Whisky on the rocks, tailored safari suits and props from Sinatra: the things that made me the quintessential Seventies playboy by Sir Roger Moore
"I might have been born in Stockwell with a chromium-plated spoon in my mouth, but I was always suave. Suave, modest, sophisticated, talented, modest, debonair, modest and charming. As for my days as a playboy, I was in hysterics when I heard that MODE wanted me to write about it. I thought, “Yeah, I’ll tell them how an 85-year-old playboy goes about it. I get out of bed, look through my little black book for a likely phone number, pop a handful of Viagra and put my teeth in!” Still, I like to think I cut a dash.
It’s fair to say that there was – and still is – a certain vulgarity attached to the idea of being a playboy. It conjures up thoughts of men making a killing on the market and paying far too much for wine in overpriced restaurants. To my mind, it was never about that. Nor was it about guzzling champagne because, in those days, the only men who drank champagne in nightclubs had been persuaded to by the backroom girls – I never fell for that. To be fair, though, I should admit that when champagne was called for on the set of The Persuaders!, they used to bring a real bottle. I was slightly sloshed, but that made up for Tony [Curtis] being slightly stoned.
In truth, I would have preferred a Jack Daniel’s on the rocks or a Tanqueray – drinks that I would have ordered at the Stork Club in the Seventies. For those of you that weren’t born, the Stork was frequented by artists, actors and royalty, from Peter Sellers to Princess Margaret. For those of you that were born, you may have witnessed [Bafta winning actor] Kenneth More and I getting up on the cabaret stage after a few gins and singing When You’re Smiling. Or perhaps My Way.
I got to know Sinatra quite well in the Sixties – he called me “Kid” – and a decade later I met up with Frank and his then-wife, Mia Farrow in London. “We just love watching The Saint,” Mia said, taking me totally unawares. “We watch it in bed in our hotel room,” added Frank, “It’s the best thing on TV.” Not only did I admire him, but I also now realised what good taste he had.
So good that, just after The Man With The Golden Gun, he and Sammy Davis Jr. wanted to know where I got my suits. At the time, I was using Cyril Castle on Conduit Street in London; later it was Douglas Hayward, who had fast established a reputation as the tailor to the stars. Doug became a charm because of the whole group of Terry O’Neill and Michael Caine and Parky. He was so passionate that he’d visit his clients anywhere, in a second-hand Mini packed full of material.
Doug made almost all of my suits for 30 years and I loved every single one of them. Such beautiful tailoring. I had a little trick when travelling, too: I’d hang them up in the hotel bathroom, turn on the hot tap in the bath, then close the door, allowing the steam to remove any unsightly wrinkles. It worked wonders until one day, when I returned to discover two pairs of trousers floating in the bath tub. In hot climates, I favoured a safari suit, tailored by Doug or sometimes Angelo Litrico in Rome. Everybody wears that type of suit in Africa because of the heat – you want the air to go to your body.
Of course, one of the perks of being the so-called star of a film was that you could legitimately steal – or should I say ‘request’ – items from the wardrobe. Not that it always went my way: I didn’t quite manage to hang on to the alligator skin shoes that I wore when jumping across the alligators in Live And Let Die. Ross Kananga, doubling for me and jumping the real alligators, got tripped up on his first run when one of his ‘pets’ snapped and caught his heel. He was wearing my shoes, and ruined them.
Talking of which, my shoes always were – and still are – by Ferragamo. I know that if I go in and ask for my size they always have a record of my foot so I never have a problem finding shoes. My belts and accessories are Ferragamo, too. My most famous accessory, however, was arguably a year-round tan. If you don’t want to look like you’re dying all the time, it’s quite useful. In the stupid days, 100 years ago, I used sunbeds. Nobody ever said how bad they were for you and I regret that. Far better to get a tan the sensible way – on a boat. I had a Sunseeker. It was a little day cruiser with a captain and crew: I was the captain and my wife was the crew.
Finally, some last thoughts on the subject:
1) When it comes to facial hair, it has to be a moustache or full beard. Not a silly in-between thing or stubble,
2) When you bump into royalty, I find the way to approach them is ‘on your knees’ – with a few ‘Your Majesty’s thrown in,
3) Although I often wore a Rolex on screen, I wear a Breitling. Or if it’s black tie, a Piaget.
That just leaves one question. The one that playboys have been asking themselves since Ian Fleming put pen to paper: shaken or stirred? Personally I couldn’t care less – just as long as it’s ice-cold.
(Image: Rex Features)