Ken Baxter Is James Bond

 James Bond, Daniel Craig

The name Ken Baxter may not mean anything to you, but it could all have been so different for Baxter nearly landed the role of James Bond on no less than three occasions. Luke Quantrill traveled to Huddersfield, where Baxter now works as a security guard in the city's world famous Everything For A Pound Shop to uncover one of the great untold stories in the long running series. Here in his own words is Baxter's extraordinary story.

'In 1968 I was working as a Red Coat in the Butlins complex at Minehead. I did a ten minute cabaret slot in the evening mostly for the pensioners. A song, some jokes and a few impressions. I'd say the impressions were the weakest part of my act. I could only do Frank Spencer and he hadn't been invented yet. Anyway, one night after my set I was unblocking the toilets backstage and someone handed me a note. Believe it or not it was from Cubby Broccoli, the famous producer of the James Bond films. Mr Broccoli and his family loved Butlins and made a point of taking a long weekend in one of the many camps located around the country at least once every summer. He'd seen the act and in his note he suggested I attend the auditions being held on Monday morning in London to find a replacement for Sean Connery. In the note he said that I shouldn't worry too much about what would be required. It would simply be a ten minute reading and I'd just have to hit a stuntman over the head with a bottle and order a café complet. As you could imagine I wasn't quite myself over the weekend. Usually, I'd clean out the chalets on D-Wing and sort out the bins but I thought; I'm James Bond. Let someone else do it. Of course I was getting ahead of myself but I knew I had a good chance.

Roger Moore, James Bond

A 1970's publicity photo of Ken Baxter

On Monday morning I took the train down to London, giddy with excitement. I didn't have a tuxedo but I'd managed to borrow a waiter's uniform complete with bow-tie from a friend who worked in a local Indian Restaurant. It was pink and I got some funny looks on the train but it was the best that I could do. When I arrived at Eon's London Offices I immediately felt slightly foolish when I saw the neverending queue of tuxedo clad men waiting outside for their audition. Some had replica Walther PPKs and one man was dressed in a Scuba Diving suit. How he got up the stairs in those flippers I'll never know. Nine hours later I finally got my foot in the door, so to speak, and was asked to make my way to the third floor where the actual tests were being held. It was a complete disaster from start to finish. I couldn't remember my line and then hit Harry Saltzman over the head with a bottle by mistake. I was told that they'd let me know but I didn't hear back from them and then, a few weeks later, it was announced that George Lazenby had been given the part. My Bond dream was over and, disillusioned with showbusiness, I went back home and set up a small company that helped to rehabilitate Driving Instructors and ease them back into society. It was rewarding but money was tight and I missed the fame and excitement. I applied for my old job at Butlins but then, fate struck, or it seemed. Lazenby was out after one film so once again I was on the train back to London.

If anything the sight that greeted me was even crazier. One man had brought his girlfriend along covered in gold paint. Or so it appeared. It was actually custard! Another fellow arrived in an Aston Martin and attracted the attention of a Traffic Warden who immediately had it towed away. I'd dressed for the part this time and had hired a tuxedo from a fancy dress shop. Money was a problem at that time so everything was rented, including my underwear. My socks were my own but I still had two installments to pay on them. I was determined to give a sensational test this time. My wife Pat had written the café complet line down on a piece of paper so I wouldn't forget it. As the queue whittled down I studied it intently. So intently in fact that I inadvertently passed Eon's Offices and ended up ordering a café complet in a small shop selling Penguin themed candles. Then I hit the manager over the head with a beaker of Um Bongo. I don't know if you've ever spent six days in a Police Station but it can be a bit wearing. I'd blown it again and Sean Connery was persuaded to step into my shoes. My Bond dream seemed to finally be over for good. 
Reluctantly I returned to the real world and went through a series of mundane jobs. I became a Thimble salesman and then a Talent Scout for a company that sold Bruce Forsyth memorabilia. You name it I did it. Like everyone else I watched Diamonds Are Forever at the Pictures in 1971. If only they knew. It could so easily have been me up there on the screen. But fate can be a funny thing. Connery decided not to return so once again I picked up my rented tuxedo and got the train down to London for what I felt sure was my destiny. I arrived at Eon's Offices with plenty of time to spare and sat down to eat the sandwiches my wife Pat had made for me. This time around everything seemed strangely deserted but eventually groups of smartly dressed men began to arrive and file into the building. I jumped up and followed them inside. What I didn't know was that, because of the huge turn out, Cubby had moved the auditions to a local Bingo Hall. The smartly dressed men arriving at Eon's HQ were actually double-glazing salesmen who had hired the building for their annual conference. By the time I realised this I'd hit their regional sales co-ordinator over the head with a bottle and ordered a café complet. Ironically I gave a perfect reading of the line. I don't know if you've ever spent nine days in a Police Station but it isn't the nicest place to sleep in. When I was released on bail I was stunned to read that Roger Moore had accepted the role. If only I'd beaten him to that Bingo Hall.

I went back to Huddersfield and started a window-cleaning business that specialised in Bungalows because of my fear of heights. In 1986 I was strongly tempted to throw my hat into the ring one last time but, in a move I never received any credit for, I stood aside for Timothy Dalton. In 1987 I officially retired from acting at a quiet event attended by my wife Pat and our next door neighbour Lionel. It had been a crazy ride but all good things come to an end. Looking back, I honestly feel I would have been closest to Fleming's Bond. The Bond of the books is a Golf nut and my wife Pat and I have been regulars at Huddersfield's Crazy Golf Centre longer than I care to remember. If you ever get stuck in one of those little windmills I'm your man!

Losing the money and a Knighthood doesn't bother me but it would be nice to have a bit more recognition now and again and perhaps an invite to one of those Bond conventions.

In some small way I feel I played my part in making the series so successful and enduring'.

* Ken Baxter's book '007 and Me' will be published by Nutmeg press in 2009. To order a copy send a cheque for any amount to the webmaster of this site. 


c 2007 Alternative 007