Screenland, July 1966
The day consisted of 24 hours, just as any ordinary day, but to David McCallum, intrepid man from "U.N.C.L.E.," it seemed more like a week--- a flattering week, to be sure, but nightmarish, none the less.
It all began in the promotional mind of Tom Rogan at Capital Records, the company that put out McCallum's album, "Music A Part Of Me." Tom called Margie McLean in the Special Events Department of Macy's, the world's largest store, and asked, "How would you like an autograph session in your record department--- if I can deliver the ever popular David McCallum?"
Margie took it up with her chief Eleanore Bruce, who in turn discussed it with a vice-president in charge of operations. Everyone decided that Mr. McCallum's autographing his records for two hours would be just dandy and would certainly sell the usual 500 records on hand. The man from Capitol, knowing David's ability to sign his names a 1000 times an hour and still keep it legible, sent over 2000 records, just in case.
The idea had to be cleared with MGM-TV, producers of David's TV show, and then with the star, himself. Now David McCallum is one of the busiest young stars around. At the time, he was filming two U.N.C.L.E. segments: he had done the sound track for the Life of Beethoven, a TV special, and was spending his nights recording a second album and getting ready to go abroad to film Three Bites Of The Apple. A flying trip to New York for a two hour autograph session was something he could do without. But David McCallum's soft spot is music, in addition, he feels terribly obligated to the fans who have made him so popular in such a short time. Besides, he wanted his first recording to be a success. Not only is music his soft spot but it also was very nearly his occupation. His father played first violin with the London Philharmonic. His mother was a violoncellist and his grandfather taught piano.
David, himself, studied at the Royal Academy of Music and mastered both the oboe and the English horn. It was expected that he would follow in his parents' footsteps and make music his life's work. But as he grew older, he discovered he wanted to be an actor more than a musician. Once having made that decision, he devoted all of his time to learning how to act and during one particularly rough period, even had to sell his instruments to keep eating.
Nevertheless, music was, as the recording is titled, very much a part of him, and without it, there was a definite lack in his life. He was happy when it was suggested that he conduct an orchestra in modern tunes that would appeal to teenagers and record them. It was a chance, too, to include two of his own compositions. So he had been delighted to make that record. And now, he knew he could not do less than agree to help promote it.
He and his press agent from MGM-TV took a plane and flew to New York for the autograph session at Macy's. David was terribly tired and though he had no idea of what he would have to cope with the next day, he had to get some rest. So he took a pill and settled down to sleep during the trip.
He arrived on a Friday evening. A chauffeured limousine, which was waiting for him at the airport, whisked him to the Regency Hotel while his publicists explained that Clay Cole, a local disc jockey, was set to interview him on the ride down to Macy's the next morning at 10. The appearance was scheduled for 11 but he would arrive at 10:30. David took this in stride. He had been interviewed in more unlikely places, so a limousine with a camera grinding away from the front seat would not bother him! (That's what he thought!)
He kept his Illyan composure the next day when Clay Cole, whose Diskotek show is popular with teenagers in New York, questioned him about the recording and his musical background. He was just naming some of the tunes on the record: Downtown, A Taste Of Honey, The In-Crowd and his own composition, Insomnia, when the car drew up at the back entrance of Macy's department store.
What he didn't know then was that so many teenagers had read the ad telling of his personal appearance that they began storming the doors at 7:30 in the morning. To prevent any mayhem, the doors were opened well ahead of time and the teenagers yelled, screamed and stormed to the fifth floor record department where in short order they had purchased all 2000 records and were anxious to have them autographed.
By the time the McCallum car approached a freight elevator, there were teenagers storming every floor and surrounding the building on four sides. Some of them now caught a glimpse of him and began chanting "We want David" and hammered on the windows of the car.
Macy's has a plan of operation for the visiting celebrities, they call it "The Green Sheet" and in David's case, it consisted of five typewritten pages of instructions for their security guards, their employees and their public relations department. No one, but no one, except executives and the public relations people can lay a hand on it. Yet, now like a plot from U.N.C.L.E., there had been enough of a leak to have the car besieged by the young fans.
There was a hurried conference between Macyites and the record people and the car was moved, with its passengers, onto the freight elevator. The occupants were let out, not on the fifth floor but on the 13th floor and taken directly to the president's dinning room. A few reporters from the New York dailies were on hand, as were the complete publicists' contingent, security officers, etc. McCallum was seated on a divan to answer the newsmen's questions while his cohorts and the Macy people went into a hasty summit conference.
It was reported back to a bewildered David as follows: "There are about 20,000 teenagers overrunning the store, policemen have been summoned for their protection and yours, and we have agreed that you cannot appear---it would be too dangerous!"
David was stunned, "Not appear after you announced it in all the papers and I've come from Hollywood! I've got to appear. I can't disappoint my fans."
