License to Steele


And away we go, with the first episode of the first season of Remington Steele! “License to Steele” was the first show broadcast, but I seem to recall that it wasn’t the first episode made; that was the pilot, “Tempered Steele,” which actually aired second. Can someone more in-the-know confirm this?

The episode opens with the soon-to-be-familiar opening credits, with Laura Holt’s voiceover setting up the premise of the series:

PDVD_068“Try this for a deep, dark secret: The great detective, Remington Steele? He doesn’t exist. I invented him.






Follow: I always loved excitement. So I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office.PDVD_101

But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so … feminine.



So I invented a superior – a decidedly masculine superior.PDVD_117


Suddenly there were cases around the block.PDVD_121




Having an imaginary boss is a dangerous way to live … but so far, it’s working.”


There are a few differences between this first opening and the one that led subsequent season 1 episodes. The voiceover, as read by Stephanie Zimbalist, feels softer, perhaps a bit “sexier” here than in the standard opener. And the “having an imaginary boss” line will be omitted hereafter, replaced by a fuller exposition of the premise once the “imaginary boss” has taken human form.


The image of Laura accompanying Miss Zimbalist’s credit is different, too. Here Laura seems more pensive, perhaps a bit more vulnerable, than she will in the re-edited opening. (And who the heck is that random woman behind her? Can’t give an extra screen time in every episode!).

PDVD_139Our initial view of the enigmatic Mr. Steele (though of course we don’t know who he is yet) offers a dashing portrait of Mr. Brosnan flashing his brand-new $5,000 smile.* And look! It’s our first glimpse of that crooked little grin that will become so familiar and endearing over the next four seasons. I had wondered if that tilde-shaped smile was an effect of Brosnan’s bout with Bell’s Palsy, which left half his face paralyzed for a few weeks, but this is two years before he contracted that malady.hottie pierce

Brosnan seems to have since lost that lop-sided expression … perhaps his new caps didn’t fit right? Too bad. It was adorable!

One more side trip before we get to the episode itself. That letter we see being signed at the beginning of the credits:


The text reads,

Mr. John R. Gleason

Mayfair Hotels International

555 5th Avenue

New York, New York 10055

Dear Jack:

Thank you for your kind words concerning my plan for a total renovation of your security system.

Always good to work with a man who appreciates the need for anonymity in this kind of endeavor.

I am delighted my assistant, Laura Holt, conveyed my intentions so accurately and precisely.

I look forward to our next successful association.


Remington Steele

The name of the addressee piqued my interest. Remington Steele was  co-created (with Robert Butler) and executive produced by Michael Gleason. Could John R. be some relation to Michael? Is this an in-joke of the sort frequently practiced by “Scarecrow & Mrs. King,” which regularly used staffers’ real names in the scripts? A cursory Web search turned up an orthopedic surgeon with the moniker John R. Gleason, but whether he is related to Michael I cannot say. Anybody know?

Lo and behold, there is a real Mayfair Hotel in New York, though it’s not located at 555 5th Ave. (You can enjoy its 3-star, $185/night accommodations at 242 West 49th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave.)MAYFAIR HOTEL

So what’s at 555 5th Ave.? In 2013, it’s a Barnes & Noble book store.


It’s slightly curious that the agency is apparently doing business with a New York firm, as we subsequently have no evidence that Remington Steele Investigations works outside of L.A.

Back to the letter. It’s interesting that in this missive, presumably composed by Laura herself, she refers to herself as Steele’s “assistant.”  As we shall see, she consistently introduces herself with the slightly grander-sounding title of Steele’s “associate.”  Maybe she gave herself a promotion! And finally, take note of the elegant signature, which will look rather different once the “live” version of Steele begins signing correspondence.

Whew! I’m already spent, and we’ve only just made our way through the opening credits! I’ll stop here and give you a chance to add your thoughts before we move on to Act I, Scene 1!

*I found the information about Mr. Brosnan’s dental work, along with many other delightful tidbits, in Judith A. Moose’s comprehensive compendium of all things Steele, Steele Loved After All These Years. Sadly, it’s out of print now, but is available in electronic format directly from the author for a nominal fee.


