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The 50th anniversary celebration of the James Bond movie legacy was an Oscar’s highlight to me, personified by Shirley Bassey, still sultry in her 70s, and her powerful rendition of Goldfinger, emblematic of the Bond series and of an era when the power of gold still shone.

I wrote an essay rooted in those times, “All that Glitters,” which captures my own rendezvous with the gold vault at Fort Knox and the empty promises its symbolism held for me. You can find my essay by searching at http://www.chitlit.org for the title. Below is an excerpt:

“It was a cold late October night, four years later, as I hopped off the back of a military truck, my M14 rifle was handed down, and I reported for guard duty, marching the muddy perimeter fence at a mysterious place, the fabled United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

“A few months before, I’d completed my degree in journalism, at Bradley University. As I trudged shivering along the barbed wire-topped fence surrounding the dimly lit vault building, 50 yards over my shoulder, I could barely imagine how my own path had brought me to this odd place.

“Absentmindedly, I wondered if the inside of the nearby vault looked anything like it had been portrayed in the newest James Bond film, Goldfinger, filmed right here at Fort Knox just the year before? And, were there still mountains of 27-pound solid gold bars, some 4,600 tons worth, stacked only yards from my humble guard path, or had those billions long since been trucked away and dissipated into the world’s coffers, as had been rumored? I wondered what was true, and what was just illusion. I was so far from any answers.

“In another seven months, I’d leave Fort Knox, bringing along two very small gold bars of my own — worn on my shoulders. My little war story had begun.”

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I just returned from the Lake Geneva premiere of the newest and 50th anniversary James Bond film, Skyfall. It was a large crowd of filmgoers, perhaps as many as 25, for a late afternoon showing here. The theater auditorium has a capacity of several hundred, but today’s turnout was as much as 25 times normal.

For regular James Bond fans, the film contains several surprises, some right at the end, involving Q, M, Miss Moneypenny, and even a classic Aston Martin of Bond film fame.

Don’t miss Skyfall. It does…

The 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, which I watched again tonight, reminds us of a space program that was then exciting and new, and which has now been left to wilt on the vine by a U.S. government that seems more bent on war than on exploration.

Moonraker, written by Ian Fleming in 1954, was due to be filmed in ’73, but was not shot and released until 1979. Its release preceded the Space Shuttle by 2 years, though the film featured not less than six of the shuttles, and the manned space station featured in the film was not actually started until the core section was assembled in space in 1998.

The film also featured the supersonic Concorde passenger plane, showing a BA plane landing in Rio. The Rio service, via Paris, began in 1976, and the Concorde, of which 25 were built, flew from 1969 to 2000. Thus, the Space Shuttle and the Concorde featured in this 32 year-old movie, are no more, and only the Space Station, which began 19 years after the film and is not due to be finished until next year, remains. It is expected to fly until 2020, and possibly 2028, and maybe there will be a U.S. spacecraft capable of shuttling to it again before then.

It was a cold late October night as I hopped off the back of a truck, my carbine was handed down, and I reported for guard duty, marching the perimeter of the Gold Vault at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

A few months before, I’d been studying journalism at Bradley University, and as I trudged along the giant square chain link fence with the dimly-lit vault building over my shoulder, I wondered at how my path had led to this forlorn place, and if and when I’d find my way out to discover some glimmer of a brighter future. I wondered, too, if in reality the inside of the vault looked anything like it had been portrayed in the newest James Bond film, Goldfinger, filmed here just a year before. And, were there still mountains of gold only yards from my guard path? I was so near, yet so far, from the answers.

In another seven months, I’d leave this place, bringing along two gold bars of my own — on my shoulders. My own little war story had began.

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