Growing up in Canada, I wanted to be a spy. As a quiet, serious girl, this was a job that intrigued me because it was bold, dangerous and important. It was also very sexy. James Bond? Sexy. Every single flavor of Bond, from David Niven to Daniel Craig, got my attention. Why couldn’t there be a Jane Bond? I wanted to be mysterious and sexy; a spy on a mission. My name, Jane Boon, is only one letter away. Couldn’t that be a sign?
Beyond the perfection of John Willie’s drawings and his decadent imagination, I adored his mysterious character Undercover Agent U69. She was a spy par excellence, and perfectly primed for my espionage fantasies. She took down evil-doers while looking smashing in a pair of form-fitting Hermès jodhpurs and laced-up black boots with impossibly high heels. For all her physical courage, U69 was gentle with Sweet Gwendoline, and she never lost her sense of humor, no matter how hapless Gwen could be.
In addition to her glamor and her sharp brown bob, I appreciated U69’s technical skills. She always had the right tools for the job – a lock pick hidden in her heel, a piece of wire tucked in her boot, a Morgan convertible fast enough to make a getaway as her hair streamed behind her. She was the best escape artist in the service, meaning ropes could not hold her back. And when she tied Gwen up, Gwen just jiggled and wriggled, helpless. I’ve tied a few knots in my day and gotten out of some binds myself (in the interest of fun, of course), so this is knowledge U69 and I share.
What I also appreciate about U69 is her ambiguity. She had few qualms about leaving Gwen bound in some impossible position as a lure for Sir Dystic D’Arcy. She helped Gwen, certainly, as they dealt with their common enemy, the Countess. But who did U69 work for, really? What was her agenda? The spy kept secrets, and I respect that.
I wound up becoming an engineer – the kind who coaxes numbers to spill their secrets – and then a writer, but those early spy fantasies persist. Usually, I imagine sitting at an elegant bar, looking chic in corporate drag. It’s always a sharp navy suit, think pencil skirt and a jacket with a nipped-in waist, probably by Alexander McQueen. It’s a look that says head of sales at some pharmaceutical company or managing director at an investment bank, far from my typical disguise of business casual.
In this imaginary bar, I’d discreetly take in the scene while balanced on the barstool, black patent Louboutin pump dangling casually from my toe. In a nod to James Bond, I’d order a martini, only mine would be made of Sweet Gwendoline French Gin, just to show the old boys this girl has some fresh moves of her own. I’d take small sips of my cold, delicious cocktail, and wait.
The spy quietly nursing her drink at the bar knows the stories of everyone around her – who they are, and why they’re there. The guy with the brown hair and red face hitting on the bartender, works for the World Bank and he gossips. The pretty blonde in the green dress is an executive at a consulting company with clients in some very dark corners of the world. She’s having an affair with the CEO of a local software company and he is late. The mousy fellow in the grey suit, slumped to the side and nursing his scotch, is a grumpy diplomat desperate for attention. I’d sip my gin, savoring its flavor on my tongue and in my throat, as I decided how best to approach my target.
Once I was ready, I’d gently grasp my martini glass, hop down off my barstool and make my move.
“You deserve better,” I’d say to my target, the pretty blonde. In my imagination, she’d look at me, with the wide, hopeful eyes of a Gwendoline. “Can I buy you a drink?”
A spy’s job is about seduction and in my fantasies, I succeed, just like U69. I’d signal to the bartender as I gave my target my most winning smile, “A gin martini for the lady.”
John Willie’s women were glamorous, brave, and there was a frankness and humor to their sexuality. They were thoroughly modern, even as their waists were cinched tight in corsets. From the Countess and her maids, to U69, and even Sweet Gwendoline herself, Willie’s women took risks as they took charge. These damsels made things happen.
It’s time that James made way for Jane, otherwise she might tie him down and put a gag in his mouth. Bond no longer has a monopoly on strategic cocktail seduction. Women like U69 are going undercover and we are changing the world.
Illustration by Dirk Hooper (Twitter/IG: @dirkhooper)
Jane Boon lives in New York City with her husband, Norm Pearlstine. She studied technology and policy at MIT and later received a Ph.D. in industrial engineering. Jane has written for publications like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Time.com, McSweeneys.net, and TravelandLeisure.com. She enjoys improv and playing dress up, including the time she wore a corset, garters and thigh-high stockings as a dominatrix in the Fox TV series, Gotham. Jane is the author of the Regan Arts novel EDGE PLAY; the 2021 recipient of the Pauline Réage Novel Award for erotic fiction from the NLA.