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Tony And Me: A Story of Friendship

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Jack Klugman

Klugman's brief memoir of his friendship with Tony Randall stays true to the promise the author made to himself if he ever wrote such a book: "I would never do two things: kiss and tell, and bore people with long histories of things." Boring this work … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Jack Klugman
Publisher: Goodhill Press
1 review about Tony And Me: A Story of Friendship

Short But Sweet

  • Oct 20, 2008
He acted on Broadway with Ethel Merman and Henry Fonda, was a television fixture from its earliest days, and by the early 1980s was the first character who solved mysteries by playing with dead people. Still, mention the name "Jack Klugman", and for millions, the first three things that spring to mind is Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.

Jack Klugman was Oscar Madison for five years on ABC-TV's "The Odd Couple", a loveable slob who shared an apartment with neatnik friend Felix Unger, played by Tony Randall. In 2005, a year after Randall's death and 30 years after "Odd Couple's" cancellation, Klugman self-published this short, touching memoir about his partnership with Randall, both as fellow actors and, eventually, good friends.

The problem with "Tony And Me" is that Klugman isn't writing for the casual reader, but for someone with a vested interest in the TV show, in Klugman, or in Randall going in. If you don't know "The Odd Couple" from "Bosom Buddies" or "Waiting For Godot", you aren't going to get that much from this book. But if you are an admirer like me, you'll find this a quick read, more than a bit undernourishing in the way it comes off as transcribed casual conversation, but profoundly affecting by the end.

One interesting fact, a central one in my view though not presented that way by Klugman, is that he and Randall were not that close during the show's original 1970-75 run. "Mostly it was my doing," Klugman writes. "People don't always believe me when I tell them, but I really am a loner."

It took Klugman a long time to come out of his shell, and only when he found himself fighting throat cancer that threatened his voice and life. Yet Randall, who had of course been staying in touch and occasionally working with Klugman since "The Odd Couple's" cancellation, jumped into the breach in a surprising way, convincing the now-raspy-voiced Klugman to join him onstage two years after his surgery for a special benefit performance of the original Neil Simon "Odd Couple" play.

"In the play, Felix would yell at me for being sloppy and inconsiderate, but Tony's eyes would light up whenever I got a laugh," Klugman writes. "They'd say: 'Go, Baby, Go! I knew you could do it.'"

It's a beautiful story as told by Klugman. Reading it, the thought occurred to me that just as the "Odd Couple" TV show was a success only after its cancellation, properly appreciated only in daily doses of syndication, its two stars' friendship was likewise a slow-blossoming thing, coming to fruition decades after the daily grind of the show was over.

It's a shame the book doesn't tell more about the making of the TV series. Klugman is more interested in Randall's shared love of the theater, embodied by his leadership of the National Actors Theater, to which all this book's proceeds go. A small bonus feature is a DVD featuring six very funny minutes of "Odd Couple" outtakes. Again, one wishes for more, but of course, leave them wanting more is the credo of stage actors like Klugman. If so, mission accomplished.

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