Some years back I spent a year in Los Angeles in the Writers Film Project workshop sponsored by Chesterfield Films and Amblin Entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the year, and found out a number of things about myself including that I have terrible Movie Star Antennae:
“Did you see? That was Dennis Franz!”
“Huh? No, where?”
“He just walked past us, doofus.”
The first day I arrived, Judy and Gar Reeves-Stevens (the nicest people in the known universe) picked me up at the airport and took me to North Hollywood, where I was renting a guest house. It was a guest house that had started out life as a garage, but it was a very nice guest house with a pool and everything LA.
I met my landlady, a charming actress of a certain age, and she showed me around my new place, though first she told me I should have my eyes done.
As she was demonstrating the little house’s amenities and foibles, she opened the vertical blinds and fiddled with them and said, “Oh, that Bobby, he’s so unmechanical, he stays here whenever he has a project in LA, and last time he broke the blinds.”
As we chatted, I realized who she was talking about.
“You’re talking about Robert Vaughn.”
“Yes, of course.”
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
“Yes, of course.”
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered in the mid-1960s, when I was about fifteen.
I was a huge fan of the show. I blush to admit Illya Kuryakin was a feature of my teenage fantasies. I wrote a teleplay for the show. (Which was rejected unread. All unsolicited teleplays are rejected unread, not just those by fifteen-year-olds.) A couple of years later when I was hanging out with some LA SF fans, I was the camera car driver on some twisty little road off Mulholland Drive, for the T.H.R.U.S.H. training film that David McDaniel and his friendly neighborhood stunt men were making.
Which to this day I’ve never seen; I don’t even know if it was ever finished. Also to this day I watch NCIS, which can be a remarkably silly show, because McCallum is on it (and, OK, the Goth geek); like all other fans of a certain age I fell about laughing when Kate asked Jethro the question “What did Ducky look like when he was younger?” and he said, “Hmmm…. Illya Kuryakin.”
“Robert Vaughn stays in this house.”
“Yes, that’s what I said,” said my landlady. “Bobby and I are old friends.”
“OK… Um… So. If he needs a place to crash while I’m still renting the place, he’s welcome to sleep on my couch… As long as he brings David McCallum along with him.”
A year later, as I was packing up to come back home, Robert Vaughn did come to town for a project. He had to sleep in a hotel, or possibly on my landlady’s couch (since he didn’t bring David McCallum along with him), till I moved out the next day, my last day in L.A.
I was sitting at the desk (which had been owned by Jacques Cousteau, a culture hero of mine and another of my landlady’s old friends) talking on the phone with my friend Joe, who is Mr. Popular Culture.
I looked out the window.
“Joe,” I said, “you’re not going to believe this.”
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is in my driveway, putting out the garbage.”
You can find The Moon and the Sun at Book View Cafe, where Chapter 11 is featured today. The Basement Full of Books section of my website has new signed hardcovers at a Book View Cafe celebration price.