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Our story of the month: March 2004

Bonding together

Courtesy of The Daily Mail Weekend of Saturday 1st November 2003.

Two major health scares have changed the life of Roger Moore. The first resulted in him leaving his wife of 30 years for their Swedish neighbour, and a bitter fallout that threatened to tear his family apart. The second, a heart problem, has brought him even closer to his eldest son Geoffrey.

Now, after enduring years of divided loyalties, father and son talk together for the first time to Lynda Lee-Potter.

Main photo: Terry O'Neill

 

Last month Roger Moore went to Buckingham Palace to be knighted by the Queen. He looked dashing and distinguished in formal morning dress and his Swedish wife, Kristina, was exquisite in a Valentino suit. His eldest son, Geoffrey, and actress daughter, Deborah, accompanied their stepmother to the palace and watched Roger kneel as the Queen tapped him on the shoulder with the sword. "I'm just so proud of my father", says Geoffrey. "I felt overwhelmed with joy. He gave his bow after the Queen put the sword on his shoulder and, as he walked by us, he grinned and he was literally like a little boy. It is in recognition not of acting but of what he's done as ambassador for UNICEF, which I think is far more worthy of a knighthood. I was sitting next to my sister and Kristina and they were both crying. I love the Queen; she took time to talk to everyone".

Afterwards they all went to the Ritz for lunch and were joined by Geoffrey's partner, Loulou, and Kristina's daughter, Christina, who Roger affectionately calls Flossie.

In the evening, he and Kristina gave a dinner party to celebrate his knighthood at Geoffrey's new London restaurant, Shumi.

Guests included Bryan Forbes and Nanette Newman, and Roger's best friends and fellow knights Michael Caine and Sean Connery and their respective wives, Shakira and Micheline.

That night, the affection that Roger's famous friends feel for him was palpable. Party goers unsed chopsticks to eat their food and I shared a bowl of lobster lasagne with Michael Caine, who, unlike me, is a dab hand with the chopsticks.

The champagne flowed and as dinner began Roger lifted a glass to toast his wife, saying in the language of her birth "Min lilla älskling" wich means "My little darling".

They married last year and Kristina has made him wonderfully happy. "She has this great calmness, she's given me peace", says the man who spent more than 30 years with his voluble, glamorous Italian ex-wife, Luisa.

 

Roger Moore with his wife Kristina Tholstrup

Before that, he was married to singer Dorothy Squires, who was to tranquillity what Iain Duncan Smith is to charisma. Both of his extrovert ex-wives adored him and were angry and bitter when he left. In fact, Dorothy never got over him. Neither has Luisa, who met Roger when they made a film together in Italy. After day began to live together, Dorothy used to go around to their house and throw stones at the window.

Roger Moore with his ex-wife Dorothy Squires

 

It's taken several difficult years, but Roger's children have now accepted his new wife, while remaining protective of their mother. Initially, they refused to see Kristina and Roger didn't invite them to his wedding because he knew that their loyalties would be torn.

In fact, Dorothy never got over him. Neither has Luisa, who met Roger when they made a film together in Italy. After day began to live together, Dorothy used to go around to their house and throw stones at the window. It's taken several difficult years, but Roger's children have now accepted his new wife, while remaining protective of their mother. Initially, they refused to see Kristina and Roger didn't invite them to his wedding because he knew that their loyalties would be torn.

Roger Moore with his ex-wife Luisa Mattioli

Geoffrey has two daughters, baby Mia and four-year-old Ambra Chiara, and has inherited his father's charm and staggeringly handsome looks. Film stars don't always have easy relationships with their sons, but they adore each other. Geoffrey is endearingly honest and concedes that when his mother looks at him she sees the young Roger and is anguished by memories of what she's lost. It remains a traumatic situation but he knows that Luisa is not blameless. In the years after Roger first walked out she always left an empty chair at the table when the family sat down for Christmas dinner. "In the end", says Geoffrey, "we took the chair away".

"The knighthood was difficult for Luisa: it was like pouring salt on the wound. She doesn't want to keep seeing Roger all over the papers because it's a reminder of how things used to be. Unfortunately, you never learn from happiness, only from misery. She's still beautiful, though it's hard for an older lady to be left alone. Also you don't realise what you've had until it's gone. Of course, she says, "I'm better off without him", but she's still in love with him. He's a hard act to follow and I'm sure she knows that if she had been a little less Italian, a little calmer, he would never have gone. They'd still be together. Roger likes to swim on the surface, he wants to please people. He stayed till we were grown up, and I'm grateful for that". (...)

