Stuck, Ch. 11: The Virgin Hairs: The Association, “Never My Love”

by Akim Reinhardt

Stuck is a weekly serial appearing at 3QD every Monday through early April. The Prologue is here. The table of contents with links to previous chapters is here.

Forever is a long time.

When I was 8 years old, I vowed that I would never smoke a cigarette. Had my first one when I was 19 and smoked steadily for several years. Camels unfiltered.

At age 10, I made a pact with my best friend: under no circumstances would we ever do drugs. I don’t even know where to begin with that one; it’d be a whole separate book.

Circumstances change. People change. Everything within you changes, as does everything you are within. Oaths are so hard to keep that their ultimate meaning perhaps lies in the breaking. That life is not about our hopes and dreams, but the ways we turn them into lies.

At the alter of a Lutheran church in North Carolina, my paternal grandparents married forever in eyes of God. A couple of decades later, they got divorced. Then they married each other once more. Followed by yet another divorce.

The oath as a sling shot. The oath as a yo-yo.

No less than three times has Sean Connery sworn he was done playing James Bond. Beginning in 1962, he did five films in five years. He burned out, was unhappy with the pay, and worried about typecasting. So he quit the franchise for the first time in 1967 after You Only Live Twice.

Producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman did one Bond film without him, which flopped. They feared it might be the end of the franchise. They needed Connery back, but he loathed them. So they opened the vault, offering him a record setting payday, a guarantee to make two non-James Bond films with United Artists, and a clause in the contract ensuring Connery would not have to so much as talk to Broccoli or Saltzamn. He returned for 1971’s Diamonds are Forever.

Afterwards, Connery was even more adamant. Most of his old gripes had only hardened. He didn’t enjoy making and promoting the films; he believed the Bond movies were becoming mediocre (he was right); he still hated Broccoli and Saltzman; he still worried about typecasting and was eager to branch out as an actor before he got too old. He also didn’t need James Bond anymore. He was financially secure and eager to star in other pictures. Sean Connery now quit for the second time, publicly swearing that he’d made his last James Bond movie. Never again! he told the press.

Fast forward a dozen years. Connery’s 53 years old. A nice post-Bond run during the 1970s is winding down. Starring roles in hit movies are getting harder to come by. His big comeback Oscar for The Untouchables is still four years away.

Then a guy named Kevin McClory makes him an interesting offer.

A distant relative of the Bronte sisters and a former lover of Elizabeth Taylor, McClory possessed something no one else in the world did: the key to cracking producer Albert Broccoli’s James Bond movie monopoly (by then Saltzman was out of the picture, so to speak). McClory held film rights to a single James Bond title: Thunderball. The courts ruled that because he’d co-written with Ian Flemming the original story that eventually became the novel (1961) and film (1964), McClory could remake Thunderball under a different title. But it wouldn’t be easy.

McClory spent a decade going nowhere, unable to get his film off the ground. Broccoli maintained an iron grip on the franchise. He’d produced Bond films for 20 years and held the era’s established James Bond actor, Roger Moore, under contract. For a new version of Thunderball to be successful, or even viable, McClory had only one real play: somehow lure Connery back into the role he had twice publicly sworn off.

McClory was smart and determined. He’d been nurturing his relationship with Connery for years, paying him as a consultant for the would-be remake. They also bonded over their hatred of Brocolli. The enemy of my enemy . . .

McClory now offered the aging film star a big paycheck and creative control: $3 million, a piece of the profits, and script and cast approval. He also gave Connery a chance to turn the knife: a release date that would compete against the latest Roger Moore Bond movie (Octopussy), and cut into Brocolli’s profits.

It worked. Connery signed on to play 007 one last time. But what to call this remake?

Never Say Never Again.

The last time I truly swore something off, I was about 15 years old. I’d been shaving for a year or so. No electric. Just a single blade safety razor and a can of Barbasol. It didn’t take very long. Mostly a smattering of peach fuzz masquerading as mustache and chin hair. The sideburns were barely in. But that little bit just beneath the bottom lip gave me trouble.

On more than one occasion I cut myself right where the flap of skin above the chin approaches the lip. As a novice barber, I of course cut myself all over the place, little spots of cherry red blood blotting through the ripped drabs of toilet paper I pressed into my face afterwards. Just part of the learning curve. However, I found this particular spot not only prone to accidents, but also enormously irritating when hacked. And for what?

Fuck it. Just didn’t seem to be worth it. So I vowed to never again shave the hair in that spot.

So it is written, so it shall be done

The little patch grew with me into manhood. Unlike all the other hairs on my head, they were to be spared the blade. Eventually, the longer ones reached the bottom of my chin and a little beyond. When people would ask, I briefly explained with a shorthand moniker. They were the Virgin Hairs. Much like the curlies on my crotch, they had come in with puberty and were left to their own devices.

When I had a beard, which was much of the time, the scraggly Virgin Hairs would become entangled with the rest of my facial overgrowth. But when I shaved, they stood out, looking as if someone had badly botched a wire splicing job. Simply put, they looked like shit.

I was unmoved. There was nicotine in my lungs. Just about any illicit substance you could think of had coursed through my veins. Relationships I’d sworn off were recycled into tragicomic girlfriend sequels. I needed something. A rock of consistency. An eternal truth I could point to and depend upon, knowing it would bring a slender thread of meaning and righteousness to all my days upon this planet. I needed to know that my word meant something, no matter how trivial and frowzy the display of permanence. The Virgin Hairs remained.

And then one day I trimmed them.

Image result for young sean conneryIt was for a woman I was dating. She wanted to see me clean shaven. I could’ve said “Never, My Love.” Instead I just shaved my beard and mustache and then took scissors to the Virgin Hairs. Didn’t put them to the blade and reduce them to stubble. Just clipped them to about half their unrestrained length.

I am a liar, a thief, and a charlatan, a pitiful excuse for a man whose word is not worth the breath that slips from his mouth like quiet flatulence, a breaker of oaths who spins blessings into curses and swears only in vanity and sacrilege. I am the most impotent and irredeemable shape to ever bestride the Earth.

I am human.

Akim Reinhardt’s website is ThePublicProfessor.com.  He promises it will always be worth visiting.

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