Pam Shriver is driving down the highway in full Southern California mode -- meaning she is on her cell phone -- trying to recall the night her fiance proposed to her in a little French bistro in Santa Monica.
"Let's see, it was (over) something meaty, beef, I think," she says.
"Boeuf Bourguignon," her fiance can be heard prompting her.
"And we had red wine," Shriver continues.
"Chateauneuf-du-Pape," he chimes in.
Hold the phone, Miss Moneypenny, but I'll be snookered if that gentleman with the discriminating tastes and the foreign accent talking in the background doesn't sound like Bond. James Bond.
But of course he would.
He is, after all, George Lazenby, the 62-year-old actor whom former tennis star Pam Shriver intends to marry, possibly as early as the spring, possibly in the backyard of her parents' home in Glyndon.
Bond fanatics will recognize that name instantly. Lazenby skyrocketed to fame, albeit a fleeting 15-minute sort of celebritydom, in 1969 when he succeeded Sean Connery as James Bond and starred in a single Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The film didn't do much at the box office, nor did it propel Lazenby to stardom. The native Australian with the dimpled chin had been cast mostly on looks and charm -- he was a male model with no acting experience -- and chose not to continue with the Bond franchise.
Still, many Bond fans have shown a fondness for the movie (critic Leonard Maltin gives it 3- 1/2 stars).
All of which was not exactly on Shriver's mind when she met Lazenby at Wimbledon last year, introduced by a mutual friend.
"We had a two-minute conversation. We found out our houses (in suburban Los Angeles) were two blocks from each other," recalls Shriver. "He gave me his number. I didn't call for five months. I was going through a lot of stuff."
Shriver, 39, was struggling with feelings of grief. Her first husband, Joe Shapiro, died of cancer in September 1999. Her older sister, Marion, died of cancer two years earlier. Both losses still weighed heavily upon her.
Last December, she decided to call Lazenby, but he was busy shooting a movie in Aspen. He called her back on Valentine's Day. They went out for the first time two days later.
Her first impression was that he was one good-looking man, despite the 23-year age difference. "He's still absolutely gorgeous," says Shriver. "He's rugged. His hair is gray and growing naturally. He's a man's man, and he's not intimidated by much."
But as she spent more time with him, she discovered he also had a "big heart that had been broken a few times, too." He lost his only son, a 19-year-old, to brain cancer in 1994. She'd found somebody who understood her grief.
They had other things in common, too. Both loved the active life. Both played golf and were working on single-digit handicaps. They found they could hit tennis balls, too, something Shriver hadn't done much of since retiring from the game four years ago.
By late summer, they were ready to move in together. In early October, they visited a house in Pacific Palisades that they liked very much. That was the night he proposed.
"In the middle of dinner, he paused and said, 'Will you marry me?' " Shriver says. "I don't think he knew going in he was going to ask. There wasn't a ring in a box."
Lazenby admits it was a "spur-of-the-moment thing." But it was a nice dinner, a romantic moment, and she seemed happy about it.
"If you had asked me a year ago would I ever get involved with a celebrity, I'd definitely say no," says Lazenby, a former champion in the senior motocross racing circuit and the father of two (Jennifer, 40, of Perth, Australia and Melanie, 28, of New York). "Pam seems to have her priorities in a correct line. That's the difference."
In this gregarious woman from Baltimore, Lazenby adds, he found both "a friend and a lover," a rare combination.
"And, of course, she's quiet, low energy, always does what she's told," he says jokingly. "She has that wonderful, demure way about her."
Shriver is back in Baltimore this week for Wednesday's 2001 Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge, the charity event she has championed for 16 years. It's raised millions of dollars for local child-related causes. This year, the featured match pits Andre Agassi against up-and-comer Andy Roddick.
She says she plans to continue coming back to her hometown seven or eight times a year -- she owns a house on the Eastern Shore and often stays with her parents, Sam and Margot Shriver. But her career plans are up in the air. She's been the voice of women's tennis on ESPN, but her contract will soon be up for renewal.
"I'm wrestling with how much time I want to spend on the road -- it can feel like you're back on the tour," says Shriver, who also serves on the U.S. Tennis Association's board of directors. "I haven't given up the dream of having kids, but it doesn't exactly fit in well with traveling 20 weeks a year."