In May 2003 while on stage making a guest appearence in the Morecambe and Wise tribute The Play What I Wrote, which has just transferred to Broadway, Roger suffered a syncopal heart attack. This means that though the heart is fine, it isn't pumping oxygen efficiently enough. "If it had happened when he was in a remote part of the world on UNICEF's behalf", says Geoffrey, "he may well have died". Roger was wearing a frock and a wig playing a comic character called the Comte de Toblerone when he slumped to the floor. "I hadn't really been feeling very well and I was tired. It was an accident waiting to happen and it was just lucky that it happened in New York. I've died on stage many times but not for real. I'd done this very energetic dance and was about to say the next line but suddenly I couldn't speak. Then I heard this great thump, which was my head hitting the stage". (...)

Roger has turned insouciance and self-deprecation into an art form. He loves to laugh and the man who works nonstop to help the most deprived children of the world prefers to turn his own troubles into witty stories. After his collapse on stage, he was taken to the emergency room at manhattan's St Luke's and Roosevelt Hospital. "It was just like the television series ER; everything was going on. They started doing tests and the man in charge was an Indian doctor who was absolutely charming. He called my doctor in California and then my cardiologist called back and said, "You must have a pacemaker put in and not tomorrow but now. I will arrange a transfer hospital and a surgeon." So I was moved that evening to the other hospital. My poor younger son, Christian, had arrived from Los Angeles to see me in the play. Somehow Kristina managed to find him and get him to the hospital. She was terrified, absolutely zonked out with fright and nerves. She came down to the operating theatre with me and I said to the anaesthetist, "I'm a terrible coward, I don't want to know too much about what's going on". He said, "That's fine." And the needle was slipped in while I was talking. The next thing I remember is coming to and the theatre assistant asking for my autograph. I left hospital the next morning and the lovely cardiologist came to see me off. He said, "This is not what doctors usually give you. At this stage, we normally present you with the bill, but there's $10.000 for UNICEF. I'm only sorry I'm not a Beverly Hills doctor because then it would have been then times more". Isn't that amazing?

Most 76-years-olds would have gone home to be after life-saving surgery. Roger, in fact, went that evening to fulfil a long-term arrangement to speak at the "Bal des Berceaux" in New York Plaza Hotel. "It's a big debutante coming-out charity ball and I was due to speak about UNICEF. So I said I would do it, though, obviously, not stay for the dinner or stand around doing pictures because I was a bit tired".

Roger Moore, his wife Kristina and his son Geoffrey at the opening of his restaurant Shumi in London - October 2003

Roger makes this sound like a perfectly natural occurrence but he still had an intravenous drip in his arm and stitches in his chest. At the end of his speech, the entire ballroom, packet with New York's glamorous elite, rose spontaneously to give him a tumultuous standing ovation in response both to his moving words and his personal courage. He is famous all over the world and wherever he goes on UNICEF missions people shout "James Bond is there".

It's immensely usefull when it comes to fundraising because everyone wants to meet him and his civility, charm and patience is endless. However, before 007 he became famous as Simon Templar in one of the most popular TV series.

 

A very young unknown Julie Christie had a part in one episode and was so scruffy that she nearly got the sack. "She was homeless at the time. She was sleeping rough and she turned up for rehearsals with her sleeping bag. Her fingernails were dirty and during rehearsals the producer said, "She's not very good". They were thinking of replacing her and then they saw the rushes and what happened on screen was magic, just as it was Marylin Monroe".

Roger's secure working-class background, where he was an adored only child, has given him a stability and sense of proportion, which has alwayskept his feet on the ground. "My father was a police officer at Bow Street in London and met my mother when she was working as a cashier at a restaurant in the Strand. My dad was on point duty directing traffic and he could see her through the window. She was terribly pretty so he asked her out and took her to a dance. They were very happy together and rarely argued. I remember them discussing things, but there were never raised voices. My mother always said, "We have a rule that the sun should never set on an argument. If you have any disagreement you must make it up before sunset." (...)

"My mother died at 82 and my father at 93, so he had ten years without her. He married again, but he always thought of, and talked about, my mother. They'd been together for 60 years, so being left without her was a cruel act of fate."

Geoffrey began his career as an actor and, in fact, as a child he played Roger's son in a movie called Sherlock Holmes In New York, with Charlotte Rampling playing his mother. He is now a hugely successful restaurateur but, at heart, he remains an actor. There have been suggestions that he should take over as James Bond after Pierce Brosnan and he certainly has the physique and the profile. Roger thinks he'd be terrific and he's always been good as recognising talent. Not long after he was famous he spotted a little-known actor in the street. He'd seen him the previous evening in a television play and went up to introduce himself and shake his hand. "You'll be a star onde day", he said to the young Michael Caine.

Shumi, 23 St James's Street, London, SW1, tel: +44 20 7747 9380 or visit shumi-london.com

 

Read our previous stories of the month

August - September - October - November - December 2003

January - February 2004

 

 

 
 
 

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