Spy museum goes Hollywood

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • October 12, 2005

by Karen Feld

When Hollywood screenwriter Danny Biederman got a call from the CIA in 1999, he wondered, “What did I do wrong?” Actually, it was his Hollywood spy-tech collection they were after.

Austin Powers’ eyeglasses, Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg’s) black leather pants and Dr. No’s hairy tarantula are just a few of the 50 Hollywood spy treasures on display in the new exhibit that opened the other day at the International Spy Museum downtown. Biederman, in town for the opening, has loaned the objects from his 4,000-piece collection.

Life spies on art

“The real world started before fiction,” said Spy Museum Executive Director Peter Earnest, who spent many years in the CIA. In the ’60s, people at the CIA were assigned to watch “Mission Impossible” on TV, he said. “These TV programs were both a reflection of our culture and also affected our culture.”

Biederman’s collection, which includes the 10-foot-tall cryogenic chamber where Austin Powers was frozen, is “locked away in different places.” “I’m nervous every day of my life,” Biederman told me. He even questioned the CIA about security for hours when they wanted to exhibit objects from his collection.

Real spies watched ‘I Spy’

“I was in awe going to the CIA to meet [former director George] Tenet,” Biederman said. “All I knew was the fictional version, the Hollywood stuff.” He took a prop with him from “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Tenet told him that he grew up on those shows, too, and that some CIA staffers were inspired to join the agency because of the TV shows that glamorized the agency and lifestyle. For example, comedian Bill Cosby was a secret agent who traveled the world in “I Spy.” That was before he gained fame with his ’80s TV sitcom.

“There are a lot of parallels between fiction and reality, as well as huge differences,” said Biederman. “The whole idea is to be gray, to blend, whereas in James Bond, he was bedding ladies right and left and using gadgets to be king of the world.”

But Biederman’s fascination with the spy world stops at collecting. “I didn’t want to die,” he said, talking about why he decided against a career as a spy. “These people are in danger.”

Connery still favorite Bond

While 37-year-old British actor Daniel Craig is being touted as the sixth James Bond, Biederman still likes Sean Connery, the Bond he grew up with. “He wasn’t as campy as some, but he was witty and had the magnetism.” Roger Moore was his least favorite James Bond. “He hammed it up too much,” Biederman said. Biederman is still collecting and dreams of finding the tailor shop sign that was the secret facade in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Son also rising?

Effi Barry, former wife of D.C.’s longtime mayor, looked terrifically regal at 61 as the almost 6-foot gal strutted the runway at the Questers fashion event at the Washington Hilton last weekend. We hear she’s been living in D.C. and spending time with son, Christopher, 25, grooming him to be a future mayor. As for Marion and Effi Barry’s son, he attended UDC for a time but needs to go back to school to graduate. A college degree will help in any political race in the nation’s capital – as will remaining drug-free. Christopher was arrested and charged with assaulting a D.C. police officer last February, and ordered to undergo weekly drug tests. We hear he needs a male role model … one who files income taxes.

Doctor’s alternative treatment

Dr. Ali Safayan is going to Afghanistan for one year to serve as senior health adviser to Ronald Neumann, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Safayan says it was through his affiliation and work with Global Watch Group that he was nominated for this diplomatic post.

Couric raps “snarky” media

“Nobody enjoys being trashed. But it comes with success, with an increasingly snarky environment in the world today,” NBC News’ Katie Couric tells AARP The Magazine in the November/December issue.


Never far from the White House, veteran journalist Helen Thomas was spotted on F Street having dinner at The Oceanaire Seafood Room on Columbus Day.

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