Roger Moore’s daugh­ter My kind, naughty, funny dad

When her fa­ther, Roger Moore, broke his col­lar­bone, she never ex­pected to lose him, Deborah Moore tells Chrissy Iley.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

Imeet Deborah Moore in an el­e­gant old-school ho­tel in Knights­bridge, Lon­don. It must have been the bee’s knees in the 1980s. It’s the one that her fa­ther, Roger Moore, used to love. In fact, she’s sit­ting in the ex­act same seat in the ex­act same cock­tail lounge where I last met Roger about 18 months ago. We’re here to talk about her fa­ther’s last book, À Bien­tôt... At the time of writ­ing it, he had no idea it was a full-on “à bien­tôt” (“bye for now”) be­cause he felt very alive, very him­self, very switched on, al­ways jok­ing. “Who is this fella in the mir­ror?” He didn’t feel as if he was in his 90th year. He’d say, “What is old age?

Does it de­fine us? Where did the time go?”

The book is pi­quant, nos­tal­gic. His hum­ble eat-all-the-left­overs be­gin­nings in South Lon­don, his years as The Saint and then as James Bond. He laughs at him­self, never moans, as Deborah con­cludes in the for­ward to her fa­ther’s book.

He was al­ways op­ti­mistic, al­ways hi­lar­i­ous, and know­ing him the lit­tle I did made the op­ti­mism and in­ti­macy of his pages feel par­tic­u­larly sad. For Deborah, though, it’s been ridicu­lously painful. Sit­ting in her “fa­ther’s chair” with her an­gled fea­tures and danc­ing eyes, she looks very much like him. She’s tall and in­cred­i­bly thin be­cause the past year has taken its toll.

The last time I sat with Roger Moore in this bar, peo­ple kept try­ing to give him mar­ti­nis that were shaken not stirred, à la Bond, but he had been di­a­betic since 2013 and drank Coke Zero in­stead.

Roger Moore was my favourite Bond. He didn’t take him­self se­ri­ously, was won­der­ful com­pany, with bril­liant bad jokes. I tell Deborah she must be very pleased that she had him as her fa­ther. “I know,” she says, nod­ding, tears fall­ing for the first but not last time dur­ing our meet­ing. “One of the most won­der­ful fathers a girl could ever wish for. He was the kind­est, most honourable, most moral gen­tle­man, with a naughty sense of hu­mour. I was blessed. I miss him very, very much. And the book – his last tome, as he called it – is such a lovely read, even though it was heart­break­ing when I was read­ing the fi­nal part of it.”

In the fi­nal part, he says he thinks he’s got many years left. “None of us thought he wasn’t go­ing to see his 90th birthday

[Oc­to­ber 14 this year; he died on May 23].” In the first chap­ter, Roger rem­i­nisces about his mother’s ap­ple pies, how he never found one to sur­pass it. He re­veals one of the ben­e­fits of get­ting old is that even the most medi­ocre of cooks can please be­cause all food tastes okay. “Ex­cept he could never find any­one to bet­ter his mother’s cook­ing,” says Deborah. “I used to call my grand­mother the best rice pud­ding maker in the world. We all grew up on that as kids, tra­di­tional English food – sponge tri­fle, toad in the hole. And then my mother was Ital­ian, so I grew up be­ing spoilt with food.”

Deborah doesn’t ap­pear to have a York­shire pud­ding and pasta fig­ure. “I stopped eat­ing su­gar in my 30s and also I lost a lot of weight this year, with Dad be­ing ill,” she says. “I was back and forth to Switzer­land [where he had lived with his fourth wife, Kristina, for the past 15 years]. Grief is weird. It just com­pletely cuts out your ap­petite. I was eat­ing, but I was not hun­gry, ever. It wasn’t de­lib­er­ate.

“He was di­ag­nosed just af­ter Christ­mas 2016. He had a tiny tu­mour on his liver about five years ago. They got rid of it, but it came back. It wasn’t the same type of tu­mour. It was in his lung and his liver. He started treat­ment, but then there was a month where he fell and hurt his col­lar­bone, so they had to stop his treat­ment un­til he got bet­ter be­cause he wasn’t able to lift his arms up to go into the scan. So it was long, drawn out. He was in­cred­i­ble. He never once com­plained about any­thing apart from the hospi­tal food. He found it very dif­fi­cult to eat. We took things in that we thought he would like, but he lost weight be­cause the treat­ment makes you so nau­seous and you have no ap­petite. The doc­tors kept say­ing, ‘You must put some weight on to con­tinue this treat­ment, oth­er­wise you’ll get weaker and weaker.’ It was tough. He just couldn’t eat.”

Did he know he was dy­ing? She shakes her head. “He car­ried on with the treat­ment for sev­eral months. March... April... I don’t think he knew he was go­ing to die in May, but the tu­mour just grew and grew.”

Did she know in May? Deborah nods. “Yes. He didn’t know. He didn’t want to know. He said, ‘I don’t want to be de­pressed. Just tell me what’s the next step?’ The doc­tors would come in and say, ‘We’ll con­tinue with this treat­ment. You’ve got to eat, then you’ll get stronger, oth­er­wise you’re not go­ing to be able to go home.’

“But he just couldn’t eat. He must have re­alised at some point he was not go­ing to get bet­ter.

But he didn’t say any­thing.”

