Thursday, July 12, 2007

Touring with 007: A Travel Guide for Spy Buffs

Traveling With 007: A Tour Guide for Spy Buffs

International Flavors

It all began with Ian Lancaster Fleming's richly descriptive James Bond novels. During the 1950s, when the first seven 007 books appeared, Bond was a globetrotting tourist with many travel scenes at a time when thrillers were Designed for an international market. Descriptions of gentlemen's clubs in London, the underwater scenery in reefs near Jamaica, and the habits of Sumo wrestlers appealed to readers themselves traveling after picking up their titles in airports and terminals. Fleming, who'd penned his own 1963 travelogue of favorite sites, Thrilling Cities, also looked to spy literature for inspiration. For example, he acknowledged fellow novelist Eric Ambler's contributions to the Istanbul sequences in his 1957 From Russia With Love by having Bond reading Ambler's The Mask of Dimitrous, the 1939 novel Fleming had used as atour guide during his first trip to the city.

Then, during the 1960s, television and movie scripts used travel to give stories realism and credibility. The production teams behind TV shows like Danger Man and I Spy tried to give their adventures a visual travel documentary look by filming on location to give us new vistas in which the heroes and heroines operated.

Spy movies too have begun with writers first finding exotic locations before fleshing out characters or stories. One famous example was screenwriter Earnest Lehman researching locales for Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 North by Northwest. Hitchcock wanted scenes in a U.N. lounge and atop Mt. Rushmore. Lehman went to the U.N., Grand Central Station, Chicago, South Dakota and ultimately tried to climb Mt. Rushmore himself before scripting the ultimate Hitchcock adventure. This process continues in nearly every action-adventure film produced with an international flavor in mind. For example, in DVD commentary for the 1983 Bond epic, octopussy, producer Michael Wilson admitted the planning began with trips to India to find exotic places 007 hadn't visited before. Once they'd found interesting visuals, then a script was devised to put the world's most famous secret agent in these places.

Tourism for Spy Buffs

After decades of these adventures, the modern tourist can now go where famous spies have gone before. If you're planning a trip to Switzerland, you can go high in the Alps to Piz Gloria, a ski lodge named after a setting in Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and see where the 1969 movie version was filmed. Likewise, Phuket, in southern Thailand, promotes boat trips out to see limestone formations seen in 1973's The Man With The Golden Gun. Thailand also heavily courts tourists to see "James Bond Island" where Roger Moore and Christopher Lee dueled during the energy crisis. This island has long been a dangerous place to visit due to serious pirate traffic in those waters. Now, that's getting a taste of the exotic!

On the literary side, Kent, England has developed tourism brochures highlighting their links to Ian Fleming's Bond novels. If you check out “SwindonWeb - Guide Connection - James Bond,” you’ll learn where you can visit Ian Fleming’s grave and two locations for Bond films. the Motorola factory at Groundwell was a double for a high tech oil pumping station in The World Is Not Enough, and the Renault building was used for filming a series of scenes featuring James Bond (Roger Moore) and Patrick MacNee (Sir Godfrey Tibbett). Capitalizing on these attractions, the town hosts occasional Bond events featuring stars from the 007 films, past and present.


But, for spy fans, there's nothing quite like the conventions that mix tourism, the opportunity to talk with celebrities, and the chance to play games and dress up like James Bond and take a crack at the roulette tables. According to Matt Sherman, who's been hosting "Bond Weekends for his Omnibilia and Gator Country Travel Agency since 1998, " Fans expect a fun if not glamorous location when chasing spy trails. I've
had much pleasure building brand new tourism itineraries for genre fans
Centered on exciting destinations." These include the 1999 weekend in Las Vegas, the setting for the 1971 Diamonds Are Forever. Visitors had the chance to see the sights and chat with Lana Wood who played Plenty O'Toole in the Sean Connery outing. In 2000, Sherman brought fans to New Orleans where scenes from Roger Moore's debut as 007, Live and Let Die, were set. Celebrities included Bond girl Gloria Hendry and guitarist Vic Flick, the man who played the signature 007 guitar hook.

Over the years, Sherman says, certain places have proved the most popular for espionage buffs. "My guests enjoyed San Francisco as a James Bond and genre location, the setting for A View to a Kill, Bullitt, and The Rock. Its sheer beauty and fabulous
sightseeing and dining" enhanced the 2002 weekend along side appearances by Richard "Jaws" Kiel, Lois Chiles, and Barbara Bouchet." Surprisingly, he observes, America hasn't yet tapped into its possibilities for secret agent tourism. "In the United States, only with the advent of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. has a municipality actively promoted spy tourism. I'm disappointed because marvelous U.S. locations include several hundred exteriors and interiors used for the 007 films." (note 1)

But things are changing. "Cities like Chicago and Miami have developed a good following for us as people enjoy local color and sightseeing along with spy history." And celebrity guests don't always have to be faces familiar from the screen. For the 2004 Miami weekend, the guests included Technical Advisor and Security Coordinator Paul Meyers and pilot Dan Haggerty for Tomorrow Never Dies and License to Kill. Perhaps the best mix of faces and places took place at the 2003 weekend in Los Angeles. Autograph seekers could meet David Carradine (Kill Bill), Robert Culp (I Spy), and actual KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin as the headliners who sat with dozens of authors, intelligence experts, and fans.

