The Best of Enemies: U.N.C.L.E. adversaries Joe Sirola and David McCallum (Photo copyright Cinema Retro)
By Lee Pfeiffer
Actor Joe Sirola's annual parties to celebrate the blooming of his roses in his Manhattan penthouse garden have become something of a legend in New York social circles. The tradition continued last week but, for once, the weather didn't co-operate, as a monsoon-like rain poured over Gotham from morning into the evening hours. Thus, throngs of party attendees crammed into Joe's apartment in what seemed to be a recreation of the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera. As harried servers tried valiantly to carry trays of drinks and appetizers through the masses, a familiar face emerged from the elevator that opens directly into the apartment: David McCallum. Although David's aversion to crowded party scenes is well known, he and Joe Sirola's friendship dates back to the 1960s when they squared off occasionally as adversaries on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
"Open Channel D"? Not quite- it's David chatting on the phone with a fan.(Photo copyright Cinema Retro)
As David is a frequent contributor to Cinema Retro, I managed to find a quiet corner where we could chat a bit in hopes of getting a couple of interesting anecdotes regarding his long career. As usual, he didn't disappoint. He said he loves being in the cast of the long-running hit series NCIS and continues to research his role as pathologist 'Ducky' Mallard by attending actual autopsies. David feels being in the presence of actual experts has gone a long way to ensuring accuracy in his performance, though he has never been able to summon the grit to attend any such procedure involving a child. He said he very much appreciates his fans and the loyalty they have shown to him for so long. As though demonstrating proof of this, he graciously conceded to speak on the phone to the wife of a party attendee who swore his wife was his biggest fan. I also managed to get David to take a brief trip down memory lane. He recalled visiting the set of the WWII epic Where Eagles Dare in Austria, as he had recently completed shooting Sol Madrid with the movie's director Brian G. Hutton. Star Richard Burton and wife Elizabeth Taylor invited David and his wife Kathy to dinner at a historic hotel. David recalled that the manager asked them to add their names to the other dignitaries that had signed the register book over the centuries. In glancing through the book, David said he was fascinated to find the signatures of most members of the Nazi high command- including Adolf Hitler.
David and Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro)
After a while, it was time for 'Ducky' to duck out. Turns out he had people coming to his apartment, insisting upon viewing the 'penultimate' episode of NCIS with the McCallums. Just another reason why even a rainy night in Manhattan is more fun than almost anywhere else.
(David McCallum and Joe Sirola reunited last November for Cinema Retro's black tie dinner in honor of Robert Vaughn at The Players club. For full coverage and exclusive photos, see issue #17 of Cinema Retro)