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Roger Moore - The Early Days

The Roger Moore Story - 1972

TV Times Extra, Independent Publications Limited 1972

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By Roger Moore in collaboration with Ken Roche, from 1972. It gives an extremely interesting insight into the man himself, as Roger sits back and assesses it all. His three marriages, ice skater Doorn Van Steyn, singer Dorothy Squires, Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. His struggles from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to Hollywood. The fun; the fears; the triumphs. Like The Saint, Roger Moore went out and lived his fantasies. As he says: "I never knew I had it in me.

 

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" There for the grace of god go I"

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All Roger Moore's fans enjoy this biography from 1972

 

Roger aged 17

For nearly a decade, Roger Moore has been the living breathing example of all that men expect from their own fantasies. In this book written by himself in collaboration with Ken Roche, he sits back and assesses it all. His three marriages-to ice skater Doom Van Steyn, to singer Dorothy Squires, to Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. His struggles from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to Hollywood. The fun; the fears; the triumphs. Like The Saint, Roger Moore went out and lived his fantasies. As he says: "I never knew I had it in me ."

SOME successful people, usually the clever ones, go through life acting the fool. Some others don't have to; but they go through life anyway just as successfully. And a few people go through life like it's a fool's paradise. Not so many of those are successful but then again maybe I'm not such a fool. But I have treated life like a kind of earthly paradise-working on the assumption that there is a lot of laughter in paradise. When you have looked at me on a TV set or a film what sort of impression do you get? When you've read about my life as the Saint what have you thought? - Is not this man awash with money, good looks, fame, status, and fans in 104 countries? What do you say? "It's a plane. It's a bird. It's . . . it's . . . Superman!" Getting my drift? Isn't it all a load of ridiculous old nonsense? Thus, paradoxically, it was realising that most of life is a joke and a load of old flannel that has made my own life so good. Most of. It, I said. It has also helped me through most of what has happened to me. If it doesn't keep on working then I shall start treating myself seriously. If that happens I shall be far too I important to talk to you at all. So there...

I have a big thing about Rudyard Kipling's poem "If". Especially the lines that go:


"If you can dream, and not make dreams your master;
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...;

I also like the end that goes:
"Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And, which is more, you'll be a Man, my son!"

How did I go about being a man? Well, let's start at the beginning.


Kids have a very strange perspective on life. Ever thought about it? Apart from the usual business of understanding that food is nice and mother's cuddle is warm, they have a physically different perspective because everyone and everything is so damned big. For me, clear remembrances remain of this worm's eye view of the world. A tiny object, wearing a blue woollen suit, with gigantic adult figures moving in and out of vision and reach.

The first big disappointment. Two-and-a half, bubbling with joy at the prospect of going on a picnic-whatever that was-and standing on a chair in the kitchen to look at my face. Something's wrong with that face. It's a lot bigger than when it was looked at yesterday. "He's got mumps," said my mother. "We can't take him out when he's got mumps." So no picnic. Who's this coming in? Wonderful, wonderful! It's Uncle Jack! Marvellous Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack wasn't around often. He was a regular soldier but every time he came to London he never failed to come and see us. He always had a present for the baby. You're my favourite, Uncle Jack.
I can still feel the delicious rough texture of his uniform and the beautiful smell of all the romantic countries he had travelled in. All wrapped up in Uncle Jack. That fat little baby on the floor loves you Uncle Jack. He loves Mum and Dad too. They love him a lot because he is their only child. It's slightly surprising that they never really spoiled him.

Their anguish at the hopelessness has often occurred to me over the years. But the doctor kept his pen in his pocket the next morning. Along with the death certificate. It's a bit vague now but I remember the poultices being put on my chest and back, and the burning of them. They used to give me sips of brandy (that would have been a pleasant memory if I could have appreciated it). And there was an aunt, Aunt Nelly, who lived with us before she married, sticking transfers on the behead. About this same age, probably after the illness, there is the painful recollection of falling through the rusted roof of a coal shed in the back yard and tearing my legs open. I've still I got the scars.


