Website last updated: 11-7-2019

Exclusive report from George Lazenby's return to Portugal

By: Mark Cerulli
Published:
2019-06-09
George Lazenby OHMSS50 Portugal
I’m not one to go on group tours. My wife and I usually like to go our own way, on our own schedule. But when I heard that On the Tracks of 007 was hosting a 50th Anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Tour of Portugal WITH James Bond actor George Lazenby and Terry Mountain, there was no question, I was going. The country has a very special place in my heart as my wife is from Portugal and I’ve been visiting for 30 years. I HAD to be there.

The trip exceeded my expectations – the host, Martijn Mulder was warm and welcoming and the star of the trip, George Lazenby was in an upbeat mood, very forthcoming with story after story about his amazing career and – of course – making On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Above all, he was accessible – happy to sit and have a drink with you, or sit next to you at dinner. George is the most down-to-earth celebrity you’ll ever meet, not a whiff of ego or “I’m a star” about him. Two other members of the film’s cast were also on hand – lovely Sylvana Henriques, who played the Jamaican Girl in OHMSS (and also was a main title model in 1967's You Only Live Twice) and Terence Mountain – the villainous “Rafael” who famously fought the new Bond on the beach. I had met them all before, but this was a chance to spend time with them, and get to know them a bit. Sylvana was full of good cheer (and her delightful husband Robert was a hoot!)

Sylvana Henriques with husband Robert Puddy at the Palacio Hotel
Sylvana Henriques with husband Robert Puddy at the Palacio Hotel. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

The third VIP guest, Terry Mountain, was a gentle giant – happy to talk about shooting the epic fight sequence that opened OHMSS, or about being an extra in his very first film, The Hill (1964), standing ten feet from Sean Connery. (Five years later, playing one of Blofeld’s guards, Terry would be on the receiving end of scalpels thrown by Connery in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever.)

The tour included multiple locations from the film – the lush Palacio de dos Marqueses de Frontiera Gardens where Bond and Tracy’s relationship develops – actually part of a private trust and so tucked away outside Lisbon that my wife’s family had no idea it was there!

The Lisbon jewelry store where Bond buys Tracy’s engagement ring – still run by the same family as when the film was made, the exterior virtually unchanged since 1968. They provided Port wine (with glasses arranged to spell out “007”) and told tour members to come back – “Not to buy, just for a hug.” Truly lovely people.

The Lisbon jewelry store featured in OHMSS
The Lisbon jewelry store featured in OHMSS - then and now. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

A real highlight (for me) was Guincho Beach where George shrugged off a veritable sand storm, whipped up by unusually high winds, to stage a brief “recreation” of his fight with Terry, with brisk waves serving as a background. Terry confided that before cameras rolled, a production crewmember gave each of them a large shot of brandy – to fight off the surf’s icy chill. I had been to Guincho many times, but to stand there WITH Bond and Rafael, was truly epic. (I recall George saying, “I haven’t been on this beach in a while...”) He posed for photos and talked about how he drove the Aston down onto the beach. (“They put boards under the sand.”) Martijn found a pair of plastic slippers and handed them to George so he could say his iconic line – “This never happened to the other fella…” What a spectacular 15 minutes of Bond history-in-the-making!

Guincho beach - site of On Her Majesty’s iconic pre-credits fight sequence
Guincho beach - site of On Her Majesty’s iconic pre-credits fight sequence. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

The base camp for the tour was Estoril’s magnificent Hotel Palacio, which looks much as it did during production. Incredibly several staff members seen in the film are STILL working there – the head concierge, José Diogo (who, as a 17-year-old, handed Bond his room key in the film) and José Afonso, the legendary doorman. Both men were happy to pose for photos and seemed to enjoy all the attention. They treated George with respect and he returned it, obliging them with photos and signatures. (As an American, where one can be fired from a job at will, I was somewhat envious of José and José’s six-decades of job security!)

Jose Diogo reunited with George Lazenby
Another impromptu scene recreation in the lobby of the Hotel Palacio. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

The Palacio’s Head Concierge José Diogo gets an autograph from George Lazenby
The Palacio’s Head Concierge, José Diogo, gets an autograph from George - 50 years after handing Bond his room key. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

On Saturday night, On the Tracks of 007 held a gala dinner with George, Terry and Sylvana and all the tour members in the Palacio’s elegant ballroom. A special guest was Chris Sainty, the UK Ambassador to Portugal and close to 100 members of the UK diplomatic corps. There was a live orchestra and a local singer who performed a very respectable rendition of the timeless Bond theme song, “We Have All The Time In The World”. After that, a DJ played music and when a female tour member asked for a dance, George Lazenby jumped up and got on the dance floor like a boss. At 79, his appetite for life is undiminished and after spending a few days with him, it’s easy to see how he and ONLY he could have landed the coveted role of 007 – George has charisma and confidence enough for any ten people!

