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Tony and Me

by Jack Klugman

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Tony and Me
Tony and Me is a delightful love letter to a departed friend. It is a message to each of us to stop our pell mell rush along the road of life and tell those we love that we love them. It is not enough to be kind and supportive; we should/must say those crucial words.

Make no mistake. This is not a memoir of either Jack Klugman's or Tony Randall's lives. This is nothing like Moss Hart's Act One, perhaps the premiere theatre biography, and one of the very best biographies period. Nor is it meant to be. It is a warm and inviting conversation about a dear friend and the intersection of their lives in the theatre, then how that produced a deep and abiding friendship.

It is "a tribute to my dear friend, Tony Randall," according to Klugman, a series of reminiscences he shares about events in their nearly half century of friendship and partnership on the stage and television. Randall was already a star on the "Mr. Peepers" show when they first worked together in 1954 on the forgettable "Appointment with Adventure," a summer replacement show for the Goodyear Theatre. The production they shared was "a stinker" but an enduring personal and theatre relationship was born.
Nevertheless, it took almost seventeen years for them to come together again, and this time they made history. They were cast in a new show called "The Odd Couple" in 1970. The sparks flew, and the partnership nearly died while they waited in a limousine to begin shooting the opening credits. Tony could not tolerate Jack's cigar. But, Garry Marshall, the producer, made a Solomonic decision to get two limousines and shooting continued. In fact, they were to reprise the role repeatedly through Klugman's throat cancer and up until Randall's final illness.

We learn that the show was cancelled every year because it was moved around on the schedule and could never find its audience. Then, each summer, the reruns would be given a consistent schedule, find an audience, and the show would be picked up again. This went on for the entire run. The best news was that because of the initial low ratings, both actors were able to get a percentage of the show. Klugman says, "That 'piece' sent both of my kids to college."
Klugman tells us how he realized early on that the key to their relationship was that Oscar loved Felix, and that somewhere in each show that message had to be sent in order for it to work. Each of us knows "an oldest and dearest friend" who drives us crazy, who frustrates us to no end, but without whom our lives would be all the poorer. In some ways life imitated art in this instance.

After Randall's death, Klugman was empty; he felt "gypped." Weeks of thinking about the reason for this explained why, among other things, he felt compelled to write this book. "You see, I hadn't ever told Tony the real gift his friendship had given me….The real gift that Tony's friendship gave me was the capacity to truly trust another human being completely. And that single act changed my life." "What I didn't get the chance to tell him was that our friendship had made me a better human being."
Brief though it is, Tony and Me captures the essence of a warm and loving relationship between two television and theatre giants. The book comes with a DVD of outtakes of scenes from "The Odd Couple." It was self published by Klugman with the assistance of his two sons, Adam and David, so that it would be "done right." Burton Rocks (perhaps best known for a number of sports-related biographies) is the writer behind the scenes.
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