Yes, the David McCallum. The actor David McCallum. The same David McCallum who’s in NCIS.
I was writing for TV Zone magazine and Mr McCallum had agreed to be interviewed about his fondly-remembered TV work such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Sapphire and Steel. I think, in truth, he had reluctantly agreed under pressure from his agent who was keen for him to get some publicity to keep him in the public eye.
We met in a restaurant in London. He ordered food. I didn’t.
Not that I wasn’t hungry, but I had made the mistake before of eating while interviewing. Firstly, this leads to the recording of the interview being full of unpleasant eating noise from yours truly. Secondly, interviewing — even for a magazine — is not the same as having a natter with your friends over burger and chips. You have to concentrate on what the person is saying and think of your next question. If you’re thinking about dipping your chips in the tomato sauce instead, then you can forget what you were going to say next. Or, if you concentrate on what you’re going to say next, you forget that you’re holding a chip with a big blob of tomato sauce on the end which is going to drop down your front at any moment.
Which brings me to the third reason not to eat while conducting an interview: I make a mess in front of famous people.
So, we conducted the interview. I was able to concentrate on my questions and refrain from making a mess. David McCallum didn’t remember very much about working on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., unfortunately, but did remember a little more about Sapphire and Steel. Towards the end, I was able to snap a picture of him to accompany the article (as pictured: I couldn’t find the original one in colour, so I scanned in the black and white version from the magazine). Then, itching to go, he looked up to see someone he recognised coming into the restaurant.
“Who’s that woman?” he asked.
I looked up. “Claire Rayner,” I said. For it was she, the (now late) agony aunt from TV and tabloids.
He stood up to greet her. “Claire! Darling!” he called across the restaurant.
“David!” she said. They proceeded to give each such a luvvie hug that, for a moment, it was like being in the middle of some spoof comedy about the theatre.
He seemed to know her quite well, despite not actually knowing what her name was. I suspected it was just a good excuse to stop talking about TV shows he couldn’t remember.
After all that talking, I confess I was a little peckish. The thing about sitting in a restaurant without eating anything, is it has a tendency to make you really hungry. So, as I was packing up my stuff, I noticed that David McCallum had eaten the main part of his meal, but had not touched his salad. It was rather a shame to leave it sitting there. Especially as it would only get thrown away by the staff.
So I reached over and helped myself.