Chicago Tribune, May 4, 2001
by Barbara Brotman

Firth isn't first to set hearts girlishly aflutter

May 2, 2001

I recently pulled out the video equivalent of a bottle of 1953 Lafite Rothschild: My treasured tapes of the 1960s-era TV show "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

A high school friend who knew of my possession of a card identifying me as an agent of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement sent me the tapes a few years ago.

I had put off watching them, fearful that in the light of adulthood, "U.N.C.L.E." would be revealed as unworthy of the desperate letter-writing campaign I waged when it was canceled in 1968.

But finally, during an illness-connected TV jag, I watched. And you know what?

The show was unworthy. But Illya--Illya was another story entirely.

Illya, Illya . . . the mere mention of Illya Kuryakin is enough to induce fainting spells in women of my vintage. That shock of blond hair, the sky-blue eyes, the slender build, the Russian defector exoticism, the half-shy and half-ironic quietness, that black turtleneck, oh, God, that black turtleneck.

Illya, the face that launched a thousand subscriptions to Tiger Beat. He was as gorgeous as I remembered, although I think I may have outweighed him even as a 10-year-old. If I didn't already have a fever as I watched, I certainly would have developed one.

Now, that was a crush, I thought between swigs of ginger ale. Those were the preteen days, when a girl could be overcome by adoration of a stranger. Too bad we're all grown up now, and schoolgirl crushes are behind us.

Only what is the story with all this sighing and giggling among some of my female colleagues?

The story is Colin Firth. Or Mr. Darcy, as the devoted call him, because it was in that role in the BBC/A&E production of "Pride and Prejudice" that he stole their adult hearts.

<< ..... information about Firth.... >>

Clearly, a crush is in the eye of the beholder, which explains the Paul versus John Beatle-crush phenomenon.

But there is no need to debate Firth's particular charms. The fun is the crush itself, which is at least as much fun for grown-ups as it is for preteens, and, apparently, almost as common.

"I have them all the time," shrugged one friend.

"I think it's perfectly normal," declared another.

"If you have a crush by yourself, it's kind of pathetic," said the fanned friend. "But we're definitely having a communal crush. We're acting like 7th and 8th grade girls, only we can look at ourselves and laugh."

No one confessed to pasting a picture of Firth up on the mirror and kissing it. But a rollicking good time is being had by some grown-up girls, to which there is only one thing I can say:

He's no Illya.