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.

sugarrays

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.

Savoy2savoy

savoy-ballroom

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.

Miles_Davis-lenox-lounge

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:

glorifried

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

Blackbeard’s Treasure on Plum Point NC

One of the main plotlines of Live and Let Die is about treasure coins suddenly flooding the market, and being used to pay for criminal activities.

When James Bond is receiving his briefing from M on the case, the chief tells of a tale about some of the treasure of the Pirate Blackbeard:

‘This Blackbeard story would stand up to most investigations,’ continued M, ‘because there is reason to believe that part of his hoard was dug up around Christmas Day, 1928, at a place called Plum Point. It’s a narrow neck of land in Beaufort County, North Carolina, where a stream called Bath Creek flows into the Pamlico River. Don’t think I’m an expert,’ he smiled, ‘you can read all about this in the dossier. So, in theory, it would be quite reasonable for those lucky treasure-hunters to have hidden the loot until everyone had forgotten the story and then thrown it fast on the market.

Fleming obviously had read about this story and it stuck with him enough to include it in this novel. Notice the wording of this 1936 newspaper account:

This treasure was found buried in the sand at Plum Point, a narrow neck of land in North Carolina, U.S.A., where Bath Creek flows into the Pamlico River.

It seems plausible that Fleming read that very account!

For more on the location and legend of Blackbeard – Historic Bath: Blackbeard the Pirate

Here is Plum Point (The little point jutting out on the right side of the river.):


View Larger Map

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:

kc-st-regis

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

 

R.C.A. Building, Rockefeller Centre

This iconic New York location is where James Bond operated one of his first missions, as recalled in Casino Royale.

‘Well, in the last few years I’ve killed two villains. The first was in New York — a Japanese cipher expert cracking our codes on the thirtysixth floor of the RCA building in the Rockefeller centre, where the Japs had their consulate. I took a room on the fortieth floor of the nextdoor skyscraper and I could look across the street into his room and see him working. Then I got a colleague from our organization in New York and a couple of Remington thirty-thirty’s with telescopic sights and silencers. We smuggled them up to my room and sat for days waiting for our chance. He shot at the man a second before me. His job was only to blast a hole through the windows so that I could shoot the Jap through it. They have tough windows at the Rockefeller centre to keep the noise out. It worked very well. As I expected, his bullet got deflected by the glass and went God knows where. But I shot immediately after him, through the hole he had made. I got the Jap in the mouth as he turned to gape at the broken window.’  Bond smoked for a minute.

‘It was a pretty sound job. Nice and clean too. Three hundred yards away. No personal contact.

Here is a look at how the RCA Building looked in the mid-1950’s.

rca-rockefeller-1950s