The Rhinoceros Times, Thursday, April 20, 1995

Bernie & the Man from U.N.C.L.E.

By Bernie Woodall, New York Bureau Chief

There's been a definite Soviet flavor at the Beach Cafe.  Recently, we were slow when a tall man in a suit and one of those Secret Service earpieces arrived to say the president of Kazakhstan was on his way with a party of 15.

Didn't I win Risk with that country once, I thought.  I soon learned that Kazakhstan is one of the former Soviet republics.  It's twice the size of Texas and is located on the Caspian Sea and bordered by Russia and China.  It has lots of oil.

Of the 15 people, most of them were security agents from the U.S. and Kazakhstan.  They drank orange juice.  And in line with positive Kazakhstan-U.S. relations, the former Soviets had Budweiser and the U.S. businessmen had Stolichnaya.

I didn't get to meet President Nursultan Nazarbaev.  If I had, I would have asked him how he gets everybody to read over there.  Kazakhstan has a 100-percent literacy rate.

The other Soviet-related person arrived without any security escorts, and sat with two women.

"You used to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," asked David, the host with the most at the Beach Cafe.  "That guy on Table 52 was Illya Kuryakin."

Sure enough, the smallish man with the glasses and the blondish hair was David McCallum, who played a Russian working as a spy for U.N.C.L.E., the good-guy United States spy organization that fought the evil and Iron Curtain T.H.R.U.S.H. in the mid-60's TV show.

When I went into the bathroom later, there was David McCallum, washing his hands.  Then he shocked me.  As a lad, I had watched in wonder as Illya Kuryakin dismantled a complicated bomb that would have blown up a good part of Western Civilization.

"How do you get this thing to work," he asked.  "I can't get the soap out."

"Pull forward," I said, thinking to myself "and he's really short."

"I've tried every way but that," he said.

Another childhood myth shattered.