Al Broccoli's family chest has a stalk of broccoli across the shield. That's because Al Broccoli's uncle Pasquale was the first man to bring to America "the now beloved vegetable that became the family name." This is a quote from Al Broccoli's bio sheet.
Maybe you never heard of Al Broccoli. You heard of James Bond, right? Well, Al Broccoli brought you James Bond. He is the producer of all 11 James Bond movies, every one, from Sean Connery to Roger Moore, from "Dr. No" in the Kennedy era to this summer's "Moonraker," which cost Broccoli $33 million, a real bundle, you better believe it. But that's okay.
"We're purely entertainment vendors.We sell laughs," says Al Broccoli, 70.
Yesterday, while it poured outside, the laugh vendor and nephew of the broccoli introducer sat high and dry in the coffee shop of the Madison, munching a Danish and struggling to explain "The magic" of James Bond, which he feels can be likened to the appeal of Tarzan, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes. He was at a loss, though, to say what that magic is.
He also grumbled-"I hope you don't mind me being frank," he said-about the frankly lousy attitude of much of the press, whose first question is always, "How long can this goddam thing go on? Why don't you have a Bond flop?"
It's strange, Al Broccoli said, wagging his huge head. "What are we doing? We're entertaining people. We're PG rated. Believe me, he said, "we live in a world today where we really need one another." Al Broccoli said this fidgeting with the volume of his Panasonic tape recorder. Al Broccoli always tape records his interviews. Now so much for questions of accuracy, just to have a record.
He looked like a mogul, all right, what with his great tycoon's stomach, his beige-on-beige monogrammed clothes, his swept silvered hair, his Wilshire Boulevard glasses, his gold signet ring which bears the broccoli crest.
Heck, you didn't have to know he was staying in the same ninth-floor suite last year during the Egy;tian-Israeli peace talks to know that this wasn't just anybody, this was Somebody.
He got a little testy about whether James Bond was passe, kaupt, a phantasmagoria of another decade. Anybody who knew a fig about Bond film history could tell you the series has asteadily escalated in popularity, he said. In fact, "Moonraker" is on its way to being the all-time Bond blockbuster, outgrossing even "The Spy Who Loved Me." The current gross figures for the United States and Canada are "around $48 or $49" million, he said. (This week's Variety lists "Moonraker's" total to date, based on 22 cities, as $11,928,285.)
He also got a little testy about whether Sean Connery was the better Bond. "There are horses for courses," he said. Sean Connery hated the Bond role, felt it was cheapening him as an actor, Roger Moore loves the role.
Al Broccoli, whom intimates call Chubby, is not the kind of producer to watch his movies being made from afar, the guy who gets up the money and then smokes fat cigars. It says so right there on his bio sheet: "It's not uncommon to see the great man roll up his sleeves to lend a helping hand with some quite menial task . . .He takes an almost childlike delight in ripping pages from his script as the various scenes are recorded on celluloid. . ."
He made an arty film once: "The Trials of Oscar Wilde," released in the late '50s. "Didn't make any money, old boy.No money," Al Broccoli said. The film won a few awards in England and in Moscow and was condemned by the Legion of Decency, he said. "That indicates to me we were 15 to 20 years ahead of our time."
Like the sale of Mcdonald's burgers, the Bond statistics are in the ozonosphere: Over 1 billion admissions so far, says a United Artists PR man. Will there be more Bonds to come? Does a shark swin in the sea? You can count on it, said Al Broccoli.
"I'm still a hustler, like everyone else in this world. And proud of it. "Cause you gotta be a hustler to survive."