‘National Airlines, “Airline of the Stars”, announces the departure of their flight NA 106 to La Guardia Field, New York. Will all passengers please proceed to gate number seven. All aboard, please.’
Goldfinger, Chapter one
James Bond is in Miami Airport awaiting his Transamerica flight to New York, when he hears the above announcement of a flight from a competing airline.
National Airlines was a major passenger airline which operated from 1934 until 1980 when it was taken over by Pan Am. The slogan “Airline of the Stars” appeared on the planes and was used throughout the 1950’s in reference to Hollywood movie stars flying on the airline. In 1964 they changed the slogan to “Coast to Coast to Coast.”
In 1958, National became the first Airline to fly jets domestically in the United States, first going from New York to Florida, using a Boeing 707.
We’re not told the time that Bond is in the airport, but a look at a 1958 National Airlines flight table tells us that NA Flight 106 left Miami at 10:00PM and arrived in New York at 2:55AM. But as you see, the flight did not go to La Guardia Field, but rather to Idlewild (now JFK).
When they let me out of the hospital I went to Silberstein, the greatest stamp dealer in New York. I bought an envelope, just one envelope, full of the rarest postage stamps in the world. I took weeks to get them together. But I didn’t mind what I paid–in New York, London, Paris, Zurich. I wanted my gold to be mobile. I invested it all in these stamps. I had foreseen the World War. I knew there would be inflation. I knew the best would appreciate, or at least hold its value.
Dr. No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining with Dr. No, listening to their host tell the story of his life. Having escaped death at the hands of the Tongs whom he betrayed, he recounts his next steps.
Nassau Street in Manhattan was the center of New York City’s “Stamp District” from around 1915 up until the 1970’s. Philately probably hit its peak during the 1950’s. Fleming, with his love of New York was likely aware of the Stamp District and perhaps even had been there during one of his trips through the city.
I was unable to find any reference to a Silberstein as a famous stamp collector. The most famous character of that time in New York Philately appears to have been a fellow named Herman (Pat) Herst Jr. Herst was ubiquitous in the stamp world, constantly making speaking appearances, publishing a newsletter Herst’s Outbursts, writing 18 books, including the best seller Nassau Street in 1960. He contributed to stamp columns in publications all over the country. His sister was Edith Herst Silverstein, which was as close as I could get to a connection.
In the course of writing this post, I came across the British Caribbean Philatelic Study Group, and in the April 2018 edition they have a bit on Ian Fleming – go to the section British Colonial post-World War II High Values (Part 2). I was drawn to this part:
Ian Lancaster Fleming has never been noted as a stamp collector or philatelist. As far as is known, he never had a collection — his interest was first editions — none of them philatelic (Figure 3). Valuable stamps never play a part in any of the James Bond adventures — they should!
Well, this is a minor part in a Bond novel. They must’ve overlooked this bit from Dr. No!
Then began the great Tong wars of the late ‘twenties. The two great New York Tongs, my own, the Hip Sings, and our rival, the On Lee Ongs, joined in combat. Over the weeks hundreds on both sides were killed and their houses and properties burned to the ground. It was a time of torture and murder and arson in which I joined with delight.
Dr No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining as guests of Dr No on Crab Key, listening to the Dr tell them the story of his life. He recalls his early years in China where he first became associated with the Hip Sings tong gang as a young man, and subsequently ran into some trouble which forced the gang to send him to New York.
Tong wars in the United States began in the 1880’s in San Francisco. Gangs spread to Chinatown communities across the United States. The Hip Sing tong was the first established on the east coast, and became the only bicoastal tong. Among their rivals in New York was the On Leong tong, with whom they battled from the early 1900’s to the 1920’s. The On Leong had the cops in their pockets; the Hip Sing won the district attorney’s office to its side.
The On Leong and Hip Sing organizations exist to this day.
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.
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.
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:
Bond went through the entire experience, getting and seeing a bit more than he wanted.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.