George Lazenby dancing at Palacio Hotel in Estoril
Lazenby gets down - on the dance floor at the Palacio. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Before the dinner commenced, there was a cocktail party on the Palacio’s back lawn, complete with a beautiful 1969 Aston Martin DBS that Martijn tracked down through a Portuguese classic car club. (George later signed the glove box of the car for the proud owners.) Local press turned up in droves to snap photos of George – and the Bond fans snapping photos of themselves with the car! A number of local celebrities all wanted their photos taken with The Man – who happily obliged. Fortunately a limited number of dinner tickets became available so my wife could take several family members. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law are NOT die-hard Bond fans by any stretch, but you can bet each wanted their photo taken with George!

George meets the press with an Aston Martin
George meets the press - with a familiar car. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Terry Mountain, George Lazenby and George's manager Anders Frejdh at Hotel Palacio in Estoril
Terry Mountain, George Lazenby and George's manager, Anders Frejdh, at Hotel Palacio in Estoril. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

On the tour’s final day, Martijn pulled out all the stops – with a rare visit to Zambujal, the iconic private estate where Bond married during the film. Riding in the van with George, his manager Anders Frejdh (one of the architects behind the OHMSS50 tour together with Martijn and Markus Hartmann from Switzerland) and Terry, we crossed the 25 de Abril Bridge exactly the way Bond did in the film – this time there was no knife to George’s belly! George even sang a few bars of “We Have All The Time In The World” as we drove – priceless!

George Lazenby crossing the 25 de Abril Bridge for the first time in 50 years
George Lazenby crossing the 25 de Abril Bridge for the first time in 50 years. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Terry Mountain recalling the Beach Fight on the way to Zambujal
Terry Mountain recalling the Beach Fight on the way to Zambujal. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Once in Setubal, we took the “scenic route” – a bumpy dirt road that seemed to go for miles – it was the back way into the estate. The front entrance leads to a bridge that had been struck by lightening and was unusable. Once on the estate, George seemed to be taking it all in, reliving the many memories that location held for him – and posing for more photos.

The Herdade Do Zambujal estate where James Bond marries Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
The Herdade Do Zambujal estate where James Bond marries Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Host Martijn Mulder tries to jog George’s memory at the Drago Estate’s private bull ring
Host Martijn Mulder tries to jog George’s memory at the Drago Estate’s private bull ring. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

After lunch at a local seafood restaurant on the docks of Setubal (where I got a shy waitress to hand George a beer saying, “This is for you, Mr. Bond...”) it was on to the final location – the lonely stretch of highway where Blofeld kills Tracy in the film. I give Martijn mad props for finding this spot – it’s literally a small rest area in a national park that one could easily drive by without a second glance. The view of the Atlantic stretching out below was stunning. Touchingly, George FaceTimed his young son so he could see the location as well. As you can imagine, the entire group wanted photos of the highway, the rest stop, the ocean and, of course, George! The surprise end of the tour was provided by a scowling motorcycle cop who didn’t seem happy that a huge tour bus had stopped in HIS rest area or that tourists were all over the place, snapping photos of HIS highway! He flashed his lights and began angrily gesturing – “Get Out!” As we clambered aboard the van and bus, more motorcycle cops arrived, lights flashing – what a way to end the journey! (Although this was only Phase 1 of the OHMSS tour, which reconvened a few days later in Switzerland.)

George Lazenby taking in the stunning view of the film’s final location
George Lazenby taking in the stunning view in the film’s final location. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

George answering more questions at the Tracy Death Scene location
George answering more questions at the Tracy Death Scene location. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Local police escort the tour group out of the final location
“That’s a wrap!” Local police escort the tour group out of the final location. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Along with a rare opportunity to hang with George, Terry and Sylvana was the chance to meet all the wonderful Bond fans from Germany, Brazil, the UK, Rochester, NY and elsewhere – over 17 countries in all. There was bonding over drinks, meals and shared experience. If nothing else, this trip proved friendship truly is the best Bond of all.

Photo on top
Tour Guests and Behind the Scenes Architects - Terry Mountain, Markus Hartmann, the one & only George Lazenby, Anders Frejdh and Martijn Mulder. Photo by Mark Cerulli.

Articles in the press about the Portuguese part of the OHMSS50 tour


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