North by East
The real 007 had a thing for birds — and Maine, the unsolved case of Portland’s missing mascot, and more.
Cartoon by Jeff Pert
From Northeast Harbor, With Love
The real 007 had a thing for birds — and the Pine Tree State.
You know the name. Bond, James Bond. You know how he likes his martinis (shaken not stirred), his women (scantily dressed), and his cars (very fast). His exploits foiling SPECTRE agents bent on blowing up the world and saving the U.S. gold reserve at Fort Knox from aerial terrorists have been well documented. What you may not know is that the real James Bond — the man whose name author Ian Fleming borrowed for his British super spy — was a mild-mannered ornithologist who authored the definitive guide to the birds of Acadia National Park and achieved a quantum of fame as the discoverer of the first breeding pair of Cape May warblers in Maine.
An avid birdwatcher himself, Fleming had a copy of Bond’s field guide, Birds of the West Indies, on hand as he wrote Casino Royale, the first book in the series. “When I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought, by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard,” Fleming said in the New Yorker. “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”
The name and its origin suit the character well, according to Graham Rye, editor of 007 Magazine. “It’s short, sharp, and to the point.” He points out that the fictional Bond was an avid bird watcher — of sorts — as well. “It is kind of curious and rather apt that James Bond was named after an ornithologist, a ‘bird fancier.’ In 1960s British slang a ‘bird’ was a teenage girl or woman (who was usually sexually attractive) — so you can see the appropriation of the ornithologist’s name was really quite appropriate.”
The Bond who spent decades coming to Northeast Harbor left a lasting impression with his research into the ornithology of Acadia. According to Rich MacDonald of Bar Harbor’s Natural History Center, Bond’s study, The Native Birds of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, has endured for more than seventy years as the most extensive and important guide to birds on the island.
The Maine Bond passed away in 1989, but MacDonald has taken it upon himself to update the marquee guides, like a new actor stepping into a role made a famous by another movie star. “[Bond] did a great job,” MacDonald admits. “He was methodical and careful. There’s pressure, but I want to live up to the standards that he set.” Here’s hoping Rich MacDonald can be the Roger Moore to James Bond’s Sean Connery.
The unsolved case of the Portland’s missing mascot has tongues wagging.
The mythical phoenix is said to be a colorful bird that dies in a blaze of fire every millennium only to be reborn from its own ashes. Because of the four nearly catastrophic fires that devastated Portland in the nineteenth century, it’s no wonder that the bird became the city’s emblem or that a wood carving of the legendary firebird perches atop 188 Middle Street, as a symbol of its many resurgences. The carving is a well-known artifact of Portland history, but controversy erupted when it seemed to disappear for a period, only to reemerge as a hollow, fiberglass replica of its former self.
The former Canal Bank paid for the construction of a grand wooden phoenix after the Great Fire of 1866 burned down the bank’s original building. The carving remained within the building for more than 130 years. According to Andy Graham, president of Creative Portland and the person who initiated the search for the original carving. “There are few really great pieces of folk art like this in Portland.”
Around 2004, when KeyBank moved the statue to its Monument Square branch, Graham realized there was something amiss. “I didn’t think about it for a long time,” he says. “Then I walked into the Monument Square branch one day and I saw this gold painted plastic phoenix, and it was very weird,” he says. “It was mind boggling that [the historic emblem] would just disappear and be replaced by something so obviously fake looking.” Graham tried to locate the original carving and found other equally curious souls, including historian William David Barry at the Maine Historical Society. “That bird now is not the bird I knew and loved,” Barry insists.
KeyBank begs to differ. Recently, Mike Pizzo, an employee of the company for thirty-eight years, found a copy of a Canal Bank newsletter from December 1972 that explained the carving was sent to Connecticut for restoration. The phoenix returned scarcely resembling its former self. “A more rotten turkey I have never seen,” wrote the Connecticut craftsman charged with restoring the bird’s faded plumage. Pizzo is one of few to see the carving in its past and present iterations and claims it’s been the same since its only known restoration in 1973. “If someone was to take that whole thing apart they’d find some of the original wood in there somewhere. How much, though, I don’t know.”
Case closed? Not according to conspiracy theorists. Barry points out that in 1976 he co-curated an exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art that featured the phoenix. It was at this show where Graham first laid eyes on the carving — three years after the restoration. So while Mike Pizzo and Robert Cote, the current facilities manager at KeyBank, insist the emblem has remained untouched for decades, both Graham and Barry claim to have seen a grander, more majestic, version in Canal Plaza as recently as the 1990s.
