March 17th, 2012 10:23 EST
My U.N.C.L.E. Agent Favorites in The Flesh
AN ASSIGNMENT WITH U.N.C.L.E. by agent Tony Piazza
As most kids in the `60s I got caught up in the spy craze, and one of my television favorites was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. " This sudden surge back then in the popularity of espionage sagas was feeding off the JAMES BOND frenzy; a phenomenon that was triggered when it was discovered that J.F.K. had Ian Fleming`s novel, From Russia with Love " on a White House bookshelf. The U.N.C.L.E. show was actually created by Fleming, at least the concept and some of the character names "like Solo, and April Dancer. During the early `60s he met with one of the show`s future producers and co-creator, Norman Felton in New York and handed him a cocktail napkin with all the details! So "Fleming!
I was fortunate enough to see my U.N.C.L.E. agent favorites in the flesh. ROBERT VAUGHN (Napoleon Solo) worked on Bullitt ". I spent a great deal of time on that set, but unlike STEVE McQUEEN who was very approachable, Vaughn was very private. He came out, did his lines, and retired back to his dressing room. When he did stay on the set he was always surrounded by production types. I did observe him at a distance, but I`ll admit it was disappointing. Mr. Vaughn was very private, and spent only as much time as necessary on the set and then he was gone. However my visits with Steve McQueen and our friendly, down to earth conversations made up more than enough for it!
DAVID McCALLUM, on the other hand, was a different story. He was the second half of the U.N.C.L.E. team. A Russian named Illya Kuryakin. He was also in real life the heart throb of many young female fans, the same who fainted at the antics of The Beatles. " He had a Beatle cut ", so I suspect it may have been calculated. I got to work with him in 1976 on the Quinn Martin detective show, Bert D`Angelo, Superstar. " I found him to be serious, and extremely professional; a consummate actor, who enjoyed his profession. I also found him to be human and compassionate for reasons I will mention in a moment. In addition to my duties as stand-in to the main star, BOB PINE in this case, I was also assigned to McCallum as well. We usually crossed over "especially when scenes did not include our designated primary actor. I remember one Saturday afternoon in front of the University of San Francisco campus (our location). We were both sitting in a picture car "a van "during one of the set ups and I got to talk to him personally for some time. He mainly discussed acting, and even gave me some tips! It was a great experience. He seemed really intent in giving advice and being helpful to a fellow actor "kudos for that! And if you were to judge by his successes "he would be the man to listen to.
Now, earlier I mentioned his compassion. An extra " told me a story that she was listening to another extra " speaking of a family member that was ill. It was at a restaurant location where McCallum`s character was sitting at an adjacent table. When she happened to glance over towards him during the course of this woman`s story, it was evident to her that he had overheard the conversation " she could read the compassion on his face!
Just as a side note; during the `60s era I was also on location with the I Spy " television show, starring BILL COSBY and ROBERT CULP. But, I`ll leave that as another story for another day.
I now close my fountain pen communicator with the immortal words "
CHANNEL D ".OUT!
Author`s final note: A couple years before getting caught up in the Bond craze I was introduced to the slick `60s world of espionage through The Man from U.N.C.L.E. " As most kids you picked the agent you most wanted to be on the show and mine was Napoleon Solo "little did I know that I would fulfill my fantasy by getting an assignment with Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum)! Proof that dreams really can come true.
I also had the fortune to meet and work with that Girl from U.N.C.L.E. ", STEPHANIE POWERS, and three other U.N.C.L.E. alumni, NORMAN FELL (Moonglow Affair), FRITZ WEAVER (Vulcan Affair), and had lunch with PATRICIA CROWLEY (Vulcan Affair).
There has been talk that a Man from U.N.C.L.E. " film is in the works. And even though the original show at times got a bit campy, I hope the screenwriter(s) will take a more serious approach with the movie (but, keep in some of the fun!) "and please set it in the `60s.
* United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.
Tony Piazza is the author of the murder mystery Anything Short of Murder ". A classic whodunit set in 1930s Hollywood. It is available online at all bookstores. Also available "my latest world war 2 spy adventure, The Curse of the Crimson Dragon," starring a new hero who in the tradition of those men from U.N.C.L.E. will fight for America`s freedom!