Celebrity Crush Redux

In my hormone-driven early teens, my heart belonged to a blond secret agent name Ilya Kuryakin.The handsome man with an accent you couldn’t quite place but you guessed was supposed to be Russian, what with the name and all, fought evil side by side for an hour every week with a James Bond wannabe named Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn. In my book, Ilya was by far the more fascinating of the two men from U.N.C.L.E. on the show that ran from 1964 to 1968.
During the ’60s, a friend of my dad’s reviewed TV shows for the local paper. He thought I might be interested in reading about the new fall lineup, so he gave me his  press kit magazine which was full of glossy publicity shots. I flipped through the actors’ photos and stopped cold when I got to the picture of Ilya—that is, David McCallum—looking right at me with those soulful blue eyes. They were so blue, so piercing—I felt like he was looking at me the way I was looking at him. 

See what I mean?

I taped his picture to my closet door, next to John, Paul, George and Ringo. I watched the show every week as the two secret agents outwitted their evil nemesis,THRUSH, which stands for something but I don’t remember what.

David/Ilya got all the best lines. He seemed content to be a sidekick, but I always thought he had a much more interesting personality than the suave Solo, who never made my heart flutter. Those eyes, the black turtlenecks, the bon mots and literary references…Ilya was smart and sexy and mysterious.

Now David, correct me if I’m wrong here, but in one episode someone asks Ilya if he is married, and he responds by quoting the first line of a poem entitled “To His Coy Mistress” in that charming accent of his: “Had I but world enough and time….” I don’t remember anything I learned in my in my 8th grade English class, but I never forgot that line. And now that I’ve read the poem…hoo boy!

Sexy mysterious smile, turtleneck, etc

The show went off the air, life happened, years went by, and I lost track of my long-ago heartthrob. Then, quite recently, I happened to stumble across NCIS. It’s not the kind of show I usually watch. (Naval Criminal Investigation Service? Not my cup of tea.) But there was something familiar about the medical examiner—the guy wearing blue scrubs and rubber gloves, waxing poetic over a cadaver—a character referred to as “Ducky.”
Could it be? That same where’s-he-from accent, the slight bangs—not really blond anymore but you can tell he used to be—the guy who always gets the best lines even when he’s speaking to a corpse?

Yes, it is the one and only Ilya of my teenage fantasies. How could I have not known about this? The show’s been on since 2003! But, I wondered, why is this enigmatic former spy-turned-medical-examiner called Ducky? It didn’t take long to figure out: it’s because his character’s real moniker is Donald Mallard. Of course it is. And he really rocks the bow tie, right?

On the show, someone wonders what Ducky looked like as a young man. The answer: Ilya Kuryakin!

RIP  9/25/23

25 Responses to Celebrity Crush Redux

  1. Until I read this, I couldn’t remember having had a celebrity crush…but yes! How could I have forgotten Ilya? Thanks for the nudge!

  2. Cathy says:

    I remember Ilya very well. He was a cutie, yet I’m ashamed to admit I liked Robert Vaughn’s character better. Silly me.

    A few years back I saw David McCallum in the audience at a Broadway show. I told my husband, “There’s Ilya Kuryakin” and he knew exactly who I meant.

    On another note, when my son was around 10 years old we took him to an autograph show. You know, where celebrities sit around and sign autographs after you purchase paraphernalia. He was wild about “Gilligan’s Island”, “Batman” and “Get Smart” at the time, and I knew Barbara Feldon & Adam West were going to be there. She was sweet and charming, as was Adam West. Suddenly I spotted Robert Vaughan, sitting there, totally ignoring everyone, engrossed in his copy of the NY Times. He had a sign in front of him – $10.00/autograph. No one was in his line. Serves him right. All of these little kids were excited to meet people from TV Land’s lineup, and he was hiding behind a paper and a sign. Sad.

    So now you know why I now prefer Ilya! Great post.

  3. Too funny! He was definitely a cutie! How can he be 80 now? Wow!

  4. Yep, me too. 🙂 And David Soul in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers.

  5. Walker says:

    Fun. I watch him on NCIS and love his character. Loved Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well….

  6. He was our Daniel Craig!!

  7. fadedginger says:

    It was great when they threw that line into NCIS, wasn’t it?

  8. Home Place says:

    No one but David McCallum could rock a turtleneck AND a bow tie!
    But 80? How can that be????

  9. Linda Wolff says:

    Blond, devilish grin, turtle neck. Works for me!

  10. I did not think anyone else would have a crush on David McCallum like I did…who else would love the United Network Command of Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.) Thank you for being another I.K. fan! I actually saw him in a play on stage in San Antonio and it was so much fun to remember my youth! He appeared with Harry Hamlin and that was fun as well.

  11. ByJane says:

    He’s definitely having the last laugh on other actors of his generation–he’s such an important part of NCIS.

  12. Oh that show was one of my favorites! Ilya made my heart flutter, too,

  13. Joy says:

    I missed this show when I was younger but had a great time catching up with it a few years ago when one of the stations ran it at a convenient time to be a bedtime story — what fun!

    Joy’s Book Blog

  14. I had no idea he was in NCIS. That’s a fun fact. Thanks!

  15. Tammy says:

    Here is a little secret … I was addicted to The Man From Uncle and after it aired would act out the scenes with my BFF. All true. So, it goes without saying that I endorse your choice!

  16. Yvonne Wray says:

    I love that you found your crush again, admiring him in his later years as well. I didn’t know him until reading this. Thank you for the introduction. I may be watching some UNCLE now.

    Yvonne Wray recently posted…Three Things My Celebrity Crush Taught Me About Menopause

  17. Risa Nye says:

    Hope you enjoy UNCLE–it was a fun show.

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