Friday, 7 December 2007

22 - Gay Spies: Cyril Connolly

"Bond Strikes Camp", in "London Magazine", April 1963

This is unfortunately far too long for me to feature in full. Someone else has also made a later excerpt of this available

A parody by Cyril Connolly of James Bond. M, the head of MI6, convinces Bond to drag up so as to seduce a Russian general. The twist at the end is that the general is revealed to be M. This has all been a subterfuge by M, so Bond will unwittingly seduce him.

Ian Fleming, who was a friend of Connolly, was very appreciative of this parody. W.H.Auden and Christopher Isherwood, also friends of Connolly, were also very appreciative of the parody, since they felt that Fleming had been mocking of homosexuality in some of his Bond novels.

Whether the atmosphere of homosexual spies during 1962 and 1963 inspired Connolly to write this, or whether Connolly was just unpicking some of the machismo of the Bond mythos is a point for debate.


Ever heard of Mata Hari?'
'The beautiful spy?' Bond's voice held derision. The school prefect sulking before his housemaster.
'She was very successful. It was a long time ago.' M. still sounded meek and deprecating.
'I seem to remember reading the other day that a concealed microphone had replaced the femme fatale.'
'Precisely. So there is still a chance for the femme fatale.'
'I have yet to meet her.'
'You will. You are aware there is a Russian military mission visiting this country?'
Bond let that one go into the net.
'They have sent over among others an elderly general. He looks like a general, he may well have been a general, he is certainly a very high echelon in their K.G.B. Security is his speciality; rocketry, nerve gases, germ warfare-all the usual hobbies.' M. paused. 'And one rather unusual one.'
Bond waited, like an old pike watching the bait come down. 'Yes. He likes to go to night clubs, get drunk, throw his money about and bring people back to his hotel. All rather old-fashioned.' 'And not very unusual.'
'Ah.' M. looked embarrassed again. 'I'm just coming to that.
We happen to know quite a bit about this chap, General Count Apraxin. His family were pretty well known under the old dispensation though his father was one of the first to join the party; we think he may be a bit of a throw-back. Not politically, of course. He's tough as they come. 1 needn't tell you Section A make a study of the kind of greens the big shots go in for. Some­times we know more about what these people are like between the sheets than they do themselves; it's a dirty business. Well, the General is mad about drag.'
'Drag, sir?'
M. winced. 'I'm sorry about this part, Bond. He's "so"-"uno di quelli"-"one of those"-a sodomite.'
Bond detected a glint of distaste in the cold blue eyes.
'In my young days,' M. went on, 'fellows like that shot themselves. Now their names are up for every club. Particularly in London. Do you know what sort of a reputation this city has a.broad?' Bond waited. 'Well, it stinks. These foreigners come here, drop notes of assignation into sentries' top-boots, pin fivers on to guardsmen's bearskins. The Tins are livid.'
'And General Apraxin?' Bond decided to cut short the W olfen­..ifen.
'One of the worst. I told you he likes drag. That's-er-men gressed up as women.'
'Well, you tell me he's found the right place. But I don't quite see where we come in.'
M. cleared his throat. 'There's just a possibility, mind, it's only a possibility, that even a top K.G.B. might be taken off guard-if he found the company congenial-perhaps so congenial that it appealed to some secret wish of his imagination-and if he talked at all (mind you, he is generally absolutely silent), well then anything he said might be of the greatest value-any thing-it might be a lead on what he's really here for. You will be drawing a bow at a venture. You will be working in the dark.'
'Me, sir?'
M. rapped out the words like a command. '007, I want you to do this thing. I want you to let our people rig you up as a mop pet and send you to a special sort of club and I want you to allow yourself to be approached by General Apraxin and sit at his table and if he asks you back to his hotel I want you to accompany him and any suggestion he makes I request you to fall in with to the
limit your conscience permits. And may your patriotism be your conscience, as it is mine.
It was a very odd speech for M. Bond studied his finger-nails.
'And if the pace gets too hot?'
'Then you must pull out-but remember. T. E. Lawrence put up with the final indignity. I knew him well, but knowing even that, I never dared call him by his christian name.'
