter arrange to meet in the King Cole Bar on the ground floor. This LIFE magazine ad from the 1950’s captures how the bar looked at that time:

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When Bond leaves the hotel for the last time in the story, he does not go out the main entrance. Seeking to avoid being spotted, Bond “came out of the entrance of the St Regis drugstore, on 55th street which has a connecting door to the hotel.”

In the short story 007 In New York, (1963) the St Regis casually mentioned – As for the hotels, they too had gone – the Ritz Carlton, the St Regis that had died with Michael Arlen.

Arlen was an acquaintance and influence on Fleming – he mentioned him in a Author’s note on Live and Let Die that “Michael Arlen told me to write my second book before I had seen the reviews of the first & this was written in January & February 1953 at Goldeneye, Jamaica.”

Arlen was practically a full-time resident of the St Regis, and had died in 1956. It appears that to Fleming, a large part of the St Regis died with him.

An ad for the hotel from 1953 – the year Live and Let Die was written:

st-regis-ad