his has been a distracting week. First comes news of “inserted DNA,” which has been conjured into a delicate monkey called “ANDi.” Next up is Ursula Andress, who is selling more of the translucent swimming apparel she wore in the first James Bond film, “Dr. No.”
When Andress stepped out of Jamaican waters, bringing most of the Cold War West to a standstill, boys dreamed of becoming scientists to create Andress, not monkeys. I suppose in that respect a cloned rhesus monkey with big eyes is a modest start.
In the John F. Kennedy epoch, cloning was approximately as fathomable as moon landings, DVDs, 24-hour television, and home computers, not necessarily in that order. But Andress was most definitely not the girl next door, which made it all the more complicated for a 10-year-old to reckon adroitly with her libidinal swashbuckling.
For those who have never been 10-year-old boy, avoid it.
Ten is an unsettling experiment in hormonal confusion, at least as risky as cloning. It doesn’t help when you have an avant garde father who sneaks you into puberty-provoking movies (heavy on kisses and caresses), all the while saying — quite seriously: “Sit still.”
Sit still? Go tell that to genetically altered monkeys.
Then came Bond, Sean Connery Bond, fighting villains on a garden of sinister delights called Crab Key Island. Terrorists were neutralized. National disagreements brought to heel. Bond was a one-man post-colonial avenger — perfect adversary for the fictionalized Nasser’s and Krushchev’s of the archly evil world. So why, I wondered, pinching my boyish wrist, did they have to have this… thing… rise from the frothy coastline?
How precisely did she fit in with more important matters such as fast cars, twinkling gadgets and cigarette-lighter lasers?
You may not recall Andress — the durable Swiss vixen of the ’60s — but Christie’s, which is about to stage yet another Bond memorabilia sale, says it expect her aging intimate wear to fetch big-time bucks. (Her bikini sold for $50,000 in 2001.)
Andress, 25 at the time of the film, was the first in what would become an assembly line of Bond Babes. She was the improbably emancipated daughter of a marine biologist eager to punish her father’s murderer, Dr. No of course. Her name was Honey Ryder, the first of many salacious nominatives Ian Fleming invented to amuse his 1950s male readership — which included JFK.
To wit. Honey: “Are you looking for shells?” Bond: “No, I’m just looking.”
One movie later, in “Goldfinger,” Connery-Bond would face the far more abashing prospect of tackling a character called Pussy Galore (a name even the porno industry found hilarious.)
But in keeping with those prudish, pre-cloning times, it was innuendo, not visual evidence of sexual acts, that convulsed the 10-year-old mind. There was frequent suggestion that love went beyond kisses, and might even require enterprise, but not enough for my uncalibrated mind to change Andress-Ryder’s status from goddess to woman.
That anti-realism (disparaged today) gave the period its unenlightened charm. Naïve as it was, it allowed for romantic imagination and implied sexuality and delivered a realm in which pre-teens could dwell urgently but largely harmlessly. Part of the attraction of the early Bond films was how they overlapped youthful and adult male fantasy; they were a looking glass, but no more than that, into things forbidden.
Such a provinicially circumscribed place is tough to find in these allegedly smarter times: One look at the Web and most mystery is dissected mercilessly, producing insight and anxiety in roughly equal measure. The “forbidden” has been largely exterminated; imagination is suffocated by the obvious. The consequence of the overhaul is not yet clear.
It will also take time to fully fathom “ANDi,” who was cloned with help from jellyfish genes. Why jellyfish? Jellyfish DNA apparently glows green when exposed to blue light, known as bioluminescence.
When the nearly-naked Andress rose from the sea five decades ago she was bioluminescent ahead of her time, a “grabber” in an era defined by prankish men. She had no idea her drip-dry stride would help ignite a Bond craze, let alone that the franchise would endure the Cold War and carry into the next century, when her little white bikini was peddled as a memento of times in which yearning harbored privacy, privacy actually mattered, and shy 10-year-olds could go about their confusingly abundant mischief in peace.
Christopher P. Winner’s email address is [email protected]