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 2005-11-17
Book Review: Tony and Me
 
Writers Directory

Norman
Manson

Book Review
    
Klugman tells of his odd, but durable,

friendship with Randall of Odd Couple


  jewishsightseeing.com,  November 17, 2005

books 

Tony and Me by Jack Klugman with Burton  Rocks; Good Hill Press; 141 pages; $24.95.

Reviewed by Norman Manson

This book is subtitled "A Story of Friendship," but callitng it that seems a bit of an understatement. For, in a mere 141 pages,  interspersed with numerous photos, Jack Klugman, with help from Burton Rocks, powerfully conveys the substance of a deep, enduring relationship with his longtime sidekick Tony Randall.

Best known for their long-running television sitcom, "The  Odd Couple," Klugman and Randall were far more then professional colleagues. Actually, they first played together back in the 1950s, on an unsuccessful TV summer replacement show called "Appointment With Adventure," which became good for a few laughs between them in later years.

But their friendship did not really blossom until the advent of "The Odd Couple" in 1970. They not only played their role on TV but on the stage as well. And their friendship seemed to grow and expand with the passing years, especially in times of stress, such as when Jack contracted throat cancer and had to have delicate surgery on his larynx, leaving him at least temporarily voiceless. The story of how he recovered and resumed his acting career, with great help from his friend Tony, is one of the highlights of the book. Another bittersweet highlight is the story of Tony's close relationship with his first wife Florence, whom he cared for with great love and tenderness for ten years before she died of cancer. And then Tony remarried and he and Heather - about 50 years younger than he - became parents of two children.

But the basis of Jack and Tony's close lifelong relationship was their interaction during the five years that "The Odd Couple" ran on TV, and Jack recounts some of the episodes that brought them closer together. They quickly learned to improvise and, as much as possible, to avoid telling jokes. He writes of the motivations that went into their partnership, stressing the need for human emotion in any dramatic situation - their shows always included a "love scene."

Much of the book's final segment is devoted to Tony's pet project - the National Actors Theater, which he conceived in 1991 and spent  much of the last years of his life (he died in 2004) bringing to fruition. And Jack, who admitted regarding the idea as "pie in the sky" at its inception, helped by appearing in numerous benefit performances.

Finally, the story comes to a sad conclusion with Tony's death, and Jack's realization of what his close friend and partner really meant to him - he had truly made him a better human being and given him the ability to trust other human beings completely.

This partly funny, partly sad memoir is thoroughly readable - in fact it can be read in a single sitting. Its story of how two Jewish boys (Tony was born Leonard Rosenberg - in Tulsa, Oklahoma, no less) found each other and enriched not only themselves, but the lives of theatergoers and TV viewers for several decades, makes more than worthwhile reading.