One outgrowth of these weekends is Jim Arnold’s Licence to Kill Exotic Locations: Key West Book Companion. This book of Floridian James Bond locations includes a DVD with extras including video of Licence To Kill locations and interesting tidbits on non-Bond epics filmed in Miami and Key West. (note 2)

Year Round Spy Travels

But spy aficionados don't have to wait for planned weekends to capture some flavor of secret agent work. In London, “The Spies" & Spycatchers" London Walk” takes place every Saturday afternoon at 2:30 pm. A bit of the flavor of this walk is shown in their online description:

Meet Spymaster Alan just outside the subway 3 exit of Piccadilly CircusTube.
He'll be standing by the Clydesdale Bank.
He'll be topped off with a black hat...and a green carnation. (note 3)

While you’re in England, you can also pick up Gary Giblin's 2001 James Bond's London: A Reference Guide to the Birthplace of 007 and His Creator and be your own tour guide. Using Giblin's photos and history of 007, you can find locations used in both the books and films.

In the U.S., there's a spy theme restaurant in Milwaukee, the Safe House, which has been in existence since the 1960s. Diners can share a mysterious ambiance, join in games, and can enjoy an espionage-only bookstore. Since 2003, the Culture Club of the Chicago Cultural Center has produced an annual "Spy Ball," an espionage-theme party in February featuring music, circus performances, video clips from spy movies and interactive surveillance camera demonstrations.

One popular attraction has been doing some travels of its own. In 2000 and 2001, author Danny Biederman's Spy-Fi Exhibit" was on display at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Biederman's artifacts were also displayed at the Strategic Air Command and the Pentagon before a collection of them were shown at the International Spy Museum from late 2005 to June 2006 before being an exhibit on the Queen Mary in 2007. "My Spy-Fi Archives," Biederman notes, "is the world's largest collection of props, wardrobe, and original art from half a century of spy movies and TV shows. It ranges from the Cold War '60s classics to more recent spy fare, such as Alias and Austin Powers." These include the prop shoe phone from Get Smart, the prop tarantula from Dr. No, secret documents from Mission: Impossible, and a pair of leather trousers worn by Diana Rigg in The Avengers.

Clearly, the main draw for spy enthusiasts and the general public alike is the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. Since 2002, this attraction has boasted two floors of exhibits including artifacts from a 1774 letter from George Washington establishing a New York spy network to a KGB lipstick gun to radio transmitters hidden in shoe heels and tree stumps. "This is the largest number of espionage artifacts on public display anywhere in the world -- a truly unique opportunity!" says Museum Executive
Director Peter Earnest, a 36-year veteran of CIA's Clandestine Service. Here's the place to learn about all things espionage in an interactive environment. All visitors are invited to choose a "legend," a false identity to play for the day. Throughout the museum, in between crawling through heating ducts and listening to videos describing various eras in espionage, crowds of young would-be agents hang around interactive devices to learn how well they can play at being their legend.

According to Amanda Ohlke, Manager of Adult Education for the museum, "Though predominantly focused on real spies, we don't skip famous fictional spies. Crowds gather every few minutes as an Aston Martin DB5 displays its amazing features including machine guns, tire slashers, bulletproof shield, oil
jets, dashboard radar screen, rotating license plate, and ejector seat,
just like the car in the 1964 James Bond thriller Goldfinger." And check out the museum's website and you can also catch evenings with lectures by spy authors, screenings of rare films, and memories of actual veterans of spycraft.

But there’s more. The National Cryptologic Museum is the National Security Agency’s principal gateway to the public. Being the first and only public museum in the Intelligence Community, located adjacent to NSA Headquarters, Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland, the Museum collection contains thousands of artifacts about the history of American cryptology, the people who devoted their lives to cryptology and national defense, the machines and devices they developed, the techniques they used, and the places where they worked. the Museum hosts approximately 50,000 visitors annually for the perfect admission price—free!

And, in 2005, the government of Kagawa Prefecture in Japan even established a museum dedicated to Bond novelist Raymond Benson's 2002 book, The Man With the Red Tattoo, which was partially set on Naoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture. They'd like to see the Bond film people make a movie there.

With all this to explore, there's no reason not to join in the adventure, history, fantasy, and camaraderie of fellow undercover spy tourists. As we learn about other attractions, we’ll add them here. Please send us notes on anything we missed!


1. In 2007, a new pamphlet from the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command
(INSCOM) History Office describes locations in and around Washington,
D.C. that have significant associations with the history of U.S.
military intelligence.

"The sites selected span two centuries of military intelligence in
support of the Nation and its Army, starting with George Washington in
the Revolutionary War and ending with William F. Friedman in World War
II," according to the introduction.

A dozen or so sites are described, and directions for finding them are
provided. The locations of grave sites of notable figures in military
intelligence at Arlington National Cemetery, including cryptologists
William Friedman and his Elizebeth (misspelled here as "Elizabeth"),
are provided.

The new INSCOM pamphlet was published this year in hardcopy only, but a
scanned version is now available online. See "On the Trail of Military Intelligence History: A Guide to the Washington, DC, Area," U.S. Army INSCOM History Office, 2007 (36 pages, 2.6 MB PDF):

2. For information about Jim Arnold’s Licence To Kill Exotic Location: Key West book companion check out:

3. For more information about “The Spies" & Spycatchers" London Walk,” check out:

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