In the fourth installment in the series looking at the world of James Bond, we visit North America...

The World Of James Bond - North America (1)
4th September 2004

James Bond makes a number of trips to North America in the course of the books. Traveling both by intention and as the accidental guest Auric Goldfinger, among other places Bond visits Miami and St Petersburg in Florida, the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas, watches the races at Saratoga and pays a fleeting visit to Canada. However, the first time we find Bond in North America is the first of several trips to New York.

New York
When we meet James Bond at the beginning of Live And Let Die he has just arrived at Idlewild airport (renamed JFK in 1963) and rather than go through the standard immigration procedures in place to enter the United States, he ends up with his passport being stamped in the black Buick that awaits him and his FBI escort. The Buick draws up at “the best hotel in New York, the St. Regis, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street”, a hotel dating from 1904 that still regularly receives some of the most prestigious awards in the travel industry. Bond is allocated a room on the top floor, where he is surprised to find Felix Leiter waiting for him.

Above: Idlewild, now named JFK airport.

Leiter seems to have the measure of Bond from his previous encounter in Casino Royale and immediately mixes Martinis, followed by a substantial lunch “of American cooking at its rare best”. After an afternoon of “Americanization at the hands of the FBI”, Bond reads up on Voodoo before heading for bed and on waking orders breakfast in his normal decisive manner: “Half a pint of orange juice, three eggs, lightly scrambled, with bacon, a double portion of café Espresso with cream. Toast. Marmalade. Got it?” Unfortunately, in addition to his breakfast he also has a bomb delivered to his room, almost with tragic consequences.


One of the more interesting sequences concerns Band and Leiter paying a visit to Harlem. First they enter Sugar Ray’s on Seventh Avenue at 124th Street for a Scotch and soda (not 123rd as stated by Fleming).

The restaurant was owned by world champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in an area once renowned for its jazz clubs and after finishing their drink they walk up Seventh Avenue to Ma Frazier’s for the “best food in Harlem, or at any rate it used to be”. After a dinner of Little Neck Clams and Fried Chicken Maryland they take a taxi to the Savoy Ballroom for another Scotch and soda.

Left: The St. Regis hotel, Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, New York

The Savoy was founded in 1926 and located between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue. The vision of its two founders was to create one of the first racially integrated public places in the country and a long succession of dance fads were started at there, including the Lindy Hop. Following the Savoy, Bond and Leiter are tracked to Yeah Man before visiting one of Mr Big’s own establishments, the presumably fictitious Boneyard.

The pair return to their hotel bloodied and bruised after their encounter with Mr Big and the telepathic Solitaire. Having exhausted their investigation in New York they decide to go to St Petersburg in Florida, Leiter traveling by air and Bond on the Silver Phantom train.

Solitaire unexpectedly makes contact with Bond and they travel together on the Silver Phantom to St Petersburg, where Leiter is later thrown to the sharks; more of that later.

Right: The Savoy, Lenox Avenue, New York


The next time Bond is in New York is in Diamonds Are Forever. Arriving again at Idlewild, Bond has successfully infiltrated a diamond smuggling racket and delivering the £100,000 worth of uncut stones that he has smuggled into the country inside golf balls he bumps into his old friend Felix again and immediately go for Martinis and lunch at Sardi’s restaurant. Located in the heart of New York’s theatre district at 234 West 44th Street (between Broadway and Eighth avenue and close to Times Square), Sardi’s was founded in 1921 and is more known for its theatrical clientele that its food - “Leiter avoided the fashionable room at the famous actors’ and writers’ eating house and led Bond upstairs”.

Above: Sardi's Restaurant, 234 West 44th Street, New York

This is the first occasion that Bond had seen his old friend since he “disagreed with something that ate him” and notices the heavy limp and the steel hook that has replaced his right hand. Sipping the medium dry Martini that Leiter has ordered for him, Bond doesn’t recognise the Vermouth – it is Cresta Blanca, a “new domestic brand from California”. In 1953 a group searching for the perfect Martini submitted the results of its tastings – they concluded that it should consist of three parts gin to one of Cresta Blanca, which was used by the Cresta Blanca Wine Company in its advertising for the next five years and it is likely that this is where Fleming came across the vermouth.

Leiter recommends Brizzola, a cut of beef that Raymond Benson in his book “The James Bond Bedside Companion” claims is an invention of Fleming’s, although upon a search of the web it shows up as a marinated rib-eye steak. Learning that Leiter has now left the CIA due to his injuries and now works for Pinkerton’s, they find that their investigations cross and decide to team up once again.

Above: 21 Club, 21 West 52nd Street, New York

Before departing for Saratoga Bond finds time to dine at the 21 Club with his contact on the smuggling job, Tiffany Case. Located at 21 West 52nd Street, “21” was a favourite of Humphrey Bogart and Richard Nixon amongst others and currently specialises in “fusing American cuisine with modern innovation and flair”.

First ordering drinks of course, “the waiter brought the [Vodka] Martinis, shaken and not stirred, as Bond had stipulated, and some slivers of lemon peel in a wine glass” and then, demonstrating that he is anything but conventional, a bottle of rosé Champagne – Veuve Clicquot Rosé - which “seemed to have a faint taste of strawberries”. They eat caviar, followed by cutlets with asparagus with mousseline sauce and with coffee order “a Stinger made with white crème de menthe” on the house, after which they return to their separate rooms in their hotel, the Astor, overlooking Central Park.

For dinner the following night he visits Voisin’s (375 Park Avenue, now home to the Seagram Building) for “two Vodka Martinis, Oeufs Benedict and strawberries” and then at nine the following (Sunday) morning meets Leiter in his “Studillac”, a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine and make their way to Saratoga. Fleming had come across a car of the same design owned by his friend William Woodward Jr. Known as Billy, he had inherited a fortune from his father, but in 1955, following a party in Long Island where they had quarreled, his ex-showgirl wife shot him dead. Claiming that she thought he was a prowler, his wife was acquitted, although few agreed with the verdict. Fleming dedicated "Diamonds Are Forever" “To J.F.C.B and E.L.C. and to the memory of W.W. Jr., at Saratoga. 1954 and ‘55”.

The next time James Bond is in New York, he is again sitting in Felix Leiter’s Studillac, headed for Idlewild. At the end of the Goldfinger case, he is expecting to head homeward but is kidnapped by the villain, who has remained at large. Bond and Pussy Galore end up being rescued by the navy after the plane is ditched in the sea.

Bond’s final visit to New York is in the short story 007 in New York. Again staying at the Astor and going to “21” for “a couple of dry martinis” – the food had apparently deteriorated since he dined their before – he decides on dining in The Edwardian Room at the Plaza for “one more dry martini at the table, then the particular scrambled eggs he had once… instructed them how to make”.

Above: A Studillac - Studebaker body with a Cadillac engine

"The World Of James Bond" will continue to visit North America in the next installment..

Article by David Leigh.