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Bond … James Bond … turns 60 and is to be celebrated at Illinois

"The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' at 60"
Photo by
L. Brian Stauffer

April 13 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale,” and the University of Illinois will recognize the event with a collaborative celebration hosted by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Spurlock Museum, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

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3/25/2013 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts and Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.” That’s the opening line of “Casino Royale,” the novel that introduced secret agent James Bond to the world, launching a franchise of books and blockbuster movies that continues to this day. April 13 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale,” and the University of Illinois will recognize the event with a collaborative celebration hosted by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Spurlock Museum, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

Ian Fleming
James Bond creator Ian Fleming | Photo courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Titled “The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’ at 60,” the event will feature a collection of first editions, manuscripts and Fleming ephemera at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library; a film festival and display of Bond movie costumes and props at the Spurlock Museum; a collection of audio recordings, photographs and sheet music (including the original 2006 “Casino Royale” score) at the Sousa Archives; and a performance of music from the Bond movies and books by the U. of I. Concert Jazz Band. A full schedule of events is online.

Much of the material featured in “The Birth of Bond” comes from the collection of Michael L. VanBlaricum, the president of the Ian Fleming Foundation and a U. of I. alumnus who is loaning pieces of his personal collection of Fleming first editions, manuscripts, letters, recordings, sheet music and movie props to the three campus sites.

VanBlaricum will give a one-hour talk on Fleming and Bond at 3 p.m. on April 12 (Friday), in the library auditorium (Room 66), followed by a reception in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Room 346). The jazz concert, on April 13 (Saturday), will begin at 7 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium at Spurlock Museum, and will include a piano medley of Bond themes performed by Raymond Benson, one of the continuation authors hired by the Fleming family to carry on the James Bond novels after Ian Fleming’s death, as well as themes from the Bond movies and music mentioned in Fleming’s books.

 The film festival, also in Knight Auditorium, will feature five Bond films showing April 26 (Friday) through April 28 (Sunday). The movies will be introduced by John Cork, a documentary filmmaker whose work includes the informational features on most Bond movie DVDs. Cork, a co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, is also the author of the “James Bond Encyclopedia” and other Bond resource books. For a detailed schedule of titles and show times, visit

VanBlaricum, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at the U. of I. and has been the president and chief scientist at Toyon Research Corp., said the Bond bug bit him in 1964 when, at age 14, he saw the movie “Goldfinger” at the Apollo Theater in Princeton, Ill., his hometown. He didn’t begin collecting Bondiana, however, until more than a decade later, when he decided he wanted to read Fleming’s Bond novels and had trouble finding them in bookstores. His wife, Pam Calvetti VanBlaricum (a U. of I. alumna with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in aeronautical engineering), happened to be visiting New York City, and at her husband’s request, went to the Mysterious Bookshop in search of Bond books. She bought two first editions (one of which had been owned by Sammy Davis Jr.), and a week later, bookshop owner Otto Penzler called offering more. VanBlaricum has been collecting ever since.

Over the years, his collection has gotten two out-of-the-blue boosts. The first came when Iain Campbell, a rare book dealer in Liverpool, England, offered to sell VanBlaricum his Fleming collection. VanBlaricum took a second mortgage on his home to buy it. The second occurred in 1991, when an officer of Danjaq, S.A., the holding company that controls copyright and trademarks for Bond movie merchandise, offered to sell him the Neptune – the 23-foot submarine from “For Your Eyes Only.” To acquire the sub, VanBlaricum asked Cork and another Illinois collector, Doug Redenius, to join him in establishing the Ian Fleming Foundation, a public benefit nonprofit California corporation that now owns 34 Bond vehicles.

The foundation is loaning one of those, the Aston Martin Volante from “The Living Daylights,” for the exhibition at the Spurlock Museum. Titled “Unconventional Bond: The Strange Life of ‘Casino Royale’ on Film,” the Spurlock exhibition contrasts three different dramatizations of Fleming’s first novel – the CBS television version, made in 1954; the 1967 psychedelic spoof starring Ursula Andress, David Niven and Peter Sellers (all playing Bond); and the 2006 movie starring Daniel Craig.

