written by John Surles
NASSAU, The Bahamas – I recently made a trip to Nassau to get rid of my winter blahs. Nassau holds a special interest for those of us Bond fans that believe Sean Connery is James Bond, and who will watch Sir Sean’s films over and over. Thunderball was filmed in and around Nassau, and for many of us Americans of modest means it became the first James Bond locale we were able to visit, in terms of affordability and safety.
I tracked down several sites from the Thunderball film, and I am afraid I must report that all is not well. While there is some good news that I will save for later, several of these treasured sites are being lost to weather, development and neglect.
I first visited the famous breakwater, where James Bond climbs out of the sea after being told by Domino of its location and it’s “keep away” status; it is also the launching point for Largo’s scuba team. The breakwater is located on the north shore of Paradise Island, and is part of the Atlantis Resort property, just to the west of the main pool area. The steps where Bond emerges from the water and walks under the concrete cover are easily accessible. The breakwater itself is suffering from deterioration due to erosion and the elements, and there is no evidence of maintenance of the structure. The bridge that spanned the canal in the movie is gone, having been replaced by a new, unremarkable structure. There is nothing on site that gives any hint of the location’s use in Thunderball.
Just to the west of the breakwater lies Paradise Beach, scene of the first meeting (above water) of Bond and Domino. They go ashore there, and Bond enjoys Domino’s company and some conch chowder at a seaside resort. Again, this beach is on the north side of Paradise Island and is located in front of the former Club Med property. I say former because the principal owner of the Atlantis Resort, Sol Kerzner, has purchased and closed down the Club Med site and some adjacent property leading up to Paradise Beach, fenced it off, put up “No Trespassing” signs, and cut down most of the trees. The road in, Casuarina Drive, has been closed and allows access only to construction workers and a couple of property owners who still have houses on the beach. The plans are to construct a huge hotel on-site, which will forever ruin the view of the beach for Bond fans.
A few miles to the west of Nassau, along the continuation of West Bay Street, sits a house known locally as Rock Point, but is better known to Thunderball fans as Palmyra, Largo’s estate with the two pools. The house sits on the road but, because it is privately owned, is not open to the public. Parts of the house are visible from the adjacent beach. It appears that the house (including the shark pool) has suffered severe storm damage, and part of the seawall and structure are crumbling and falling into the sea. It is indeed a shame to see the residence of the evil SPECTRE Number Two suffer so, and I hope that repairs will be made by the property owner so that this film location continues to exist in a recognizable form.
Continuing west along the same road, you will eventually come to the appropriately-named Love Beach, scene of Bond’s romantic liason with Domino and his telling her of her brother’s death at the hands of Largo. It is also where Bond shoots the spear gun at Vargas- “I think he got the point”. Unfortunately, Hurricane Floyd from a few years back wreaked havoc upon the beaches around this area of New Providence Island (upon which Nassau is located) and has made it impossible to identify the exact location along the beach that Bond first tasted a woman.
There is, however, some good news to be found in this report from Station B. A special scene in Thunderball is the Kiss-Kiss Club, where Bond dances with Fiona Volpe. The actual site for this was the Cafe Martinique, located on the southern edge of Paradise Lagoon on Paradise Island. This club was demolished as part of the construction of the Royal Towers at the Atlantis Resort. I am happy to report the Atlantis Resort has announced that Cafe Martinique will be re-built along the southern portion of the property, in a style that will allegedly recreate the atmosphere of the legendary club. How faithful this new club will be to the old remains to be seen, but it is indeed good news to see an effort to bring it back. It is one of my personal regrets to have not seen the original Cafe Martinique on one of my earlier trips to Nassau.
It is exciting to be able to walk along Bay Street and still see some of the sights from the movie’s Junkanoo Parade, including the ‘Perfume Shop’ whose sign appears in several shots along the route. For readers of Ian Fleming’s novel, it is a treat to find locations from the book. One can almost visualize Domino shooting down Parliament Street in her sapphire blue MG, making a quick left onto Bay (although these days, this section of Bay Street is one-way in the opposite direction) and pulling up in front of ‘The Pipe of Peace’, still located where Mr. Fleming encountered it over forty years ago.
There are many more treasures from both the film and literary versions of Thunderball, as well as other Bond stories and films, to be seen in and around the capital city of The Bahamas; however, I was not able to convince my lovely wife to venture too far, and too often, from our British Colonial Hotel (mentioned at the end of ‘Quantum of Solace’ from the novel For Your Eyes Only, and now a Hilton Hotel, and site of Bond’s meeting with the water-skiing Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again). So many Bond sites to see, so little time. I can confess that one of my dinners included an appetizer of caviar (unfortunately, not Beluga) and a medium-dry vodka martini, made with Russian or Polish vodka, shaken, not stirred, with a lemon twist. It was at this time that I resolved to return soon to Station B, and see some of the underwater film sites from several Bond films, and retrace more trips in and around Nassau from Ian Fleming’s wonderful novel. I also encourage you, the reader, to make a similar sight-seeing trip, whether to Nassau or elsewhere, to visit some of the Bond sites before they disappear. It is a great excuse to vacation in exotic locations and connect with your inner Bond.
This concludes my report.
Your faithful servant,