We moved across the square to another flat. But I remember before then our garden ran alongside a timber yard. The smell of the wood was beautiful. There was a sawmill and mounds and mounds of sawdust. It caught fire once and there are vague recollections of great drama and excitement as things burned down. The soot hung around for weeks afterwards.
Even as an only child I wasn't lonely. I had lots of friends in the square and we had a girl cousin, a year or two older than me, staying with us for a while.

Our garden was railed in until the war and they came and took the railings away to melt down for munitions. It was strange thinking our railings were going to become bombs and bullets to kill people. It has always seemed to me that although we desperately had to fight the war there is still something abhorrent about enjoying war. Like all the other kids I was in there playing games like Tommies-versus Germans but now I look back on those childhood games with a touch of revulsion.
Because they have probably picked it up from some outside influence I have even heard my own children say the word "German" as though it is something terrible. It's not their fault; they don't know what they are saying. Just as we didn't as kids. It was simply part of the way we were brought up. We and our parents had good reasons to hate the enemy in the War. We did not have good reason to enjoy hating them. It's a mistake. It is catatonically wrong for children to be brought up with the view that people from other countries are in some way "foreign". I have had the fortune to travel around a lot of countries and meet a lot of people speaking different languages and with different outlooks. But they are all human beings and the moment we forget it some of the decency and humanity goes out of ourselves.


But as a kid, I was in there shooting with my toy gun, like all the others. As a man as fond of his stomach and his palate as any of the world's great gourmets, it is not surprising that I have had the odd weight problem. Good food and wine are among my true indulgences. But nothing, absolutely nothing, has the same nostalgic pull on my palate as the memory of clandestine baked potatoes over an open fire. Do you remember those night watchmen with their holes in the road? They don't seem to be around any more. Maybe they've run out of holes! They always had big glowing braziers and they were as adventurous as any adventurous train driver to the kids of my day. We would shoot off home and appropriate a big potato to put on the fire while the night watchman told stories. Sometimes he would give you a little piece of margarine and some salt to flavour your baked potato with. What on earth do children these days do without their night watchmen! And around those holes in the road there would always be a barrel or two of tar. When they broke the hoops of the barrel we would plead for or purloin the curved pieces of metal to make skis for when it snowed.

An only child, yes, but not lonely ": I had many friends" says Roger


Another big thing was roller skating and on Saturday mornings I used to go to a skating rink in Tulse Hill. My mother was an ardent roller skater in her younger days and she promised me that when my feet grew to size five I could have her skates. I had my own skates but I couldn't wait to get to be big enough to wear them. I would measure my feet with a tape measure to see how they were coming along. And God! We used to go for miles on skates! Many's the time we skated from Stockwell to Battersea Park, round the bandstand, and back again. Funny, I wouldn't even know how to get there now.


Believe it or not, I used to get into the odd Scrape as a kid. . . You wouldn't think an embryonic Saint could get into trouble would you? But it happened, even though it was never my fault, was it? I remember once a bunch of us were heaving stones at some other kids who were positioned dangerously close to some neighbours' greenhouse. Actually, I hadn't started throwing stones, but I was just beginning to think I might take part (just to sort of keep them company) when I was grabbed by the hair. One of the fathers-probably a rotten greenhouse owner-had got me.

At that moment of contact between his huge hand and my straggly hair the worst conceivable horror flashed through my mind. I must explain: I had an uncle and aunt who would employ this appalling adult trick-a real, mean grown-up trick-of talking across a child at a table and saying things just for that child's benefit. My uncle talked across me to my aunt one day and said that when he was a child, and had been naughty, he was taken off in a Black Maria. It was terrible, he said. Do you know, he told my aunt; most people believed that the revolving things on top of the police Black Maria's were air vents. "I always thought they were," said my aunt (playing up to his line). "Oh no they're not," he said. "They are horrible revolving things which they tie your hair to. As the van goes along the road you're inside, revolving by your hair." Somehow, that put me off being naughty and risking going to prison. Not that I was the least worried about being in prison. I thought the first thing they would do was to put me on bread and water and I would willingly have gone to prison for that. Despite the fact that I was a thoroughly well fed child I used to like bread and water almost as much as illicit baked potatoes.


