Belfast Telegraph

Why I’m still sweet on the Man from UNCLE Robert Vaughn

By Frances Burscough

Hands up who remembers Robert Vaughn? If you’re of a certain age (mine, ie. 50+) then you really ought to. If not, I’ll give you a clue. Does the name Napoleon Solo ring any bells?

Ok, here’s another one. He was the lead character in one of the most popular TV series of the Sixties (soon to be remade as a feature film by Guy Ritchie), The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Yes, him. The brooding, scowling, menacing one who played all the best brooding, scowling, menacing roles when we were growing up.

It was as the baddie Lee in the wonderful western The Magnificent Seven that I loved him the most. Even though Robert Vaughn starred alongside an array of the most drop-dead gorgeous Hollywood stars of the era including Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson, I only had eyes for him.

As years passed by and the Man from U.N.C.L.E grew more like a granddad, he still remained a firm favourite in my rogues gallery of heart-throbs.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would ever get to meet him, let alone treat him to a box of Maltesers. But this is precisely what I did last weekend.

Here’s how it happened.

My younger son had just turned 17 and, instead of a traditional party, I decided to take him on a trip to London to visit his older brother Luke who’s at university there studying English.

As we were travelling through the Underground on Friday to get to his flat in the East End, I noticed posters publicising a brand new West End production that had just opened at The Garrick Theatre at Leicester Square. It was the brilliant play Twelve Angry Men, made most famous by the Oscar-winning movie of the same name in the 1950s.

This was significant to us for a number of reasons. The film version starring Henry Fonda is Luke’s favourite movie. The play is on the current school curriculum and my other son (the birthday boy) is going to be performing in it next year as part of his A Level drama course. And, last but not least, it was starring Robert Vaughn. Everybody wins.

I didn’t waste any time enquiring about tickets and, as it was only in its first week there were plen

ty still available at a reasonable price. Happy days. With an all-star cast including Martin Shaw (Doyle off the Professionals) and Nick Moran (yer man off Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), we certainly weren’t going to be disappointed.

Their performances were all individually superb and together they formed the most perfect ensemble cast. Not least Robert V, who, at 81 is old enough to be my dad (also 81!) but still has that brooding presence and charisma he had all those years ago on the silver screen.

Yes, it was marvellous and the boys were both enraptured. What a great stroke of luck this had been, I thought, as the curtain dropped at the interval. If only I could get to meet them in person ...

Well, as soon as the idea was planted in my brain I had to do it. That’s just the way I am — impulsive, impetuous and incorrigible. So whilst the rest of the audience were busy ordering drinks and powdering their noses I took a little detour around the back of the theatre. Conveniently ignoring a few velvet rope cordons on staircases and a couple of No Entry signs on doors, I found myself in a leafy backyard beer garden surrounded by twelve angry men including my lifelong love Robert Vaughn who was sipping on a cup of tea.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your break, gentlemen,” I blurted out when it became clear I had to say something or I’d just be standing there like a tongue-tied idiot, “but I’d just like to congratulate you so far on your wonderful production ... and to say how delighted I am to finally meet my idol, Mr Vaughn!”

And then I gave him the box of Maltesers I’d been saving for the second half.

Well, it was the only thing I had on me at the time ... and I couldn’t think of anything else to say ... or do, for that matter.

“Well thank you kindly, young lady!” he replied. “I will enjoy these, although the other eleven will probably help themselves too!”

I doubt it was the most overwhelming mark of esteem he’s ever had, but he certainly looked pleased. As for me, well I can now tick another box on my fifty year bucket list.

Share Maltesers with the Man from U.N.C.L.E? Check.

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