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Sir Roger Moore talks about his bad old days of gambling

22-Jun-2010 • Actor News

Sir Roger Moore, who shot to fame in The Saint in the 1960s, is the longest running James Bond, a character he played in seven films from 1973 to 1985. He will be hosting the launch of Masterpiece London, a collectibles fair at the former Chelsea Barracks from June 24-29. It will include an auction in aid of Unicef, which he represents as a special ambassador, reports The Sunday Times.

A father of three, Moore, 82, divides his time between Switzerland and Monaco with his fourth wife, Kristina.

Are you a saver or a spender?
Definitely a spender, although I’m not an impulsive spender. If I go shopping, I usually know what I want before I go out. I’m not a very good saver because the lessons my father tried to instil in me about taking care of money had the opposite effect.

I carry cash in my pocket as I always like to have it to hand, which means it also disappears easily as I spend it more quickly. But my friends would probably describe me as a mean bastard.

So you prefer cash over credit?
Yes, unlike royals, I do carry cash, although a credit card is invaluable as it would be impractical to pay large bills in cash. In addition, large denomination notes are disappearing because they’re being using for the movement of money by criminals.

What credit cards do you use?
I have three for personal, business and pleasure. My main card is a Mastercard and I also have an American Express, but I don’t use it as much as my Mastercard.

They don’t seem to be accepted in as many places because I believe they charge a higher percentage to the retailers.

What was your first job?
When I was eight, I helped the milkman where I lived in south London. Occasionally, I’d help out family friends who ran a bakery — they didn’t pay me but allowed me to take home as many buns as I could carry. Mum always instilled in me that if I was asked to do errands for friends or neighbours, I wasn’t to accept money.

Have you ever been really hard up?
Oh, yes. When I was performing at the Arts Theatre in London in my late teens, I think I got £5 a week, which went up to £8 when I went to the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, and out of that I had to pay for my digs.

How much did you earn last year?
It’s impossible to say, but I would tell you if I knew, because old actors, we don’t retire, the phone just stops ringing.

After Bond, I got a bit choosy about what I did as I wanted a change from that genre.

I was fed up with being blown up and thrown around. So now I don’t do that many things with a high income.

What has been your best investment?
The first house I bought, in 1964. It was my Saint years and I’d started a family, so my wife Dorothy and I thought we should buy this bungalow in Totteridge, north London.

I paid £7,500 for it, eventually selling it for £12,000 a few years later. I felt so guilty, I didn’t sleep for a week.

I then bought another house for £17,000, which I turned over for £35,000 in less than five years. I subsequently bought a large detached house in Denham, Buckinghamshire, for £75,000, which I sold for £250,000 10 years later.

I felt disgusted — but not so sick as when I heard recently that it had sold for £5m.

Any your worst?
From a financial standpoint, my previous marriages, sadly, as divorce is never cheap. [He reportedly had to pay his ex-wife Luisa £10m in their divorce settlement in 1996.]

What’s your money weakness?
Pens. I have hundreds of them — all Mont Blanc. I’m sitting at my desk now looking at them, except most don’t work. I’m not a stamp or an art collector.

What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought?
In the late 1970s, my business manager said I could buy a new car, as I deserved a little fun. He thought a Rolls-Royce would be comfortable for the family.

I’d always shied away from buying such an ostentatious motor, so I wasn’t convinced. I thought I’d look like a pompous twit. But eventually he wore me down.

What would you change in the financial system?
Even though I’m an investor, I find it very confusing following the markets. One minute it’s a sell, next it’s a buy, especially in the money markets.

Everything just seems to be dropping and dropping. I was told to transfer all my money into euros because that’s the currency where I live, but then all of a sudden the currency started dropping in value.

It’s a fine art getting your timing right.

Do you manage your own financial affairs?
No, that’s done by my business manager, who I’ve been with for almost 30 years. He makes sure all my money is taken care of and that money is set aside for taxes.

He gives me monthly “pocket money” to rein me in. He also handles all my investments in the bond market — no pun intended.

What’s better — property or pensions?
I don’t have a pension fund, as my royalties and investments are my income.

What’s your financial priority?
Making sure I have enough coming in to pay the rent.

Do you play the lottery?
No. I used to gamble but I was an absolute bloody fool. It was horses occasionally, but mostly blackjack and roulette.

That was the bad old days — and thank goodness I got over that. What stopped me was that a friend of mine ran a casino in London 20 years ago. I went in one night and he wouldn’t give me any credit because I was starting to chase my money, throwing good money after bad. He said he would give me £100,000 in plaques to play with, but he wouldn’t allow me to cash it, rendering it like Monopoly money.

I became a crazy man, sitting at the table beside these Americans, putting down over-the-odds money. I did two days of that, and then became so bored because I wasn’t genuinely winning or losing. That cured me.

My wife is horrified at the change in my personality when I get the dice in my hand. She says I’m like Jekyll and Hyde.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about money?
That it’s not the be all and end all of everything, but equally it’s very difficult to do anything without it. It’s all about finding the balance.

Back in the 1980s, Audrey Hepburn persuaded me to host an awards ceremony in Amsterdam. I was hooked by her passion and eloquence, speaking about the plight of impoverished children round the world.

Once I’d witnessed for myself their hardships, like no running water, children handicapped by war, or going without food for days, I made a lifelong commitment to them to help raise funds and awareness for their projects through Unicef.

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