HE’S HANDSOME, HE’S SUAVE. HE LIKES his martinis shaken, not stirred. With a Walther PPK pistol in hand, he curls his lips in a faint smile….
Bond, James Bond? No. Redenius, Doug Redenius.
Who is Doug Redenius, and why is he making like Double-Oh Seven? No secret here: He’s a 35-year-old rural letter carrier in St. Anne, Ill. (pop. 1,500), a corn-and pumpkin-producing farm town 65 miles south of Chicago. And it would appear there is little to link him to Her Majesty’s master spy. While Bond might idle away a Sunday afternoon sipping Dom Pérignon at a polo match, Redenius is content to root for the Chicago Bears on TV while knocking back a few Buds. And instead of an Aston Martin equipped with dual machine guns and ejector seat, Redenius drives a ’78 Chevy Impala he inherited from his grandmother. “It does have a smokescreen,” Redenius says. “It burns a little oil and sends smoke out the back.”
Probe deeper, though, and the Redenius dossier reveals that he and Bond have shared much—perhaps more than Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton might collectively imagine. Fact is, Doug Redenius owns what is believed to be the largest trove of James Bond memorabilia in the world, more than 4,000 items, most of it cached in trunks and boxes in his 12-room Victorian house. Oh, yes, there’s also a rusty, 21-foot minisubmarine, from the film For Your Eyes Only, dry-docked in his backyard.
Redenius’s special status is recognized even by the office of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, producer of 16 Bond films. “In his own way,” says Broccoli spokesman Saul Cooper, “Doug has become a part of the Bond team.” So much so that Redenius was invited to be an extra in the 1989 Bond movie Licence to Kill, making his film debut as a guest in a wedding scene. Later, Redenius, his wife, Paula, 39, and daughter, Dena, 20, attended the movie’s London premiere, along with Prince Charles and Princess Di, Dalton, Jane Seymour, Britt Ekland and Patrick Swayze. “Being with all those stars was the closest I’ll ever come to being famous,” he says. “If someone would have asked me for my autograph—that really would have topped my evening off.”
Redenius’s own introduction to Bond films came when he was 8 and a baby-sitter took him to see Goldfinger. Not long into the movie, a bathtub seduction scene prompted the sitter to swoop the impressionable kid out of the theater. As it turned out, though, what most impressed little Doug was Bond unzipping his wetsuit to emerge “immaculately dressed in a tuxedo.”
Doug did not become a serious student of Bondabilia until 1980, when he happened across three Bond bubble-gum cards from his youth. “It hit me that James Bond items would be a perfect collection,” he says. “Every man dreams of being like him, traveling to exotic places, having lots of women. The fact that he always seems to win is important.”
Haunting garage sales and flea markets in the Chicago region, Redenius began modestly—in keeping with his mailman’s salary, now $38,000 a year—with stuff like 007-etched martini glasses, a wristwatch that plays the Bond theme, even an officer’s uniform from the army of the villainous Stromberg. With time, his ambitions grew. In 1986 he attended a Sotheby’s auction in New York City for a glimpse of Bond’s Aston Martin and Goldfinger’s Rolls-Royce. “I managed to make an early bid of $25,000—I would have found funding somehow,” he recalls. Sadly for him, the Aston Martin ultimately went for $250,000, the Rolls for $110,000.
Undiscouraged, he managed this year to land that sub, the Neptune, a Bond film prop that had been jointly owned by two New York maritime museums. Redenius and two California partners, engineer Mike Van Blaricum and screenwriter John Cork, persuaded the museums to donate it to them in return for a “reciprocal donation” of $3,000.
Redenius estimates that, all told, he has invested about $25,000 in knickknacks that, given the spiraling value of baby-boom memorabilia, may now be worth hundreds of thousands. Yet the mild-mannered Bond maven doesn’t talk much about the value of his hoard, or, for that matter, even about the collection itself. “Unless people ask me about my hobby, I rarely speak about it,” Redenius says. “I’m just a guy who delivers the Sears catalogs.”
KAREN KIMBLE MCMABEL in St. Anne