Bond reflected. It was clear that M. was deeply concerned. Besides, the General might never turn up. 'I'll try anything once, sir.'
'Good man.' M. seemed to grow visibly younger.
'As long as I'm not expected to shake a powder into his drink and run away with his wallet.'
'Oh, I don't think it will come to that. If you don't like the look of things, just plead a headache; he'll be terrified of any publicity. It was all Section A could do to slip him a card for this club.'
'What's its name?'
M. pursed his lips. 'The Kitchener. In Lower Belgrave Mews. Be there about eleven o'clock and just sit around. We've signed you in as "Gerda".'
'And my-disguise?'
'We're sending you off to a specialist in that kind of thing-he thinks you want it for some Christmas "do". Here's the address.'
'One more question, sir. I have no wish to weary you with details of my private life but I can assure you I've never dressed up in "drag" as you call it since I played Katisha in "The Mikado" at my prep. school. I shan't look right, I shan't move right, I shan't talk right; I shall feel about as convincing arsing about as a night-club hostess as Randolph Churchill.'
M. gazed at him blankly and again Bond noticed his expression of weariness, even of repulsion. 'Yes, 007, you will do all of those things and I am afraid that is precisely what will get him.'
Bond turned angrily but M.'s face was already buried in his signals. This man who had sent so many to their deaths was still alive and now the dedicated bachelor who had never looked at a
woman except to estimate her security risk was packing him off with the same cold indifference into a den of slimy creatures. He walked out of the room and was striding past Miss Ponsonby when she stopped him. 'No time for that lunch, I'm afraid. You're wanted in Armoury.'
The Armoury in the basement held many happy memories for Bond. It represented the first moments of a new adventure, the excitement of being back on a job. There were the revolvers and the Tommy guns, the Smith and Wessons, Colts, lugers, berettas, killer weapons of every class or nationality; blow-pipes, boomerangs, cyanide fountain-pens, Commando daggers and the familiar heap of aqualungs, now more or less standard equipment. He heard the instructor's caressing voice. 'Grind yer boot down his shin and crush his instep. Wrench off his testicles with yer free hand and with the fingers held stiffly in the V sign gouge OUt his eyes with the other.'
He felt a wave of home-sickness. 'Ah, Bond, we've got some !hardware for you. Check it over and sign the receipt,' said the lieutenant of marines.
'Good God, what's this? It looks to me like a child's water-'pistol.'
'You're so right-and here's the water.' He was given a small screw-top ink-bottle full of some transparent liquid. 'Don't spill any on your bib and tucker.'
'What'll it stop?'
'Anything on two legs if you aim at the eyes.'
Bond consulted the address of his next 'armourer'. It was a studio off Kinnerton Street. The musical cough of the Pierce Arrow was hardly silent when the door was opened by a calm young man who looked him quickly up and down. Bond was wear­ing one of his many pheasant's-eye alpacas which exaggerated the new vertical line-single-breasted, narrow lapels, ton-up trousers with no turn-ups, peccary suede shoes. A short covert-coat in cavalry twill, a black sting-ray tail of a tie, an unexpected width of shoulder above the tapering waist and the casual arrogance of his comma of dark hair low over the forehead under his little green ipiglet of a hat completed the picture of mid-century masculinity. The young man seemed unimpressed. 'Well, well, how butch can you get? You've left it rather late. But we'll see what we can do.'
He turned Bond towards the lighted north window and studied him carefully, then he gave the comma a tweak.
'I like the spit­curl, Gerda, we'll build up round that. Now go in there and strip.'
When he came out in his pants, the barracuda scars dark against the tan, a plain girl was waiting in a nurse's uniform. 'Lie down, Gerda, and leave it all to Miss Haslip,' said the young man. She stepped forward and began, expertly, to shave his legs and armpits. 'First a shave, then the depilatory-I'm afraid, what with the fittings, you'll be here most of the day.' It was indeed one bitch of a morning. The only consolation was that the young man (his name was Colin Mount) allowed him to keep the hair on his chest. 'After all, nobody wants you all sugar.'
