Identity Crisis


Our Daily Correspondent

Lois Maxwell, the original Miss Moneypenny.


“Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.” ―Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

In kindergarten, no one but Michael L. had actually seen a James Bond film. (Michael L., as opposed to Michaels A. and T., was very sophisticated, and his parents let him watch lots of movies.) But thanks to Michael L., we knew all about them: James Bond was a spy who wore a suit. He had girlfriends called Octopussy and Pussy Galore, presumably because he liked cats. He often said “Bond. James Bond,” and sometimes “007: License to Kill.” Armed with this information, we played James Bond every day at recess. Michael L. was always James Bond. My best friend was one of the cats; it varied. I was Moneypenny. 

This was similar to the roles I gave myself in other games—fairy godmother, best friend, C-3PO—but Moneypenny was the best. According to Michael L., she never had to “hug and kiss” Bond, but she was in every movie. This seemed to me the ideal compromise.

The next time I was Moneypenny was in college. It was Halloween and I had to throw together a last-minute costume. So I wore a cardigan and a skirt and carried a notepad and pencil, and nobody knew who I was (a few people guessed librarian) but I didn’t care. For the next ten years or so, whenever I needed to come up with a costume, I just wore my work clothes and was Moneypenny. It was much easier than working up a disguise.

Then, one New Year’s Eve, I was finally invited to a fancy, grown-up party with a 007 theme. I would, of course, go as Moneypenny. I dressed in a pencil skirt and a silk blouse and a pair of heels, and I felt pretty spiff. When I got there, everyone was in evening wear, looking very glamorous, and I was the only Moneypenny in the house. I think people probably thought I was underdressed, even though I was Bond’s right-hand woman. As I admired their gowns and the view, I realized I had never, in fact, actually seen a full Bond film. Maybe, it dawned on me, I wasn’t even really dressed as Moneypenny. After all, I had been taking a five-year-old’s word for it for an awfully long time.

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.