In addition to items from VanBlaricum’s collection, such as the sneakers worn by Sean Connery and a nurse’s uniform and red coverup worn by the character Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) in “Never Say Never Again,” Spurlock will display a handful of items on loan from EON Productions, which has produced many of the Bond movies:  from the 2006 “Casino Royale,” the bloody tuxedo worn by Bond (Craig), the purse carried by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the nail gun Bond used to shoot a villain and a clapboard used during filming.

VanBlaricum’s collecting habit was stoked along the way by encounters that he calls “pinch-me moments,” times when he has gotten to meet Fleming’s family, friends and professional fans. He knows the author’s original literary agent, Peter Janson-Smith, and he has spent time with Fleming’s friend (and Walter Winchell’s lawyer) Ernest Cuneo. He has met novelists Ken Follett and Lee Child, both inspired by the Bond books, and he has shared meals with Fleming’s personal friend Joan Bright Astley, who was in charge of the special information center in Winston Churchill’s cabinet war room. In 1996, when English Heritage designated Fleming’s home with a traditional Blue Plaque, the Fleming family selected VanBlaricum to speak at the unveiling.

 And at a recent party celebrating the opening of a Bond exhibit at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., he met the retired CIA officers portrayed in the movie “Argo,” Tony Mendez and Stansfield Turner, as well as Dame Stella Rimington, the former director general of MI5, the United Kingdom’s internal counterintelligence and security agency.

“I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that I don’t think a person from Princeton, Illinois, would ordinarily have gotten to do,” VanBlaricum said. “I never thought in my wildest ambitions that I’d get to meet people like that. I’ve learned so much about both British and American history, just because Fleming ran in some pretty interesting circles.”

From the beginning, VanBlaricum’s goal was to assemble a complete research collection, because he knew that he would eventually donate his collection to a library such as the U. of I. Loaning so much of his collection to Illinois for “The Birth of Bond” is the first step toward that objective.

“Early on in my collecting, I met a guy who was a Sherlock Holmes collector, a mathematician for Bell Labs,” VanBlaricum said. “When he retired, he sold his entire collection at auction. That just sort of made me cry – that somebody spends their entire life building a collection then just throws it out there to get money.”

The knowledge that Indiana University holds a vast Fleming collection – the writer’s personal collection and manuscripts – adds an element of delight for VanBlaricum. “If you really want to study Fleming or Bond, you’re going to have to come to the Midwest,” he said. “That’s sort of what makes it cool, to me, but I’m an Illinois boy anyhow.”

In addition to the 11 Illinois degrees in his immediate family, VanBlaricum is on the U. of I. Electrical and Computer Engineering Alumni Board, the Spurlock Museum Board of Trustees, and is now developing the Illinois Distributed Museum, conceived as a means to showcase engineering and technology innovations at Illinois by linking exhibits, markers, documents and information. He sees “The Birth of Bond” as a smaller-scale version of the same concept – a way to introduce a broader audience to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Sousa Archives, the Spurlock Museum and the Concert Jazz Band, which he first heard in December.

“I have heard a lot of jazz bands in my life,” VanBlaricum said, “and let me tell you, I just sat there and was blown away.”

All events for “The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’ at 60” are free and open to the public. The Rare Book and Manuscript Library will exhibit “ ‘Casino Royale’ and Beyond: 60 Years of Ian Fleming’s Literary Bond” weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 12 through July 12 in Room 346 of the library at 1408 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana. The Spurlock Museum will exhibit “Unconventional Bond: The Strange Life of ‘Casino Royale’ on Film” beginning April 16 through June 16. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, at 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music will exhibit “The James Bond Theme: Music to Live, Die and Love Another Day” from April 12, 2013, through March 14, 2014. The archives are open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed during the noon hour) weekdays except Wednesdays, when the hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed during the noon hour) at 1103 S. Sixth Street, Champaign.

Editor's note: For more information, contact Heather Murphy at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 217-333-3758;; Kim Sheahan at the Spurlock Museum, 217-244-3355;; Scott Schwartz at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music,

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