I even used to go out to the garden and steal the bread that had been thrown out for the birds. To my child's mind it always looked nice and dry in the sun. It always had a very special taste. So it wasn't the potential threat of prison that scared me when the irate father grabbed me by the hair. It was the thought of revolving by my hair in the Black Maria he was obviously going to summon to take me away. Childhood leaves you with peculiar memories doesn't it? And so disjointed aren't they? That toy aeroplane I had when I was six, and it was my birthday. It had green and red lights and the propellers went round. They put the room lights out at the birthday party so I could see my aeroplane flashing green and red, red and
green. Eight years old was a good time to find out The Truth About Father Christmas. Always on Christmas Eve I slept in the same bed with Mum and Dad so they could see my pleasure at opening the presents the following morning. There was a big wardrobe by the side of the bed with a mirror in the door. I wasn't asleep and I watched their reflection in the mirror as they tip-toed in and laid out the presents. I saw them ramming the peanuts and tangerines I and toffees into the big golf sock my father gave me to hang at the foot of the bed. And the laying out of all the other gifts that wouldn't go into the sock.


In the morning they made up some story: about Father Christmas calling and asking them to lay out his presents on my bed. But I knew; I knew.. . Strangely, instead of being terribly disappointed at my awful discovery I was terribly pleased and thrilled. I thought as I dropped off to sleep: 'That's nice. They do it for me. It's not somebody else who gives me these presents every year. It's them.' Christmas was always good for me, especially if Uncle Jack managed to get there. If I had an irritation at all it was the way all the grown-ups monopolised my most interesting toys for the first few days. It was only when they got bored with them that they reverted to becoming my exclusive property. At about that time I had my first salutary lesson about money. It was a lesson I never learned but I had it anyway. On Sunday afternoons father would like to sit in front of the fire and have a bar of Cadbury's Brazil Nut Chocolate. One Sunday he gave me a ten-shilling note
-to me it might just as well have been a million pound note-to go down to the sweet shop and get him his bar of chocolate. I duly asked for it in the shop, along with the penny-worth of bullseyes I was allowed to have out of the change. Then I reached for the money, which wasn't there. You can picture this distraught child, searching every inch of the quarter mile between the sweetshop and home. I went through the gutters, the house areas, and the pavements. Later II found that my father had been watching me all up the road through the miserable, anxious journey home. In the end I went in, face crimson, ears pounding. I owned up.
Father was not pleased. For half an hour he kept me on tenterhooks. I felt like a sardine on the end of a great fishhook. Then just as I thought he was about to extol some dreadful sentence he burst into laughter. He had seen me drop the ten shillings before I even left the house...


The incident, traumatic as it was, did not imbue me with an appreciation of money. Even when later I went through periods of intense lack of funds, I never developed a genuine respect for money. It tends to irritate me when people with money talk about how it doesn't matter whether they have it or not. It matters all right; it matters a bloody lot. Because I've been lucky I can let the words trip off my tongue: Money isn't important. It's lovely to have; but it's not God. Maybe I did learn something from that ten-shilling episode. With or without it, a situation can be phoney. Back to "If" again!

My mother and father, who now live in retirement in South London, were always good to me and my father always took great trouble to make himself a companionable father. In his prime he was a very strong man; very athletic - about an inch shorter than I am now. He was a great swimmer and diver. Always working out at barbells, horizontal bars and rings. He felt that as a policeman he ought to keep fit but as I said, his job was drawing plans. He did most of his work at home and I grew up convinced that a policeman's lot was indeed a very happy one because you didn't do any work.


It was later when I realised that although he would spend many a day taking me out swimming or playing games he would catch up on his work when I was in bed.
He was courageous as well as strong. Many will remember a familiar wartime cry at night: "Put out that light !" Everyone had to black out their windows. Late one afternoon my mother was knitting socks on four steel knitting needles. She and my father must have fallen asleep. The knitting slipped off her lap and it became dark. But the fire was well alight and the glow of it shone through the window. Someone outside shouted: "Put out that light!"


