Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship
This slim volume speaks in a voice much louder than Jack Klugman has been able to muster in recent years.
Klugman, whose portrayal of the sloppy everyman, Oscar Madison, was the perfect compliment to Tony Randall's fussbudget Felix Unger, writes a moving ode to his pal in TONY AND ME, a simple and extremely warm memoir. Giving only the briefest of youthful self-reference, Klugman's sole purpose is to let the reader and fans of "The Odd Couple" realize what a mensch Randall was.
Despite being an actor of some renown before and after the syndicated favorite, Klugman would rather tout the virtues of Randall and a supportive and multi-dimensional friend than toot his own horn.
After some initial stumbles in working on "The Odd Couple," Randall and Klugman developed a relationship of mutual respect and affection rare in the world these days, let alone the entertainment industry. After the show was canceled, they maintained their friendship and worked together often. When Klugman developed throat cancer, Randall was there with words of encouragement to a remarkable degree, even going so far as to help Klugman return to the profession, casting him in numerous productions at his National Actors Theatre.
When the tables were turned, and Randall became ill, Klugman was similarly there for his ailing partner.
Klugman, who teamed up with Burton Rocks, co-writer of the bestselling MY DAD AND ME (the autobiography of former New York Yankees player Paul O'Neill) probably could have sold his story to any major house but preferred to self-publish because, as he writes, "I needed to be sure it was done right…I instinctively didn't like the idea of handing [the book] to someone I didn't know."
The only questionable aspect of TONY AND ME --- and it is a minor one --- is the use of a "Q and A" format interview with Heather Randall, Tony's widow; after the warm narrative, it just seems jarring to come across the transcript style. (The book ends with a similar "interview with Jack Klugman." Was this really necessary since, after all, Klugman did write the manuscript?)
In an era when celebrity relationships can be as fleeting and phony as the roles they play, TONY AND ME is an unashamedly open "thank you" note from one friend to another.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on January 23, 2011