Back in 1964, forty-five years ago, a new show premiered on television called “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” The acronym stood for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.” It featured two dashing crime fighters by the names of Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn and Illya Kuryakin, played by David McCallum. Vaughn was the American extrovert and McCallum was the Russian introvert and together they fought the evil THRUSH organization.
This was back before spy shows were a dime a dozen and my friends and I followed their exploits with excitement and, of course, each of us chose one for a boyfriend. (Mine was Illya.) I even had a poster of them in my room. I mean, these guys were nothing like the dopey boys I went to school with. They shot guns. They killed people. They had affairs with intriguing gorgeous women. And, best of all, they made the world a safer place! What was there not to love?
The show finally ended in 1968. I mentally broke up with Illya in favor of Paul Newman, but that’s another story for another day.
Through the years I saw a lot of Robert Vaughn. He was one of the magnificent seven in the movie by the same name and appeared in others such as “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen and “The Young Philadelphian” with Paul Newman. He had an illustrious career in both movies and TV. After awhile, though, he seemed to drop off my radar.
David McCallum, too, kept busy, but never achieved the fame he had enjoyed in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” That is, until “N.C.I.S.” came along in 2003. I remember when I saw that show’s first episode and they introduced Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard. My heart leapt! “That’s Illya!” I cried, to no one in particular. The show has gone on to become a rousing success, now in its seventh season, with “Ducky” being a much-beloved character.
It’s funny in a way. David McCallum is now 75 years old, and yet, I can still see what attracted me to him so many years ago. Watching him gives me such a sense of time passing.
So anyway, the other day I was watching a show and a commercial for a local law firm came on. I glanced up, and who should I see, but Robert Vaughn! He’s dressed in a three-piece suit like a pseudo-lawyer and urging people to “tell the insurance companies you mean business!” To tell you the truth, I was stunned. I mean, it’s one thing to see people like Erik Estrada selling lake property in some infomercial, but, Robert Vaughn? Now I know, he’s 76 years old and probably doesn’t get a lot of offers for leading men roles, but still… And, maybe he’s being paid buckets of money for these commercials or maybe he’s doing them for a friend, but still… It bugs me.
Am I alone here, or do you agree with me that it seems kind of…I don’t know…sad?
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