My father jumped up startled and trod straight on the upturned needles. Two of them crossed over and went straight through his foot. He was in considerable pain, but he didn't make any fuss and with careful deliberation used a pair of pliers to extract the needles from his foot. My first real tragedy happened when I was eight. For my birthday I had a wire-haired terrier called Pip and my mother used to bring him to meet me after Cub meetings.


It was on one of these trips that Pip ran into the road and was killed by a taxi. But an Uncle got me another dog called Ruff who was a bit of all sorts but mainly Irish wolfhound. I more or less grew up with him. I had some good fun in the Cubs, but it taught me that I was no potential Saint-like hero. A good friend called Reg and myself went camping and we had marched all the way from Stockwell to Wimbledon Common to set up our tent.


Children of my era were all very innocent. The facts-of-life was having enough money to buy sweets; sex instruction was pulling girls' pigtails.
We had got our sandwiches out ready for eating later when suddenly a man came into our tent.

I didn't like the look of him at all. He said something about: 'You've got nice knees'. I didn't understand but instinctively I didn't like him so I shot out like a scared rabbit, leaving Reg to get out of trouble on his own. Charming of me wasn't it? Leaving my pal there with God knows what sort of monster!
But Reg got away and we both ran off. Like kids we soon forgot about it and eventually returned to the tent. And what do you think? The rotten so-and-so had eaten all our lovely sandwiches! It was about then that anyone ever even suggested that I might be a spoilt child. It made a great impression on me. I was ill in what was the old Westminster hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament (I remember Big Ben going every quarter of an hour through the day and night) and I was the only child in an all-adult male ward.
The man in the next bed gave me a precious egg which the nurse cooked for my tea. I complained because it wasn't cooked enough. I didn't like eggs all runny. Then they all told me off for being ungrateful. It shook me. I didn't understand about being "ungrateful I never complained about eggs after that. In fact, these days I eat my eggs practically raw. But it did affect me to be attacked in that way. Before-and since-it has seemed to me that whenever I have shown some kind of ingratitude with my lot someone has pulled me up. An example: about 15 years ago I was doing an episode of The Third Man TV series with Michael Rennie. Max Adrian was in it too and we were sitting outside the studio chatting about things.

HE said he'd had a sleepless night and I jokingly said: "Guilty conscience about something you've done?" He rounded on me. "No! God no, not for the things I've done. It's all the things 1 didn't do. That's what keeps me awake. When I think of some of the times when I could have been nice to my mother or other certain people in my life and I wasn't. That's what does it." His words have lived with me ever since.
To get back to childhood: I always did very well at school. I had the gift of looking reasonably bright and intelligent. Even when my mind is elsewhere I look as though I'm listening to people who are talking to me. Rarely was I out of the first three places in my class and it required no particular studying or effort. Homework was a bit of a joke and I frequently found it could be dashed off early in the morning-and still leave me time for a game before school started.


Art work and drawing were my favourites and it generally came to be accepted that I would be an artist of some sort when I left school, which was Battersea Grammar. I had just left Hackford Road elementary to go to grammar school when "Evacuation" broke out two days before the war. The day was September 1st, 1939, and the Government's fear was that the juvenile population would be decimated by what seemed to be the impending destruction of the entire London area. It seemed to me that most of the kids in London were hustled off to stations, had labels tied on their collars, and shuffled off to God knows where. All we had were our pathetic little parcels and bags and the fresh memories of mothers sobbing and fathers biting lips.
For the parents it must have been quite horrifying. Imagine watching your children having labels tied round their necks and being sent off to somewhere unknown. Most parents had no idea where their youngsters were going. It must have been worse for parents like mine, with only one child. For the kids, of course, it was one big adventure. There would be a few sniffles and snuffles as the train chugged out through the London suburbs, but by the time we reached countryside a lot of us were really enjoying ourselves.
I was deposited on a rather nice family in Worthing. Trouble was they were a little too nice and in relation to my background slightly snobbish.


