Sunday, July 6, 2008



Mark Patinkin’s current column in The Providence Journal’s Lifestyle section deals with his facination with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and othr spy shows of the ‘60s. His feeling run close to my own.

“I think I'm becoming my father. He's constantly saying they don't make movies like they used to, then launching into a reverie about "Stagecoach," the 1939 version; now that was a flick.

Well, the release of "Get Smart" in theaters has me thinking the same way.

"Get Smart" -- now that was a TV show; and from an era full of them.

You had to love Smart's Cone of Silence and his shoe phone -- and that time the bad guy had him hostage, and told Smart he could choose the way he would die. So Smart suggested, "How about old age?"

I think every 11-year-old boy back then wanted to be a secret agent, and would have done it had Woodstock and the counterculture not taken away the CIA's glamour.

For me, it was all about "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn, was my hero. He paired with Ilya Kuryakin, who of all things was a Russian agent, this at the height of the Cold War. But it was logical because the two were fighting something greater than any enemy nation: The evil international conspiracy called THRUSH. This was far worse than the SMERSH of James Bond fame. THRUSH was going to take over the world and only Vaughn and Kuryakin could stop them, chiefly by administering karate chops while wearing nicely tailored suits.

They were very resourceful, like the time they got locked in a bathroom that was filling with poison gas, but grabbed a shaving-cream can, wrapped it in a hand towel, set the package on fire and it blew off the door. I would get very defensive -- still would today -- if anyone called scenes like that unrealistic. Don't you dare say that about Napoleon Solo.

I've clung fast to my worship of Vaughn, even as he's become the spokesman for law firms wanting you to call them after a slip-and-fall. He can do no wrong. About 10 years ago, when I was hosting a Sunday-morning TV interview show, he was in town, and we landed him as a guest. The whole time, I kept thinking, "I am not worthy." Afterward, the show's producer, who knew the backstory, gave me a photo of the two of us live on camera. On it, he'd drawn a thought balloon over my head saying, "This is the high point of my life." Over Vaughn's head was a thought balloon saying, "This is the low point of my life."

Patinkin’s run in with Robert Vaughn is a parallel to my own meeting with David McCallum about five years ago. McCallum came in to have lunch in an English tea shop in Santa Monica where I was a regular. As he was leaving I couldn’t help approaching him and telling him how his portrayal of Illya Kuryakin and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in general influence me to become a police detective. He was very gracious and told me he is surprised how often he hears the same story.

To read the rest of Patinkin’s article click:
By MARK PATINKIN, The Providence Journal

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

I'm with you guys here. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is still my favorite show from that era.