It was 1979 when my parents first got cable television for the family… or what passed for cable television at the time. The nation had yet to be introduced to even the seedlings of the multi-channel services movie fans have piped into their living rooms today. Before everyone knew HBO, Z Channel, Showtime, Encore or Cinemax, they all knew ON-TV.
ON-TV was what was known as a “scrambled UHF” service, the height of broadcast sophistication at the time. During the day, the UHF station (channel 52 where I grew up) aired its regular programming grid of Hercules cartoons and William Bendix in Life of Riley reruns. But at 7 in the evening, ON-TV would begin transmitting recent motion pictures over the air to the station, and the image would immediately scramble on home televisions, the sound cutting out entirely. In order to watch the movies, a converter box with a single “on-off” knob had to be rented for a whopping nineteen dollars a month.
Nineteen dollars a month. I was ushered into puberty for the price of nineteen dollars a month.
ON-TV gave me the first opportunity to see movies which my yet-to-hit-double-digit age would have prevented me from seeing in an actual theatre. And unlike the networks, ON-TV played the films totally uncut and unedited, finally allowing me to obtain a meager grasp of understanding on the subject of sex. Smokey and the Bandit, Silver Streak, Animal House, The Deep… to this day I can’t watch any of them without still experiencing a faint twitch of pre-adolescent Catholic guilt.
It was one regular school night at home when my parents and sister came together in the living room to watch a movie called The Spy Who Loved Me, and my mother allowed me to watch with them. No one in my family was particularly fond of James Bond, so I had no idea what to expect. But this was the only movie playing on the only movie channel the family had, so it was automatically an event.
By the time the opening sequence – featuring not one, but two love-making scenes and a ski chase down the side of an Austrian mountain – gave way to Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” and the film’s titles, accompanied by a bevy of naked women, swollen in all the right places, trampolining through the air and doing cartwheels on the tops of semi-automatic pistols, I was pretty sure I was watching the greatest motion picture ever produced.
I watched The Spy Who Loved Me every single time it played over the next four weeks. And ON-TV did not license a great deal of titles, so it played a lot. Sometimes it was on early in the evening, sometimes it didn’t start until midnight. On the weekends, when ON-TV broadcast all day, it might play once in the morning and again that same afternoon. I was grateful not to be involved in sports or any other organized activities that would require my leaving the house for any extended period of time and result in my missing a screening.
Not only did I quickly commit the dialogue to memory, I also worked on both my British and Russian accents, and I transformed all my Star Wars action figures into sophisticated martini-drinking secret agents, female helicopter assassins, microfilm smugglers, super-sized villains who lived under the surface of the ocean, and a seven foot henchmen with steel teeth who could tear through the flesh of a man-eating shark. Jaws was way more of a bad-ass than Darth Vader ever could ever even hope to be.
I tore the shades off my bedroom lamps and positioned them to create silhouettes of myself against the wall as I fired finger guns at unseen villains and tried to devise a method that would allow me to jump up and down on my bed in slow-motion. It was clear to me that there was never going to be another film that impressed, awed and gripped me as much as this film had.
Finally, I worked up the nerve to corner my mom in the hallway bathroom and beg her to let me stay up until 3 am that Saturday night to watch the final airing of The Spy Who Loved Me. She set down her hair curler, swayed her concerned head from one side to the other and asked, “If you like it that much, why don’t I just drive you to the video store and you can rent the others?”
I stared up at her. She stared down at me.
I think she was waiting for me to take her up on the offer. Or to thank her for being so generous. Or to barrel down the hallway to my bedroom, slap on my shoes, and run out to the car.
But I couldn’t do any of those things. I had momentarily exited my body, and I needed a moment to re-claim an ability to comprehend her words. Once I did that, I pulled in my shoulders, balled my hands into finger fists, pushed them against my temples and screamed at her, “There’s MORE THAN ONE!!???”
By the end of the next month, Dr. No, The Man with the Golden Gun and every 007 film in between had run through our gargantuan RCA video cassette recorder (purchased for a mere $800). I had slowly and reluctantly accepted Sean Connery in the role and given half a nod to George Lazenby who held up the franchise a single time with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a movie I enjoy much more now but was bored to tears by as a child.
But there’s nothing like Roger Moore as James Bond. Actually, there’s nothing like Roger Moore as James Bond specifically in The Spy Who Loved Me because while he more than redeems himself in nearly every one of his outings as 007, some of them don’t live up to the successful casting, production elements, stunt work, locations and score of Spy, a movie I proudly point to as having sparked the first inexhaustible obsession of many I’ve developed in my life.
Hula Heat Pizza
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, separated
- 1/4 large white onion, sliced and spread into ringlets
- 5 slices center-cut bacon
- 2 cups shredded (or cubed as I did) mozzarella cheese
- 1 medium beefsteak tomato, sliced
- 1/4 -1/2 large bell pepper, diced
- 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno slices, drained and diced
- 6-8 ounces crushed or cubed pineapple, drained if from the can
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (plus additional to taste)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes (1 to bake into the crust, the other to top the pizza)
- 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Salt to taste
Pre-heat your oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees F.
Use 1 tablespoon of oil to grill your onions, until they are soft and brown. Use the other tablespoon to fry your bacon.
Spread the final tablespoon of oil over your pizza crust. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes over the top, along with some salt and pepper to taste. Slide the crust onto your pizza stone and let cook for 2-3 minutes, then pull it out. If there are any bubbles in the crust, press them down lightly with the back of a spoon, but you don’t have to worry too much about them. We’re about to weigh everything down with the toppings.
Spread your sauce out evenly over the crust, then add your grilled onions, followed by the tomatoes and the mozzarella. On top the mozzarella, spread the pineapple, jalapeno, and bell pepper evenly. Top with the rest of the red pepper flakes, black pepper and oregano. Finally, sprinkle the shredded sharp cheddar over the top for added color.
Return the pizza to the oven and back for another 8-10 minutes or until cheese and your crust have both turned golden brown. Remove, let cool, and enjoy!