At this point, David took off his wristwatch and handed it to Tom Rogan with his wallet to hold and got ready to brave the crowds. But all the publicity men held him back.
Someone suggested that they lunch first and then reappraise the situation. It was a temporizing measure calculated to calm David down and keep him there. So David, the Macy executives and the Capitol men tried to down their lobster salads. But David was troubled, "Why did I make this trip?" he asked, bitterly. "It was to autograph my record. If you're not going to let me---"
One of the vice presidents then explained, "We have many promotions but never has there been anything like this--- at least not since Shirley Temple 25 years ago."
A Mrs. Bruce, a short, calm woman wearing dark glasses against the flash bulbs and camera lights, said lightly, "Mr. McCallum, if you're not thinking of your own safety, think if the kids. We already have several in our infirmary---oh nothing serious, but a few have been shoved and a couple have fainted. We appreciate your loyalty to your fans, but for everyone's sake, we have to cancel your appearance. We wouldn't want anything serious to happen either to you or our young customers."
David McCallum is a reasonable man. He sighed, put back his watch and took his wallet, "Naturally, I wouldn't want anyone to get hurt, especially not the kids who were kind enough to get up early and come here on their one free day. How many did you say there were?"
"It looked like 15,000 in the beginning, but now I'd say, it was more like 20,000," Mrs. Bruce answered.
"Good lord! You mean, they're all over the store?"
"All over," Mrs. Bruce said calmly. "And in the most unlikely places where they shouldn't be."
Someone reported that the kids were sitting on glass counters and that one cash register had been knocked over.
"They bought out all your records long ago."
David didn't know whether to be gratified or sad. He ended by being a little of both.
"How will I get out of here?" he asked. "The way I came in?"
"Heavens no!" Mrs. Bruce told him. "We'll spirit you away in a police car and Mr. Clay Cole has kindly agreed to take your place in the limousine to draw them away. But we don't dare even try that until the store is cleared a little."
Then it came over the loudspeaker, "Mr. David McCallum regrettably will not appear. The autograph session is canceled." And the kids were urged to go home.
But very few of them budged. They ran from one floor to another mumbling, "We've been robbed," and "We want David." Wild rumors started flying that he would be an hour late and the kids kept going up and down on the elevators and escalators so that an ordinary shopper was trapped along with them, unable to get out.
Some of the kids were heard to murmur, "He's not a bit like Illya," and others vowed, "I won't set foot in this store ever again."
As these reports were brought in by various scouts, David looked more and more glum and began mumbling to himself, "If I ever let myself be talked into something like this again...,"
Then he said, "I've got to catch that plane back to Los Angeles. I've got to get back to the hotel and pack my bag."
Mrs. Bruce said soothingly, "Your friends will take care of that. I'm afraid you can't go back there. About a thousand fans are at your hotel."
"Oh lord!" groaned the not-so-composed David.
"Don't worry. As soon as the main floor is cleared a bit, the police will escort you down on the other side of the building to a car they have waiting. They'll take you to my apartment. It's not far, just across town. I'll follow you in a cab and so will your aides. We'll try to make you comfortable until plane time."
And that's the way it happened. David McCallum, in the middle of a flank of policemen, got down the 34th Street side and out to the police car. Men of the 14th precinct did themselves proud and got him into the comparative safety and isolation of Mrs. Bruce's apartment as the rest of the entourage followed in cabs.
In her home, Mrs. Bruce made her unexpected guest welcome and calmed him down. "I'm an old hand at this," she said, "And still you never quite know if you can cope with fans. But one thing is clear---they're crazy about you."
"I'm grateful, where would I be without them! And yet it's upsetting," David sighed.
"Of course it is. I'm shaken too. But you may as well relax now until you have to leave for the airport. I'm sure the kids know you didn't desert them and that you would have risked your neck to appear."
"I certainly hope they understand." Then he grinned, "I appreciate your getting me to safety," he said.
"It's a pleasure. Do you play dominoes? I've found it's very relaxing for the nerves."
So it was the Director of Public Relations for the world's largest store, and David McCallum, screen star, sat down to a game of dominoes to try to forget the screaming fans whom they hoped, by now, had gone home.
"I hope they didn't do too much damage to your store," David said, apologetically.
"Not at all. You have to expect these things. I know they didn't mean to do any harm. They just got a little too enthusiastic at the prospect of catching a glimpse of you. I'm sorry it turned out this way." Then being a frank and honest woman, she added with a smile, "That's not strictly true. Dominoes in my own home with David McCallum as my guest---this should set me up with the teenagers for a long time!"
And it did. And Mrs. Bruce could tell them later, "He's a charming man---a real intelligent, delightful human being with a sense of humor. And a gentleman to boot!"