Most Eligible Playboy: Bond or Popov?
Shortly before his death, Ian Fleming hosted a BBC reporter at Goldeneye, Fleming's Jamaican writing retreat. The journalist asked, in a pejorative tone, about James Bond's playboy lifestyle and the numerous women he seduced. Taking no offense, Ian reminded the reporter that, in general, Bond only had one girlfriend per novel, or one per year.
The MI6 agent who had inspired Fleming's 007, Dusko Popov, surely smiled. Through Admiral John Godfrey, British Director of Naval Intelligence and Fleming's boss, Ian had certainly heard about Popov's countless dalliances, some of which were recorded in MI5 files and were likely discussed in intelligence break rooms. By the time Fleming actually saw Popov in action, in August 1941, he had a good idea of Popov's allure.
Unlike Fleming's fictional hero, the real MI6 agent romanced two or three women ... per city--in London, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, Sun Valley, and more. In 1941 alone, Popov's black book included Friedl, Gwennie, Nani, Maria, Martha, Ljiljana, Terry, Margo, Simone, Louise, Ilena, Dora, and Jane. Two others had written him letters whom he couldn't remember. And these are the women we know about.
Fleming knew, of course, of Popov's animal magnetism. But if he gave 007 such an amorous appetite, who'd have believed it?
Perhaps only a retired MI6 agent bound to silence by Britain's Official Secrets Act.
Larry Loftis is the author of INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov--World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond (Berkley, June 14, 2016).