I met Robert Vaughn in 1998. I had just opened the Fab Café, and had been lucky enough to have had actor Gareth Thomas of Blake’s 7 fame, and the amazing Gerry Anderson appear at the venue. As a result of this, the venue was gaining some much-needed attention. Perhaps in an act of hubris, I approached the agent of Robert Vaughn to see if Robert could appear. I knew he was touring the UK, and thought I would chance my arm. I literally slid off my chair onto the floor when his agent phoned back to confirm that Robert would be more than happy to make an appearance. I couldn’t believe it. A Hollywood icon was coming to make an appearance at a basement bar on Portland Street in Manchester. If I had previously met the guy, then this would not have been any shock whatsoever.
When Robert arrived with his wife Linda, I politely introduced myself and showed him the bar where he would later give his talk. I informed him that we had booked him a table at the prestigious Midland Hotel Restaurant, and asked if that would be ok? He looked a little perturbed. “could I just get a really great burger?”, he asked. Within ten minutes we were on our way to TGI Fridays in Sale. Turns out he was the furthest away from a prima donna you could ever meet. Whereas some celebs don’t age that well, Robert Vaughn looked pretty much the same as he looked thirty years earlier. Obviously, with the attention this generated, it took a long time to eat that burger. Yet with every interruption for an autograph, he showed what a class act he was. After all those years in the business, he still acted like every person that came up badgering was very important to him. It mattered. These were not pests. He obviously felt that they were the reason he was having such a nice, and fulfilling, life. There is no exaggeration in these words. No rose-tinted glasses because someone I knew and respected has passed on. He really was one of the most impressive people I have ever met, and he was gifted with a humility that is almost non-existent in modern-day celebrity culture. THEY had Robert Vaughn. WE have Chris Brown.
During the meal, my phone rang. I was going through a very difficult separation with my second wife and this was rife to happen somewhere in the day. I made my apologies and left to answer the call. Upon my return, I was obviously emoting what a nightmare the call had been. Robert leaned over, touched me gently on the hand and said, “Son, are you all right?” I merely stated that I had children and that the marriage was at the fag-end of the day. He leaned over and gave me the most profound advice I ever received. Advice that to this day I constantly refer to. Whilst I will never reveal the content of that conversation, I can attest to his wisdom, and to how many times it has bailed me out!
I was a nobody. Someone he had only known a couple of hours. He instinctively made time for me. He tried to help me. He was warm. He was understanding. When we are all watching a re-run of The Towering Inferno, I will be thinking of the great American he was. How warm he was. What a nice bloke he was
The following day I asked my friend Jonathan Thompson to look after him and his wife. I phoned at 2pm and asked if they were ok? I was told that they were having a Coca-Cola at the Railway Pub in Levenshulme. A pub that had two months earlier lost their license due to a fatal stabbing. I freaked out, but that was the guy he was. He wanted to see the UK and that meant he wanted to SEE the UK. Warts and all.
To this day, I regard Robert Vaughn as my ideal of an American gentleman. I work with a picture of him as Napoleon Solo behind my desk. He was an inspiration to me growing into manhood and helped bail out my company when I finally got there.
Robert Vaughn was a nice person. A genuinely nice person.
Robert Vaughn was also a Hollywood legend, and an icon, and part of an America that this week feels so far beyond our reach...
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