After the manicure, pedicure and plucking of the eyebrows it was time to start rebuilding. Bond was given a jock-strap to contain his genitals; the fitting of an elaborate chestnut wig so as to allow the comma to escape under it was another slow process. And then the artificial eye-lashes. Finally what looked like a box of tennis balls was produced from a drawer. 'Ever seen these before?'
'Good God, what are they?'
'The very latest in falsies-foam-rubber, with electronic self­erecting nipples-pink for blondes, brown for brunettes. The
things they think of! Which will you be? It's an important deci­sion.'
'What the hell do I care?'
'On the whole I think you'd better be a brunette. It goes with the eyes. And with your height we want them rather large. Round or pear-shaped?'
'Round, for Christ's sake.'
'Sure you're not making a mistake?'
The falsies were attached by a rubber strap, like a brassiere, which-in black moire-was then skilfully fitted over them. 'How does that feel? There should be room for a guy to get his hand up under the bra and have a good rime.' Then came the slinky black lace panties and finally the black satin evening skirt with crimson silk blouse suspended low on the shoulder, a blue mink scarf over all and then the sheerest black stockings and black shoes with red stilettos. Bond surveyed himself in the long glass and experienced an unexpected thrill of excitement; there was no doubt he had a damned good figure.
'Well, you're no Coccinelle,' said the young man, 'but you'll certainly pass. Hip-square! Drag's a lot of fun you'll find. One meets quite a different class of person. Now go and practise walk­ing till you drop. Then get some sleep, and after that, if you're good, we'll make up that pretty face and launch you at the local cinema.'
After practising in high heels for a couple of hours, Bond went back to his couch and lay down exhausted. He dreamed he was swimming under water on a stormy day, the waves breaking angrily above him while, harpoon in hand, he followed a great sea-bass with spaniel eyes that seemed to turn and twist and invite him onward down an ever-narrowing, weed-matted gully.
When he awoke it was dark and he fell avidly on the Blue Mountain coffee and club sandwich Miss Haslip had brought him. 'Now we'll start on the face--and here's your evening bag.' Bond transferred his water-pistol, ink-botde, Ronson lighter, gun­metal cigarette case and bill-folder and emptied the contents of his wallet; a vintage chart from the Wine and Food Society, an 'Advanced Motorists" certificate, another from the Subaqua Club, a temporary membership card of the Travellers, Paris, the Caccia, Rome, Puerto de Hierro, Madrid, Brook, Meadowbrook, Knickerbocker and Crazy Horse Saloon, Liguanea, Eagle, Somerset (Boston) and Boston (New Orleans), ending up with a reader's pass for the Black Museum. When he had done, Colin emptied the whole lot into a large envelope, which he told Bond to put in the glove compartment, and handed back the water-pistol and key-ring. 'Try these instead,' and Bond was given a powder-puff, a couple of lipsticks, some Kleenex, a package of cigarettes (Senior Service) with a long cane holder, some costume jewellery and a charm bracelet and a membership card in the name of Miss Gerda Blond for the Kitchener Social Club, Lower Belgrave Mews, S.W.
In a compartment of his evening bag he found a pocket mirror, tortoiseshell comb, enamel compact and a box of eye make-up with a tiny brush. 'When you get mad at someone it's a great relief to take this out and spit on it. The harder you spit, the more - of a lady you'll seem.' Mount showed him how to apply the litde brush, the mascara and black eye-shadow. 'When you don't know how to answer, just look down for a little-lower those eyelashes, that'll fetch them-and make with the holder. And do be careful in the Loo. That's where nearly all the mistakes are made. Now we're off to the Pictures.'
'What are we going to see?' 'La Dolce Vita.'
In the dark cinema Bond noticed a few interested glances in his direction. A man in the next seat put his hand on his knee. Bond knew the drill; a policewoman in Singapore had shown him. You take the hand tenderly in yours and extend his arm across your knee. Then you bring your other hand down hard and break the fellow's arm at the elbow. He had just got it all set up when the lights went on.
'I wanted you to see that picture, it gives you so many approaches,' said Colin Mount. 'You can try Ekberg-the big child of nature-or one of those sophisticated cats. Now off you go. Better take a taxi, that hearse of yours looks too draughty.'

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