I have, in a series of columns, let my mind and keyboard wander across some of the destinations in which I’ve experienced some situational sweetness.
Actors who actually live in and around Hollywood, California are accustomed to seeing tour vehicles driving people past the “stars’ homes”. These are tours that originate from the Walk of Fame area near Hollywood’s iconic Chinese Theater. Those vacationers have chosen to visit Tinseltown and see the big screen scene, where they might also be part of a studio audience for the taping of a game show or sitcom.
Sometimes performers are sent to shoot films on location. Sir Michael Caine, for instance, reportedly agreed to appear in the low-brow “Jaws 4” in part because it was filming in the Bahamas. Though he earned good money for the role, sadly, Caine paid the price of being presented with an Academy Award in absentia for an earlier film back in Hollywood while he was stuck on set.
Caine was in the process of moving from Los Angeles to London.
Bond Girl Xenia Onatop Says London is Tops
London is a favorite location for Famke Jansen, who appeared in a 007 movie and the “Taken” and “X-Men” films.
“I love London. I’d like to make that my second home,” Jansen told me, via phone, from her home in New York City. “I love traveling. I am a nomad and have been wandering my whole life. It would be hard to tie me down and keep me in one place.”
Visitors to London can jump into 007’s world privately or in a group through various walking and bus tours. The Langham Hotel’s front entrance stood in as the Casino de Monte Carlo in “Goldeneye,” for instance. Jansen’s menacing character played the card game chemin de fer against Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in the scene.
The film “Goldeneye” used London’s Somerset House, on the Strand, to represent St. Petersburg, Russia.
Bond’s creator Ian Fleming lived in Mayfair, and while some make a pilgrimage to his home there, it is more fun to visit the Dukes London Hotel and have a vodka martini – shaken, not stirred. This is where Fleming drank and crafted Bond’s preferred tipple (which was actually “stirred, not shaken,” in his books.) The Vesper is also on the cocktail menu at Duke’s.
007’s distinctive MI6 British Secret Service headquarters is plainly visible, and reasonably approachable, along the river Thames.
Jansen’s roles have found her filming on-location in Cape Town, Istanbul, Malibu, Monaco and more. Some of her other “Bond villain” scenes in “Goldeneye” were set in Cuba but filmed in Puerto Rico.
“I did a DNA test and I have a little bit of Irish in me. I love the Irish,” said Jansen, who starred with Irishmen Pierce Brosnan as 007 and Liam Neeson in “Taken.” Brosnan and Neeson played action heroes in those films and their sequels. Jansen played Zenia Onatop with Brosnan’s James Bond and Lennie, the wife of security specialist Neeson’s Bryan Mills.
“Taken” fans can easily visit the Malibu Pier, the Pacific Ocean setting near Los Angeles for Jansen and Neeson in the “Taken 2” and “Taken 3” films. The white dual-towers of the 780-foot pier, along the Pacific Coast Highway, have been recognizable since they were built in 1905.
Jansen’s family, at the end of the films, had milkshakes on the end of the pier at Ruby’s Shake Shack, which is now called Malibu Farm Pier Café.
James Bond 007 vs. Taken’s Bryan Mills
I asked Jansen which of her two Irish action co-star heroes – 007 or Mills, was more formidable?
“I’m not sure either of them could handle Xenia or Lennie…or Famke, for that matter,” was her plucky, confident answer. “I like Pierce and Liam both personally, so I don’t want anyone to be mad that I picked the other. Liam is taller, so we’ll give him that.”
Jansen’s, striking, fearsome character, Xenia Onatop, was a Russian spy who raced 007 in dueling sportscars on the winding roads above Monaco by day and attempted to outplay the tuxedoed British agent in the Casino de Monte-Carlo by evening. By night, she tried to strangle the by-then-naked 007 in the steam room by crunching his midsection with her thighs.
“Reading that script, knowing that is what I was going to have to do, was interesting,” Jansen recalled. “I wondered…how do I train? How strong do my thighs have to be? It was a fun journey.”
Onatop didn’t kill 007, but there were, in the film, other victims of her, shall we say, Venus Fly Trap. Did those memorable, lethal, erotic scenes affect her dating life?
“I am sure some people have strange ideas about me personally as a result of it. I have been spared that expectation…or at least people haven’t been honest about it. It was a fun character and I am grateful for it and what it did for me, said Jansen.
Being a Bond Girl
“I was a Bond girl and know there is a lot of stigma that comes with being one. I turned it around for myself in my own journey. You take in life whatever opportunities you can get and try to make the best out of that.”
What does an empowered woman like Jansen think of 007 under the modern, “me too” misogynist microscope?
“The ‘Bond’ genre has been out of date for a long time but they’ve been so clever in constantly reinventing themselves. At some point we’ll probably see a female Bond…so we’ll have ‘Bond boys.’”
Meet “Baywatch Babe” Brooke Burns
I spoke to globe-trotter Jansen cross-country via telephone. Emmy-nominated TV star Brooke Burns took my call from across town in the Los Angeles area.
“I stay within my five-mile radius of picking my kids from school,” laughed Emmy-nominated TV star Brooke Burns, who appeared on “Baywatch” and “Melrose Place,” two hit shows set near her home in the Los Angeles area. She said she likes to hike the area’s scenic canyons and trails. “The weather here in Los Angeles is often beautiful so I like to be outside in God’s nature.”
Despite her hometown girl-next-door image, the actress had her “Grace Kelly moment” when she married the son of the Australian Prime Minister.
Burns also remembers traveling to Detroit to tape the finale of the series “Motor City Masters,” a show about car designers. “I remember the local food. We ate very well. It was my first time visiting there and I did a little tour on the sky train for the birds-eye-view,” said Burns, referring to a ride on the People Mover. “There were sections of the city where you could see there had been struggles, but it was great to see the city coming back to life.”
Since Burns’ Detroit visit, the city has become a very popular tourist destination. In a previous era, the Motor City was known as the “Paris of the Midwest.” In recent years, a number of its architecturally significant buildings, which have gone into disrepair or even abandoned, have been restored and repurposed, which has brought revitalization the Detroit.
Iconic Hotels of Detroit
Shinola Hotel, named for the popular Detroit-based watch company of the same name that has become a badge of honor for those supporting the city, is a stylish, Mad Men-era, beauty with, of course, a watch shop in it.
The Foundation Hotel was created inside a former fire station, and the architects were careful to keep the big fire doors which now open to the street in the summer for gourmet alfresco dining in what used to be the firetruck garage.
With its gilded grandeur, Book Tower is like stepping back in time…until you check into one of its extended-stay apartments at “The Roost”. They are bright, with blonde-wood floors, contemporary furniture, and straight-edged, modern luxury.
The former WWJ AM radio station has become a Cambria Hotel, which left touches and memorabilia of the golden age broadcasting studios intact.
It’s as if Detroit has emerged from a decades-long coma.
Burns, herself, had to perform a Lazarus act and resurrect herself more than once. She survived a car crash, a swimming-diving accident and a snow skiing wipeout.
“I live life enthusiastically. It is true. I have had some accidents in my life, including a near-death experience when I broke my neck in my swimming pool. That was pretty extreme. I had a friend with me who was a paramedic so he saved my life and mobility,” Burns explained. “I am one of those people that when I wake up and can put two feet on the ground, I am a grateful person. Grateful to be alive.”
The lucky Burns has hosted TV game shows “Dog Eat Dog;” and “Master Minds.
Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler and contact him at [email protected]