Below right: Photographed from the vicinity
of the Monaco Yacht Club. Below far right: The familiar façade
of the Hotel de Paris.
|About the title
Those of us brought up on the Lew Grade serials
of the 1960s and 1970s will recognize The Persuaders, a
series which, at the time, was then the most expensive made. It
was not so much the salaries of Tony
Curtis and Roger Moore
than used up the pounds and shillings, but the Continental locations
that made the award-winning series brighter. It never caught on
in America, probably because it was never gritty enough (the story
of two playboys wasting their time solving crimes in the south of
France was not the sort of thing that might work in French Connection-era
USA) and that it went opposite the sure-fire hit Mission: Impossible
on CBS. However, everywhere else, Curtis and Moore got awards for
their acting and the five planned years were only cut short when
Moore was offered the role of James Bond. Based on an idea by Robert
S. Baker, The Persuaders was originally trialled as a Saint
episode called 'The Ex-King of Diamonds', scripted by John Kruse.
Revamped the following year with a Brian Clemens script and directed
with a big-screen feel by movie director Basil Dearden (who had
directed Moore in the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful
The Man Who Haunted Himself), The Persuaders took
the action on location to Monte Carlo with a memorable John Barry
theme, light-hearted comedic acting and $400,000 per show to tell
the tale of Danny Wilde (an ad-libbing Curtis, although Rock Hudson
had been suggested before casting), a rags-to-riches Bronx-to-Manhattan
playboy du jetset who came across calls for Mr Schwartz
when not doing Cary Grant impersonations, and Lord Brett Sinclair,
a titled Englishman born with a silver spoon in his mouth who signalled
expressions with his eyebrows. The Persuaders never meant
anything as a name, although writers made some efforts to incorporate
the word 'persuade' into the odd episode. Known for having translated
The Avengers to Chapeau Melon et Bottes du Cuir,
the French called the series a more sensible Amicalement Votre,
which summed up the relationship between the lead characters admirably.
read the note I handed him aloud. 'Join me at the Hotel de Paris.
It's going to be a ball.' I envisioned potential fist-fights in
the bar having argued over whether there should be one olive or
two in my drink.
The principality of Monaco draws people there
for a variety of reasons: Grace Kelly fans with their own idea of
what 'Graceland' means; James Bond fanatics who wish to see the
Casino Monte-Carlo; and me, brought up on The Persuaders.
There are many reasons people fall in love with
the Continent and that was mine. It was the earliest impression
I had of Europe, other than toy Fiat 127s with a plastic dog hanging
out the left window. Having left Italy (see 'The
A Road to Portovenere') because it was too tough to speak my
(emergent) sixth language and preferring my third, I drove on the
autostrada waiting for it to become the autoroute.
I knew I should have been more persuasive in asking a certain someone
to join me, because I was linguistically lost, able to understand,
unable to reply more than anyone who was fully versant with The
Sopranos had I watched it.
It had been a few hours already. I stopped off
at a gas station, speaking in French while the attendant spoke Italianthey
seem very used to it, and besides, I was less menacing than the
football team and its bus filling up with dieseland was told
in response to 'La France, c'est loin?' that I was about
40 minutes away from the border.
There were plenty of people in a rush that night
on the A10: a Renault Avantime (which does look wild zooming by)
and a Mercedes CL 600 overtook me, the latter being safe with flashing
lights from six seconds behind to warn of its approach. I tailed
them as much as I could, but night-time driving in an Opel Astra,
with much skinnier tyres, was not the means with which to have what
Autocar used to term a 'Continental road test'. It was
tempting, but then this was no longer the lovely A7 between Milano
and Genova any more.
The border was, in this day of a single European
Union, deserted. But there had just been another stop: the last
Italian toll bay. But at least the Italians had the good sense to
put their toll bays in places which didn't interrupt the enjoyment
of driving. The péages in France are everywhere,
but then again I always prefer the routes nationales.
The Grimaldi mountains loomed to my right and
what little of the summer sunlight was gone. I could still make
out the hills, but the only brightness was from the many tunnels
I had crossed. It wasn't the cheerful sunshine of the Mediterranean
any more. But the signs had a refreshing familiarity to them, thanks
to the awful italicized sans serif that seemed an uncomfortable
mixture of Univers and some freak characters. The mental translation
that had plagued my time in Italy had disappeared. I was on home
soil, as was my French-registered car.
Monaco came up and I decided that after a night
in Switzerland earlier that week, where the only telephone available
to hotel guests was about as old as some of the cheese recipes at
the restaurant near St Moritz I ate at, I would rest somewhere with
considerably more luxury. Besides, Monacos flag's colours
were shared by Lucire. It was a signand not those poorly
typeset ones on French autoroutes.
I headed toward the Principality, which came up
with the staggering brightness of any gambling city: everything
was dark along the coast except the palatial lights of the Casinoand,
in similar luminance, the rest of Monaco. It must consume its share
of kilowatt-hours in lighting and be visible to the naked eye from
a space station (or UFO) above.
These were not nouveaux riches who had come down
to show off. The clothes, the posture and the facial features gave
them away as being people so familiar with this old town that future
anthropologists would find a Monaco gene in their DNA