Dear Sean Connery: An American as James Bond? Or an Australian? Please come back, Sean, you're the only one licensed to make a girl go phoaah]

No doubt you've heard of Timothy Dalton's decision to hand back his Walther PPK and resign from Her Majesty's Secret Service. I know that you're terribly busy these days and sick to death of being stalked by the ghost of James Bond, but the fact is, there's a bit of a crisis on.

You see, there may be moves afoot to hand the Savile Row suit you hung up more than a decade ago to a foreigner (well, OK, an American or an Australian, which in this context amounts to the same thing). In the betting, Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis are not far behind the 2-1 favourite, the Irishman Pierce Brosnan of Remington Steele.

I'm not being xenophobic, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who has difficulty reconciling the scruffy, laid-back hero of Lethal Weapon, or his strutting, smirking counterpart in Die Hard, with the sartorial elegance and clipped, sardonic wit you brought to the role. It was bad enough when your curt Scottish burr was replaced by the bland suburban tones of Roger Moore, but the idea of Bond with a transatlantic drawl or, worse, a speech-coached parody of an English accent such as that essayed by Keanu Reeves (another possible candidate) in Dracula fills me with horror. And while Pierce Brosnan has the dark good looks and the sort of hair that takes well to pomade, he's just too tacky.

You always understood that there was more to Bond's appeal than gadgets, gimmicks and the ability to pull pussies galore. I don't doubt the prospective candidates' skill at wrestling with sharks, having sex underwater or delivering a cool riposte to the likes of Blofeld. But none of them has quite the same impeccable phoaah] factor.

Call me sexist if you like (though I would only reply that sexism is the idiom that Bond appreciates) but from the moment you stepped out in a white dj and raised a quizzical black eyebrow in 1962, you epitomised the kind of smooth, ironic sex appeal not seen since Cary Grant's heyday. Long before you earned the title of Sexiest Man Alive, that come-hither-and-drown-in-my-lust gaze and muscled torso inspired a million dreams.

Nor was your phoaah] factor simply a product of youth. You may be pushing 64, the hair may have fallen out, the torso gone a little flaccid, but some things don't date.

As Bond, you were narcissistic, macho, faithless. Because your fans knew that you wouldn't respect them in the morning, you gave us a licence to dispense with social mores and to enjoy, vicariously at least, a few hours of unstoppable passion matched with technical skill. Your Bond understood that what women want (some of the time anyway) is a good time, and you always hit the target. So when you flashed a grin and strode off to the next assignment after a bout in the sack, your female fans could share the joke.

So please don't abandon us to some campy Hollywood caricature. Despite what the film said, you only live once.

From

Helen Birch

with love

(Photograph omitted)

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