Gossip By The Nostalgic New Yorker

Barbara Feldon

UNCLE GREENLIGHTED -- Director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2) has been inked to direct the long-gestating big screen version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – which director Stephen Soderbergh just exited. The legendary series, which ran from 1964-1968, was noteworthy for a number of reasons: it featured actors Robert Vaughn, David McCallum (now at CBS’ NCIS) and, the late-Leo G. Carroll; co-creator Norman Felton had input on the creation of the show from none-other than James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The book, The James Bond Films revealed that Fleming’s TV concept had two characters: Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (aka The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.). Interestingly, Mr. Solo was originally the name of a crime boss in the Bond-film Goldfinger. Robert Towne, Sherman Yellen and Harlan Ellison all wrote scripts for the series, which was originally to have been titled Solo. As a youth, I absolutely loved this show; Vaughn, McCallum and Carroll were just terrific; the scripts pretty solid with terrific action and intrigue and the just-the-barest hint of sarcasm. Solo usually always got the girl, which seemed to always irritate Illya Kuryakin, McCallum’s character. Vaughn was a consummate actor and very definitely became a major star because of the show; with fans clubs, lunchboxs and his own fanzine. McCallum, though more of a second banana on the series, became huge as well. He was always a terrific actor. In fact, his current run on NCIS is always like a master-class in acting. He is superb! I well remember running into McCallum several years back outside Bloomingdales (right before Christmas), and somehow summoning the nerve to approach him. He could not have been nicer. I'll never forget that. The show featured a dazzling array of guest stars in its run, including: Barbara Feldon, who played an U.N.C.L.E. translator a full year before becoming one of the stars of the very different spy-show entitled Get Smart; the late-Robert Culp appeared as well, before starring in his own spy show called I Spy (with Bill Cosby). Star Trek’s William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared in a 1964 episode called The Project Strigas Affair, a full two years before Trek aired for the first time; ironically the villain in that episode was portrayed by Werner Klemperer, soon to become huge in the TV show Hogan's Heroes. Also appearing, were: Joan Collins, Sonny and Cher, Joan Crawford, Janet Leigh, Jack Palance, Anne Francis, Angela Lansbury, Leslie Nielsen, Caroll O’Connor, Cesar Romero, Kurt Russell, Nancy Sinatra and Fritz Weaver. When Soderbergh was at the helm, he had George Clooney set to portray Solo, who is downright handsome and suave in the series. My choice? Maybe Armie Hammer. If this big-screen adaption can indeed rise to the very high standards set by the show, all these years ago, it’ll be a must see. And, how about Vaughn himself running the agency? Sounds doable to me. Call me Guy!


Steve Buscemi

HADER HILARIOUS -- Steve Buscemi’s SNL stint last week had some brilliant moments: Bill Hader’s absolutely riveting portrayal of NBC’s Keith Morrison was just sensational. Morrison seems to relish his interviews with the most bizarre personalities in nature; be they serial killers or pedophiles. I couldn't take my eyes off Hader as he literally oozed uncomfortableness mixed with frenzied pleasure. Also the sketch wherein a character (a college sports coach, played by Buscemi) was investigated for possible sexual violations …. before they ever happened was pretty amusing too. The joke was ... they couldn't find anything remotely scandalous. Yes, it is a hot-button issue for sure; but, isn't that what comedy is all about? Pushing the envelope. Also, The Black Keys performed, two tracks from their just-out new album El Camino. Formed in Akron, Ohio in 2011; they are justifiably the darlings of the media right now. They were simply sensation; and, shots on Letterman and Stephen Colbert followed this week were equally as brilliant. Finally, a guest stint by former-cast member Maya Rudolph, portraying singer-Whitney Houston was priceless. Not the best episode of the season, but pretty funny. Again, it’s been a banner run this season for the show.



DAYME DEBUTS --- We've just learned exclusively that the first recording to be released from Dayme, who we've trumpeted already in this column, will be Friday, December 23 at Club 141 Chrystie. The singer-songwriter has been working with producer/re mixer Freddy Bastone. Her Manager has told us what the song is … and, all we are allowed to say is that it will be a major, major surprise. We can say, that she did not write it and that a very big star -for decades- has. The club opens at 9:00PM and we'll be there.


Emmy-award winning actor Harry Morgan, who played the exasperated but endearing Col. Sherman Potter on MASH, died this past Wednesday. He was 96. Morgan appeared as a character actor in more than 100 films beginning in the late-30’s, but did so in relative obscurity until TV came along. He did two stints as Sgt. Joe Friday’s side-kick, Pete Gannon, opposite Jack Webb on Dragnet, in 1951-52 and in 1967-70. After MASH ended in 1983, he and several cohorts appeared in the spin-off series After MASH. Ironically, Morgan first appeared on MASH in 1974, not as Col. Potter, but as a deranged general who believes the unit should be moved dangerously close to the front lines. He was Emmy-nominated for this guest role and so impressed the show’s producers, that they chose him to replace the departing (and, subsequently killed in the show) McLean Stevenson. He was Emmy-nominated for his role as Potter eight times, winning in 1980. He also received a nom for directing an episode of the series that same year. It’s funny, I so well remember that first role in the show and certainly when he came on board the show. They were each so different, but he handled them most impressively. What an actor … he could handle almost anything; and, his time with Webb on Dragnet … talk about a dry role. He will be missed … unquestionably, one of the greats!

Photos By: RD/Dziekan/Kirkland/Sara De Boer/Retna