This show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, was a childhood favorite of three of the three musketeers; Rob, Chris and I. A result of the James Bond craze of the day, it was one of many spy shows to hit the air waves in the mid 60’s. In our opinion, it was probably the best. Starring Robert Vaughn as the suave , debonair Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as his partner, the mysterious Russian, Illya Kuryakin, and Leo G. Carrol as the Director, this show captured our hearts and minds. The stage chemistry between Vaughn and McCallum was probably one of the leading factors in the shows success and prompted us to get highly engrossed in their exploits as they tried to save the world from the evil organization “T.R.U.S.H”.
Highly improbable and immensely entertaining each episode featured beautiful women, fast cars, amazing spy “gadgets” and endless stream of well written, subtle humor. We wanted to be these guys and we waited in anticipation each week for the next episode.
U.N.C.L.E. ( The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was a fictional organization, but to us it was very, very real. We relived each episode during the week and spoke continually about the adventures that Solo and Kuryakin found themselves involved with. Adding to the reality for us, U.N.C.L.E headquarters was in New York, our town. It is also an interesting piece of trivia that Robert Vaughn was also born in New York. It couldn’t be any other way, right?
In many ways , this show was groundbreaking, ushering in other successful spy shows that also did very, very well. It was so successful that in 1966 a Spin off show, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E aired , starring Stephanie Powers as the gorgeous April Dancer. Lord, did I have a crush on her ( along with about a million other young boys in the country).. and how about that name? April Dancer! It just shouted sexy and beautiful, and she was.
They knew how to market the show as well: Books ( the first of which sold over one million copies), toy guns, outfits, transmitters and even membership cards for fans. Of course we had one that we proudly carried everywhere. We fantasized about being Solo or Kuryakin and speaking for myself, pretended that each day in my life was only a cover for my REAL life as a member of U.N.C.L.E. If memory serves me right, Mom and Dad even got “into” the show. Dad loved the suave Solo, who looked as though he was born in a tuxedo and Mom, along with millions of other women and girls thought Kuryakin was simply “dreamy”. Dad loved the dialogue which featured a lot of humorous “wise-cracking” by Solo, with Kuryakin shaking his head at his partners glibness.
To say that this show was part of my life, our life, would almost be an understatement.It came at a time when the world was changing in many ways; the 60’s were simply an incredible time in music, politics and social commentary and right damn in the middle was The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This past week, when I heard the news that Robert Vaughn had passed away at 83, I shed a tear or two. Another part of my childhood has slipped away and I didn’t want it to. I want Napoleon Solo to always be there, in his Tux, saving the world d from the evil T.H.R.U.S.H. I want to be sitting on the floor of our living room, Robert, Dad and Mom , all watching the adventure unfold. I want Robert and I to discus the last weeks episode and talk about how “simply cool” it was.
I’m happy to say that McCallum is still performing on T.V with a vital, solid role in NCIS, as Dr. Donald, “Ducky” Mallard, but when I see him I can not help but think back to the young, handsome, Illya Kuryakin. McCallum is now also 83. Where the hell have the years gone? Time is ruthless.
I want to go to sleep tonight knowing that Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are on the job, protecting us from the bad guys. But alas, I need to get a grip on reality again.
..and to Robert Vaughn, I hope you hear my thoughts, you will be missed and thank you, you helped give me wonderful memories of growing up in New York.
Now, excuse me, I hear my transmitter going off.