Bond Vivant: Mission Dossier

Keith Allison is a writer, traveler, and pop culture historian born in Kentucky, honed in Florida, and fully formed in his current home of Brooklyn, New York. He is an editor and writer for Diabolique magazine, founder of the ancient cult film and culture website Teleport City, and author of the book Cocktails and Capers: Cult Film, Cocktails, Crime, and Cool.

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.” —Ian Fleming

Ah yes, a site about James Bond and 007-inspired entertainment, travel, style, and eating and drinking. Yes yes, I acknowledge up front that there’s no shortage of such sites, many of them created by people with far more dedication to the endeavor than me. BUT…I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I could bring a unique perspective to the conversation. So have a seat at the table as my oval-shaped television screen lowers from the ceiling so that I may taunt you with an overview of my evil scheme.

Now pay attention, 007…

Espionage Esoterica

Much of my writing career has been spent in the shadowy world of international cult cinema, skipping the subjects about which a substantial amount of coverage already exists in favor of more obscure or more expansive exploration. That tendency carries over to Bond Vivant. While the site will certainly bring up Ian Fleming’s books and the Eon Productions movies, these topics will not often be the primary focus. Instead, I want Bond Vivant to prowl the back alleys of the world’s espionage entertainment. We’re more likely to write about Neil Connery and Peter Fleming than their brothers.

Similarly, this will not the place to come for breaking Bond news and rumors. There are plenty of sources for that already, and I’m more interested in analysis and historical examination. So…no casting rumors for the next cycle of films, but if you ever wondered what the James Bond movies inspired in Indian cinema or wanted to know the history of the Pan American cocktail…well, in those cases, Bond Vivant’s got your back.

Bond Inspiration, Not Bond Imitation

As Kingsley Amis noted in The James Bond Dossier, one of the first critical analyses of Ian Fleming’s original 007 novels, part of the appeal of James Bond (in film and literature) is the opportunity it creates for near-endless exploration. Fleming’s “fairy tales for adults” incorporated much of the real world into their fantasy, making the Bond franchise something rather unique. You can visit many of the locations—not sets, but actual places. You can purchase, if you have the funds, the same clothes, the same accoutrements, the same bourbon and champagne.

Cataloging the brands of Bond is an industry unto itself, and there are a good many 007 experts dedicated to recreating with total accuracy particular Bond looks. I’m not one of those experts, for a variety of reason. First, a lot of “screen accurate” Bond attire is simply beyond my financial means, or is at a price point that isn’t balanced out by the enjoyment I’ll get from a particular item. An Omega or Rolex watch, for example, is never going to make me happy enough to justify the price tag. In addition, my personal style is drawn from all over the place, from the 1920s to the 1960s, from mod to punk to new wave, from black tie formal to SoCal casual. Plus, this is the real world, and the real world is sometimes different (no one wants to run in dress shoes or try to kick someone whilst wearing a slim Tom Ford suit), and the world has probably changed.

Bond himself was always adaptable when it came to attire, and so here at Bond Vivant, we’ll often look to 007 in his many incarnations for inspiration but will rarely seek to recreate specific outfits. Not to say the occasional screen or book-accurate piece (or hotel, or cocktail) won’t come up, but we’re not going to be head-to-toe—especially when my life includes travel by crowded New York subway during a hot, humid New York summer.

Also, as relates to clothing and style, much of what I’ll write about has traditionally been referred to as “menswear.” I don’t believe that inanimate objects have a gender, and I don’t think anyone should feel restricted by the societal gendering of clothing (or a particular color, or anything). I intend to write about style from a…not exactly gender-agnostic standpoint, because sometimes differences in body shape are going to necessitate discussing how some people curve in different ways…so let’s say gender-inclusive.

That said, there are some linguistic battles I’m probably going to cede, and among those is using the term “menswear” from time to time.

Bond Style, Not Bond Values

I’m not sure when the phrase “vintage style, not vintage values” was coined, but I have many friends and acquaintances who live by it, looking to the past for sartorial inspiration and entertainment but freely acknowledging that the good ol’ days were hardly good for everyone. Bond Vivant is not an overtly political site, but it’s inevitable that certain of my social and political reviews will shape certain commentary and analysis, sometimes intentionally so. Even though politics is not the focus, I’m not shy about expressing my beliefs, which generally fall to the liberal end of the spectrum. I’m all for mixing up gender norms and identity and the right to define oneself. I’m not someone who thinks “social justice warrior” is an insult or thinks that we need to steadfastly avoid going head-to-head with difficult values and representations in entertainment. That the Bond franchise is ripe with these is no revelation. But I believe you can love something while still confronting its missteps. Which, I hope, extends to myself.

I also am aware that much Bond-inspired writing comes from a white, straight, male perspective and that, shockingly, I fall more or less within those boundaries. The demographic has started to change, and there are some fantastic 007 writers and historians coming from different backgrounds and cultures, but the dominate remains somewhat…colonial in nature. I…not just believe but am absolutely convinced that Bond, like everything, only benefits from a diversity of voices, experiences, and perspectives.

“Gatekeeping” has always been reprehensible to me, and I think the doors should be wide-open and welcoming. I’ve found this to be true of many of my fellow Bond aficionados, at least the ones I pay attention to, and so I hope those of us in a position of privilege continue to use that position to lift up and invite more people in. Since first reading the sentence in The Big Sea, I’ve always tried live as Langston Hughes describes Alain Locke: “a gentleman of culture, happy to help others enjoy the things he had learned to enjoy.”

But Overall the Mission is Fun

OK, manifesto duly delivered. Ultimately, though, we’re all here to enjoy ourselves, to celebrate and explore the world of James Bond and the many many branches that grow from the tree Ian Fleming created. I hope Bond Vivant will be a source of good times and shared enthusiasm.