It was a mission steeped in top secrecy that would be worthy of James Bond - and even the invitation read "Shhh...." The plot had been hatched months ago and was successfully carried out last night at Aquavit, a popular Swedish restaurant off Park Avenue in New York City. The victim was lured into the trap with the assistance of a beautiful double agent- his own wife. The occasion: a surprise 80th birthday party for Sir Roger Moore. With Sir Roger on a whirlwind international schedule, his wife Lady Kristina thought it would be a good idea to celebrate his recent milestone birthday with a small intimate gathering of friends and colleagues. The main problem is how to insure that a man with an ever-changing schedule of international travel could be relied upon to show up at a specific place and time. The dinner was planned to coincide with an event Sir Roger was committed to attend- a ceremony at the United Nations today in which he will be honored by dignitaries for his tireless work on behalf of UNICEF. Despite the best plans, there was always the chance something could have gone wrong. The ten invited guests, which included Cinema Retro's Gareth Owen and Lee Pfeiffer, gathered in a private dining room to await Sir Roger and Lady Christina's arrival. It was up to Lady Kristina to insure the man of the hour arrived on time - no small feat considering his constantly-changing schedule.
Sir Roger is completely taken by surprise
Yet, at 7:30 sharp we were alerted by the restaurant staff that the Moores had arrived. As Sir Roger was ushered into the dining room, a chorus of Happy Birthday broke out. If the sudden chanting didn't alarm him, than the off-key quality of the singing certainly must have. Sir Roger admitted he was "Gobsmacked" and had been completely tricked into believing he was attending a quiet dinner with his wife. The evening was low-key but filled with laughs and allowed Sir Roger to relax a bit. He had only just come in from Los Angeles where he was honored by the Thalians in a ceremony that reunited him with Bond girls Maud Adams, Gloria Hendry and Lois Chiles. As the wine and Schnapps flowed freely, so did the humor - most of it at Roger's expense, though he proved he could toss out plenty of his own barbs. Lee Pfeiffer lobbed the old Henny Youngman line at him, "When Roger was born, the Dead Sea was only sick!" to which Sir Roger replied...well, it's best left unprinted.
Lady Christina's subterfuge insures that Sir Roger is "Gobsmacked"
Gareth Owen reads the special letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
A highlight of the evening occured when Gareth Owen read numerous
birthday greetings to Sir Roger from world dignitaries and celebrities
including former U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan, actress Mia Farrow
and a personal letter written by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Sir Roger
was then presented with presents from his friends and colleagues at
UNICEF. Some of the gifts were clearly tongue-in-cheek. Lee Pfeiffer
and Gareth Owen reminded Sir Roger that his first major film review was
for a 1950s turkey called Diane in which her co-starred as Lana
Turner's younger lover. The reviewer dismissed Sir Roger's entire
performance by referring to him as "a lump of English roast beef". To
commemorate the "great" review, Lee and Gareth presented Sir Roger with
an original MGM lobby card depicting him with Lana Turner in the film.
The duo then jokingly made the announcement that Sir Roger was forming
his own clothing line in order to bring his sense of style and
sophistication for the average man on a budget. Called "Moore for
Less", they announced the line would be available at K Mart stores and
presented Sir Roger with the prototype of the first product in the
clothing line: a garish red tie depicting Sir Roger in Octopussy. Although Sir Roger roared with laughter, we hope he was joking when he said, "Now, that's a great idea!"
Gareth Owen and Lee Pfeiffer present Sir Roger with the Octopussy tie
the hours passed, Sir Roger was clearly relishing a relaxing night out.
There was plenty of small talk about the making of films such as The Wild Geese, The Sea Wolves and Gold, but
as even Cinema Retro staffers need down time, none of the anecdotes
were recorded. However, we assume they will be told in detail in Sir
Roger's forthcoming autobiography.
At the end of the evening, a
clearly emotional Sir Roger profusely thanked all in attendance for
their subterfuge in making the surprise party a success. The attendees
all agreed to meet in the same place to celebrate Sir Roger's 100th
birthday - and although said as a joke, not a person present doubted it
will probably be an event that comes to fruition.
PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE PARTY
Sir Roger with Cinema Retro Editor in Chief Lee Pfeiffer (L) and the magazine's Pinewood Studios columnist Gareth Owen.
Sir Roger displays the MGM lobby card from the film that almost ruined career just as it had started!
Sir Roger unwraps one of the many presents given to him by UNICEF colleagues