September 28, 2013 · 2:12 am

17 responses to “License to Steele

  1. eaz35173

    Yes, the 2nd episode, Tempered Steele, was actually the original pilot for the series. Apparently the execs in charge wanted to see how this series would play out once the fictitious boss was already in the picture. They liked it, but before they put the show on the air, someone thought it would be a good idea to have the back story of how it all happened as the first episode. So “Tempered Steele” became episode #2. You can see in that one (when you get to it) that it was filmed at 2 different times. But I’ll leave that discussion for that episode!

    Thanx for getting the text on that letter in the opening credits! Perhaps Mr. Gleason had several different locations for his business and one of them was in LA and the home office was in NYC?

    • I’m glad they decided to begin with “License to Steele.” Imagine missing out on how Mr. Steele came to be!

      It’s interesting to me that Steele Investigations seems to do a fair amount of security work (as we’ll see in this first episode) as opposed to … well … *investigating.* I wonder if this constitutes the bulk of their clientele before their new Mr. Steele raises the profile of the agency.

      There is indeed a Mayfair Hotel in L.A., so perhaps you are right that their corporate headquarters are in New York, but the Steele Agency is handling security for their L.A. location.

  2. Inés

    Regarding Mr. Brosnan’s tide-shaped smile, maybe with his brand new one, he took advantage and modified his gesture. It’s seems to me that the new teeth were bigger tan the original ones. He would have to try his new smile in front of a mirror for sure, to find the best new angle for it.
    About the hotel info, maybe they used the name, but intentionally made a mistake about the address, only to avoid businness issues related with advertising. They did that in following episodes.
    And I have to say that I suspect the name Gleason was slipped just like an
    amulet. Some showbusiness people use to introduce them someplace in their Works.

    • LOL, now I’m imagining Pierce Brosnan in front of his bathroom mirror, trying out new smiles: “Which one makes me look most devastatingly handsome?” I’m really a little cross with PB for spoiling his pretty pearly whites with smoking or tea/coffee drinking or whatever has turned them that positively dingy color they appeared on the Red Carpet in Toronto. Maybe he thinks those perfect teeth are what have kept him from getting the “gritty” roles he’s always coveted? Sorry, Pierce. Even with dingy teeth you’re still too pretty for gritty.

      • eaz35173

        I don’t know, I still think he has a bit of a lopsided smile even now. I’ll try to scrounge for some pix to illustrate [oh, such a hardship – 😉 ]

      • Speaking of PB looking in the mirror, I love the scene where he “discovers” RS, and says, “Pleasure to meet you,……Mr. Steele.” One of my fav scenes for sure!

      • eaz35173

        How’s this for a more recent example of his lopsided grin …

        I agree, it has gotten a bit less lopsided as the years have gone by, but it’s still there.

  3. Thank you for the letter, I also have wondered what it said in its entirety. I had often thought the name was for Michael Gleason and R. for Robert Butler. Nice trivia! Love that stuff!

    • Inés

      Murhpy is working undercover for a “Randall Linen Supply…” or something like that. Lynn Randall was M. Gleason’s wife at this time. Another coincidence? Who knows…

  4. Yecats, PB in that scene always reminds me of Randolph Mantooth for some reason. (Here’s a pic if you don’t know who that is:

  5. Melissa

    When watching the dvds, I usually skip the credits, but I watched them today, just for you! I love Laura’s spunk. The pic of Laura sitting at Remington’s desk is perfect. She’s probably the reason I picked a male-dominated college major and a male-dominated occupation. “You go, girl!” I also love that they used Laura’s theme under her voice-over. I miss that after the first season is over.

    • I preferred Laura’s Theme (and the opening monologue), too. Poor SZ must have seen which way the wind was blowing when they switched to Steele’s Theme in season 2.

      I wish I could say I pursued a male-dominated major because of Laura Holt. Instead, I majored in medieval literature. I think it’s safe to say that’s not dominated by ANYBODY (with any sense, at least!).

  6. SteeleInterested

    Love Laura’s Theme and anything else by Mancini. i’ve always thought that “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do (Better), would have been an apropos back-up.

    In October 1982, I would have been 11, and in sixth grade. While I can’t remember for sure, my guess is that I probably didn’t see much if any of Season One until this summer. It would have been way past my bedtime! And if I did, there was a vast amount of material that went right over my precocius but naieve head. By the fall of 1984 my father had purchased a VCR and I had turned 13. Between a later bedtime and the magic of videotape, I believe My Steele obsession must have started around then. I’m glad to have a chance to chat about the episodes with others who are Steele interested….


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