There are tears rolling down her face now. “Sorry, it’s just bring­ing me back to that aw­ful room,” she says. “He didn’t want any­one to know. Every­one just thought he’d hurt his col­lar­bone and was be­ing treated for that, but I knew.

“He fin­ished the book two weeks be­fore he died. The pub­lish­ers [Michael O’Mara] are a lovely team and I said I would write a for­ward. Dad and I used to talk about all kinds of things. We had a con­ver­sa­tion in hospi­tal in Fe­bru­ary where I said, ‘Dad, isn’t it weird get­ting old?’

“He said, ‘I go and look in the mir­ror and think who the f*** is that? I’m 89, but I still feel like I’m 25.’ We talked about it and I think we all feel a much younger age in our head. I’ve al­ways been hon­est about my age [she’s just turned 54]. I al­ways found it weird that peo­ple say they’re younger than they are.”

Yet she dreaded her birthday this year be­cause it was a re­minder of last year’s, when she and her fa­ther went to Scott’s in May­fair, one of his favourite restau­rants. “We’d al­ways go there, just the two of us.” Deborah can hardly speak for tears. “It just doesn’t feel like he’s not around. I just can’t be­lieve it. I hear his voice all the time, he’s al­ways with me.”

Deborah and her broth­ers Ge­of­frey and Chris­tian were all born in Lon­don. When Deborah was in her teens, they moved to Switzer­land be­cause the then Labour gov­ern­ment had im­posed such high tax­a­tion. She came back at 17 for drama school and has been work­ing in the in­dus­try ever since.

Her par­ents di­vorced when she was 37 and while she agrees they prob­a­bly waited un­til the chil­dren had grown up, she says, “It doesn’t mat­ter what age you are, a child or an adult, it still hurts. Es­pe­cially when you see the suf­fer­ing my mum went through be­cause he’d moved on and she hadn’t.” Her mother, Luisa, lives in Switzer­land with her son, Ge­of­frey. Roger’s wife, Kristina, is bear­ing up with her fam­ily and friends around her.

In July 2016, Kristina’s daugh­ter, known as Flossie, died of cancer, aged 47. “It’s been a tough two years for ev­ery­body,” says Deborah. Roger was close to Flossie and writes about her loss in the book, but he tries not to get maudlin.

He’d rather joke about things like, “If I get into the bath, will I ever get out of it again?”

“His mind was as sharp as a ra­zor blade,” says Deborah. “There wasn’t any sign of de­men­tia or dool­lal­ly­ism. He had the mem­ory of an ele­phant. He would get up early in the morn­ing and go for a walk un­til his knees gave up, but he was still do­ing his ex­er­cises un­til Christ­mas. Push-ups, sit-ups in the morn­ings. He was al­ways try­ing to be as ac­tive as pos­si­ble and he worked do­ing all kinds of things for

UNICEF. My dad and Au­drey Hep­burn were the first celebri­ties to get on board. “He al­ways used to cook Christ­mas lunch. His chicken curry was quite ex­tra­or­di­nary – it had ev­ery­thing you could throw in it. At Christ­mas, he would al­ways say, ‘Deborah dar­ling, can you go to the su­per­mar­ket and buy Paxo for my stuff­ing?’ I’d ar­rive and there’d al­ready be 20 car­tons of Paxo from 2001, but he’d keep ask­ing me to bring more. He was a Paxo hoarder – in fact, he was a hoarder of ev­ery­thing.

“When he was in the chemist, he wouldn’t get one pack of aspirin. He would get 10, just in case he ran out. Once I cut my fin­ger and asked him for plas­ters. He darted into his bath­room, opened his cup­board and it was like a hospi­tal – there were so many plas­ters.” Deborah is laugh­ing now. You can tell talk­ing about him like this makes him feel more alive to her.

Of all of his chil­dren, Deborah is per­haps the most sim­i­lar to her fa­ther. “Sim­ple things give us plea­sure,” she says. “Dad was not into ma­te­ri­al­is­tic things and I’m not ei­ther. We both have a naughty sense of hu­mour. I would love to be as kind-hearted as he was. He never had a bad word to say about any­body. I don’t have his pa­tience. I’ve got Ital­ian blood in me, which is a bit fiery.

“I’m close to my mum, but I was much closer to my fa­ther grow­ing up. I was quite ter­ri­fied of my mum. She was a proper Ital­ian mamma – bossy. She was a very strong woman. I’m close to my broth­ers. We’ve al­ways been a very close fam­ily, even if we don’t live in the same place. WhatsApp is a won­der­ful thing.”

At her fa­ther’s funeral, Roger showed his child­ish hu­mour from the other side. A mari­achi band played all the Bond theme tunes. It made all the mourn­ers laugh through their tears.

ABOVE: Roger Moore and his daugh­ter Deborah in the early 1970s. OP­PO­SITE: Roger and Deborah at his Lon­don home in 1987.

FROM ABOVE: Roger with his wife, Luisa, and two of their chil­dren, Ge­of­frey and Deborah, at the pre­miere of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977; Deborah and her dad in 1998; the pair in Italy in 1986; out­side Lan­gan’s Brasserie, a favourite eatery of the rich and fa­mous in May­fair, in 1981.

To­gether in the 1990 film Bulls­eye! BE­LOW: On the red car­pet at Cannes in 2004.

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