You’re sitting in your doctor’s waiting room when a nurse calls your name. People turn in your direction, figuring this must be some sort of prank.
Or you check into a hotel. Half the staff gathers to gawk when you give the desk clerk your name.
“Bond,” you say. “James Bond.”
“Of course, sir,” the clerk says, no doubt thinking: And would you like a room-service martini with that — shaken, not stirred?
Skeptical reactions are commonplace for James Bond, 65, a retired computer maintenance worker from Arlington. Although he went by Jim or Jab (his nickname) at work, he is James — named for his late uncle, who died in World War II — when his full name matters.
While shopping at Radio Shack recently, Bond says, the outcome was predictable. The checkout guy snarled, “If you don’t want to use your real name, just tell me.” After 50 years of hearing stuff like that, “I get a little tired of it,” admits Bond, who recalls the snickers he heard at the doctor’s office when his name was announced.
That’s right. Fifty years of snarky comments like, “May I see your license to kill?” And, “Is the Aston Martin parked outside?”
With “Skyfall,” the latest Bond movie, opening in the United States this week and with 007 celebrating his silver anniversary on the silver screen, the sauve British spy shows no signs of fading away. He is the franchise player for a multimedia juggernaut that cast even the Queen of England in a parachute-packing supporting role at the London Olympics to hype the new film. To millions, he is the coolest character on the planet. (Sorry, Harry Potter.)
But what if you, too, had “James Bond” stamped on your identification papers? Funny you should ask, because a lot of folks do.
In Massachusetts, you can find James Bonds in communities from Plymouth to Pittsfield, Attleboro to Salem. They may not all be busy protecting the British Empire from global mayhem, but they do possess a license to use the killer line (“Bond. James Bond.”) first uttered in the 1962 film “Dr. No” and in virtually every Bond movie since then.
Some of these real-life James Bonds are happy to talk about their identification, or misidentification, with you-know-who. Others are not. Those willing to share say they mostly have fun with the nominative overlap, up to a point, anyway. it is not as if they were named Hannibal Lecter or something.
“I’ve enjoyed it, actually,” says James Bond, 49, an engineering technician from Dracut.
He also goes by Jim, mostly. However, he will occasionally use the “Bond, James Bond” gambit when introducing himself to strangers. Hotel clerks especially love it, he says.
As he has grown older, the name game has become more fun, too. “And it always made you cool with the girls,” Bond notes, although any resemblence to 007 goes only so far, since he neither drinks alcohol nor carries a firearm.
Filmmaker John Cork, a Bond authority, produced many of the documentaries attached to the new 007 anniversary boxed set, “James Bond — 22 Film Collection.” He observes that Bond, like Sherlock Holmes, has become a pop-culture figure so transcendent that people are aware of the character’s defining traits — dresses elegantly, drives exotic cars, makes love with abandon to beautiful women — even if they have never read a Bond novel or seen a Bond movie.
“That’s when you know you’ve reached iconic status,” says Cork.
Ironically, he says, author Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, initially wanted his spy to be a relatively anonymous character. He therefore picked about as bland a name as he could find for his hero, plucking it from the cover of a book about ornithology.
Once the fictional Bond got famous, first through novels and later through films, that real-life Bond found himself getting stared at and prank-called, too.
“At a certain point,” says Cork, “people understood that naming your child James Bond came with a burden.”
At least one real-life James Bond totally gets that. This Bond, who lives south of Boston but asked not to be identified further, gave his son the name James as a middle name, not a first name, he says, so his son would have the option of using it or not, depending on the situation.
“I’ve had some fun” going through life as James Bond, the elder Bond concedes, “but not always.”
It has not been as burdensome for 41-year-old James Bond of Charlton. A production manager for an industrial ceramics company who is sometimes called 007 by co-workers — all in fun, naturally — he does not seem bothered one whit by the needling.
“I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, so I’ve learned to live with it,” says this Bond, adding that he is the youngest of several siblings, and his family “thought it would be funny if my mother named me James.”Continued...