For instance, I liked to cut my bread up into fingers and dip them into boiled egg. They told me this was a nasty habit and I mustn't do it. They had two sons older than me and they caused me a bit of bother. A lot of their attitude was finally to determine my decision never to have my own children sent away from home to a boarding school. Children are not safe to live with each other. They cause each other too much harm and anguish. After two days I was already getting homesick. 1 was out on the Downs and I remember coming back in time to hear Prime Minister Chamberlain saying on the radio at ii o'clock that a state of war existed between Britain and Germany. Big deal. A lot that meant to me. It all belonged to the grown-up world and had very little to do with me. The idea of any doom or danger simply did not arise. A bit like saying only other people get run over by a bus. It won't happen to me or my parents. I certainly never worried me that my parents might get killed in an air raid. For one thing, we didn't know what air raids were at the time.' With my unfailing ability to never miss out I when illnesses are around I inevitably caught impetigo when an epidemic of it went around several weeks later. Actually, I only came out in a couple of spots but they whipped me off to hospital and put me in an isolation room. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was a ward with other people. But to be an 11-year-old evacuee, away from mum and dad, sick and alone-that. was the end. My father visited me, took one look at my misery, and carted me back home. He had already sent my mother to live in Chester and I was sent to join her. 1 liked it in Chester. It was where I first found out what a poplar tree was; and at least I was with my mother. Dad, of course, stayed in London where he was working from Bow Street. One great thing about Chester was that a member of the family we stayed with worked in a railway signal box. It was one of the great thrills to be taken up in the box and watch the trains being controlled.

Buy about Spring of 1940 the Great Panic seemed to be over. Nothing had happened. No bombs had dropped and there was an element of phoniness about the entire war. Slowly, everyone' started to drift back to the capital. Home again-to find there really was a war, especially when the men came back from Dun-Kirk. I recall standing near the railway lines close to Clapham North station watching the trains go by packed with wounded and worn out soldiers.


For the first time it began to seep through that something pretty awful was happening. But for a while, for the most part, life went back to its normal schoolboy pattern. Back to swimming again with my father at the Floral Pool, Ashford. Then came the raids.


I was with my father when I saw the first "dog-fight." The planes came over and we saw them twisting and weaving in the sky as the Luftwaffe and the R.A.F. fought it out. Once we  had to fling ourselves into some bushes as we were strafed on the ground. God, the whine of those bullets as my father hunched himself over me in some kind of protection. Then there was the time when the first bomb dropped on London. My parents had two friends who always came around on Saturday night to play cards. They were in the middle of a game of solo when the sirens sounded and we traipsed down to our new Anderson shelter, dog and all. We heard this terrible whistle when the first bomb dropped and landed, I believe, on the Elephant and Castle. In the following weeks things started to hot up. Houses in and around our square were bombed. And I can remember watching the first big blitz fire in the East End from the roof of our flats. My father thought we'd better move so he sent my mother and me to Amersham, where I was to continue my education in Dr. Challoner's Grammar School. I was there for a term or two when my mother had some kind of a row with the people we stayed with. It must have been hard for her, away from her husband, money tight, and the war going on. Every night we could see the sky lit up from the raids over London. And in the middle of it all was my father, still working at Bow Street. One sweet recollection of Amersham. The family had two very nice daughters-both older than me-and I was reaching the age where one noticed such things. So back to London, where we seemed to spend most of our nights in the shelter, where we would fry sausages on an up-turned electric fire. I remember running around the garden a few times chasing after incendiary bombs with a bucket of water.

Some mornings-too many mornings-we would wake up to find houses had disappeared. And the people with them. One family I knew very well caught it. Their name was Messenger and they had their shelter built into their basement. During a raid the son Bob went upstairs with his dog to get something when a landmine dropped on the house. It was completely demolished. Everyone in the shelter was killed. The rescuers, working their way through the rubble, heard the dog whimpering and they found Bob almost unhurt next to him. For years after he went everywhere with that dog. He even took it to the cinema with him. It must have been around that time when I most vividly remember my beloved Uncle Jack. As a regular soldier he had reluctantly accepted sergeant's stripes. They looked so white and new on his arm when be dropped in to see us.

 

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