Crush Redux by
(87 Stories)

Prompted By The Crush

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In my hormone-driven early teens, my heart belonged to a blond secret agent name Ilya Kuryakin.The handsome man with an accent you couldn’t quite place but you guessed was supposed to be Russian, what with the name and all, fought evil side by side for an hour every week with a James Bond wannabe named Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn. In my book, Ilya was by far the more fascinating of the two men from U.N.C.L.E. on the show that ran from 1964 to 1968.


During the ’60s, a friend of my dad’s reviewed TV shows for the local paper. He thought I might be interested in reading about the new fall lineup, so he gave me his  press kit magazine which was full of glossy publicity shots. I flipped through the actors’ photos and stopped cold when I got to the picture of Ilya—that is, David McCallum—looking right at me with those soulful blue eyes. They were so blue, so piercing—I felt like he was looking at me the way I was looking at him. 
Those eyes, the black turtlenecks, the bon mots and literary references...Ilya was smart and sexy and mysterious.

See what I mean?

I taped his picture to my closet door, next to John, Paul, George and Ringo. I watched the show every week as the two secret agents outwitted their evil nemesis,THRUSH, which stands for something but I don’t remember what.
 David/Ilya got all the best lines. He seemed content to be a sidekick, but I always thought he had a much more interesting personality than the suave Solo, who never made my heart flutter. Those eyes, the black turtlenecks, the bon mots and literary references…Ilya was smart and sexy and mysterious.

Now David, correct me if I’m wrong here, but in one episode someone asks Ilya if he is married, and he responds by quoting the first line of a poem entitled “To His Coy Mistress” in that charming accent of his: “Had I but world enough and time….”


I don’t remember anything I learned in my in my 8th grade English class, but I never forgot that line. And now that I’ve read the poem…hoo boy!

Sexy mysterious smile, turtleneck, etc

The show went off the air, life happened, years went by, and I lost track of my long-ago heartthrob. Then, a couple of years ago, I happened to stumble across “NCIS.” It’s not the kind of show I usually watch. (Naval Criminal Investigation Service? Not my cup of tea.) But there was something familiar about the medical examiner—the guy wearing blue scrubs and rubber gloves, waxing poetic over a cadaver—a character referred to as “Ducky.”


Could it be? That same where’s-he-from accent, the slight bangs—not really blond anymore but you can tell he used to be—the guy who always gets the best lines even when he’s speaking to a corpse?


 Yes, it is the one and only Ilya of my teenage fantasies. How could I have not known about this? The show’s been on since 2003! But, I wondered, why is this enigmatic former spy-turned-medical-examiner called Ducky? It didn’t take long to figure out: it’s because his character’s real moniker is Donald Mallard.


Of course it is. And he really rocks the bow tie, right?
On the show, someone wonders what Ducky looked like as a young man. The answer: Ilya Kuryakin!

May he rest in peace. 9/25/23

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Risa, agreed, I enjoy watching David as “Ducky” now and thought he was a dreamboat back in the “Uncle” days.

  2. Wow! I’ve seen NCIS and never would have guessed Ducky was Ilya grown up.
    I guess you saw it in those blue eyes!

  3. Suzy says:

    Great story, Risa, and I love the way you start it off with that paragraph in italics. I too watched the Man from U.N.C.L.E. every week, and was much more drawn to Ilya than to Napoleon Solo. I have never watched NCIS, but I don’t think I will, I would rather think of him the way he was back then. You don’t remember what THRUSH stood for (neither do I), but do you remember what UNCLE stood for?

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Another mutual crush remembered, Risa. I loved him too. I will have to watch NCIS now because Ducky looks pretty good to me.

  5. Ah, yes…I remember the enigmatic Ilya! Definitely crush-worthy! Love your writing, Risa!

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    With you 100%, Risa. I used to love The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I was too young to see the Bond movies, so didn’t know this was a watered down rip-off, I just thought this show was way cool and loved Ilya/David also with that cool accent (besides, this was during the Cold War, right? So he must have been recruited to spy on his motherland…wow!)

    Because we watch WAY too much junk TV, we actually watched NCIS for a few seasons (we no longer do), so I knew that David was Ducky long ago. Did you know that it is the #1 rated show, and one of the longest running shows in the country? Not kidding.

    Thanks for capturing the sense of awe that I’m sure most of us felt for someone on TV. I know I did, for several guys on TV (I was too old when The Partidge Family came along; I didn’t care about either David or Shawn Cassidy. To me, their mother was always the Laurie in the movie “Oklahoma”, or Marian, the librarian in “The Music Man”).

  7. Now I’ll be the first one to say i didn’t have a crush on McCallum, but I get it. And I love the part about the subsequent discovery of him in a new role, after all these years, I had a similar experience watching the last season of Downton Abbey. Years and years ago, in the Rumpole of the Bailey series on PBS, there was a recurring character, Phylida Erskine-Brown, very accomplished, smart and attractive. Didn’t have a crush on her but liked her. And then she (Patricia Hodge) turned up as Bertie’s mother.

  8. Great story, Risa! And a great choice in celebrity crushes. I was already into my boho/resistance-no-corporate-media phase, so missed Man from U.N.C.L.E. but relieved to know that you discovered NCIS and Donald Mallard. What a wonderful character he makes, and all those television chops leap out with his performances as Ducky. And of course, he absolutely has to drive a British Morgan, complete with the leather straps on the bonnet!

  9. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Risa. No man-crush here, but I also thought Ilya was way cool.

    Incidentally, for you acronym geeks, THRUSH stood for Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity and UNCLE stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (that “and” makes no sense). Conversely, KAOS, the international evil organization in “Get Smart,” never stood for anything.

  10. Dave Ventre says:

    You’re not alone. Gina says that she had a major crush on Ilya and that Napoleon did nothing for her.

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