Unfortunately, no photos have surfaced between the restoration of 1973 and the phoenix’s move in 2004, leaving the matter unsettled. Is the original bird still in there somewhere, hidden beneath undocumented plastic surgeries? Or is there another copy in a private collection as Graham fears? We’re left to wonder if this is the phoenix legend come to fruition. The bird, ending its life cycle, burned in a blaze of glory, only to be born anew from the ashes in the Monument Square KeyBank.
Maine’s Exotic Island
An old story gains new life on Isle au Haut.
When you imagine an exotic island, you probably picture palm trees, fine white sand, turquoise lagoons, and, if you’re susceptible to clever television ad campaigns, an ice-cold bottle of Corona beer. Imagine the surprise then for residents of Isle au Haut, on the east side of Penobscot Bay, when word began to spread that Frommer’s had selected their tiny island as one of its “Top Ten Exotic Island Destinations” in the world. “There was a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of people were surprised about it,” says Joshua Weed, a captain at the island’s ferry and mail boat service. “Absolutely people were talking about it.”
Home to a mere forty year-round residents, Isle au Haut is an undoubtedly beautiful island, but one whose rocky cliffs, blanketing fog, and lack of posh hotels and eateries set it apart from more tourist-friendly destinations like Hawaii, Guadalupe, and Tobago. “People were asking where this came from,” Weed says. “Tahiti together with Isle au Haut?”
Holly Hughes, coauthor of Frommer’s 500 Extraordinary Islands, the book from which the list originated, offers a defense. “You can expand what the term exotic means. It can also mean going back to a way of life that we’ve since lost,” she says, explaining the island’s original selection.
Whatever the rationale, excitement and alarm spread across Isle au Haut after the news was reported on a resident’s Facebook page. Kate Hotchkiss Taylor relayed the island’s reaction for the Working Waterfront, a paper that reports news from Maine’s offshore islands. Her article led, in turn, to a story in the Bangor Daily News. The media attention began to worry some, according to Taylor. “There was an element of concern,” she says. “One person emailed me after the story that was absolutely horrified. Another person said, ‘Isle au Haut is now ruined.’ ”
All the worry and excitement turned out to be unwarranted after someone pointed out that the Frommer’s list was, in fact, two years old and had provoked nary a tourist during its run in print. It recently resurfaced because of an error in, of all places, the online travel section for the Toronto Star. The paper incorrectly stated that the list had recently been compiled when it had actually appeared in 2010.
“This will be good for some people to know, and helps describe why we haven’t gotten any new hits on our Web site,” Weed says after hearing the news.
Isle au Haut residents can rest easy knowing the ranking didn’t provoke an unmanageable influx of tourists. Better still, Frommer’s just put out a new list titled 10 Extraordinary Islands, and this time Isle au Haut didn’t make the cut. To some publicity-shy islanders, this will be cause enough to pop open a Corona.
No Place Like Home
The world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia finds a home in Camden.
Who knew that the Yellow Brick Road leads to Penobscot Bay? We were as surprised as anyone to learn that a collector of all things Oz has decided to make Camden a showplace for his treasure trove. With more than a hundred thousand items in his possession, Willard Carroll has amassed the world’s largest and most valuable collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia. Within the next two years, an unassuming former furniture workshop on route 105 will become a Wizard of Oz museum.
Included in Carroll’s archives are wonders sure to make any Munchkin’s heart melt with delight: the Wicked Witch’s terrifying hourglass; Dorothy’s gingham dress; original conceptual drawings for the 1939 movie sets; and the most complete remaining costume from the film — that of the green Munchkin of the Lollipop Guild. “That’s everything, including the underwear,” Carroll says.
Carroll has been collecting Oz artifacts since the age of ten after he received a Dorothy puppet with a bar of Procter & Gamble soap. He quickly completed the set — adding the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion — and never stopped searching for new items. In 2001 he even authored a book titled I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog who was Toto. “I used to watch the movie from my rocking horse as a kid with my family,” Caroll says. “This [collection] is all partially just connecting those childhood memories.”
Carroll and his partner, Tom Wilhite, are newcomers to Maine. They fell in love with the state during a festival celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Peyton Place. It’s only been a few years, but already the pair have bold plans. They have commissioned architectural students at the Rhode Island School of Design to draw up plans to turn the former furniture shop into a children’s center and Oz museum. Meanwhile, Carroll is writing an opera in conjunction with the Bay Chamber Concerts based on Baum’s fifth Oz book, The Road to Oz.
If everything goes as planned, Willard Carroll might just become Camden’s own great and powerful wizard.