by Jack Klugman and Burton Rocks
Foreward by Garry Marshall
Good Hill Press
Out of Print but available to purchase online
Comes with DVD of outtakes of The Odd Couple TV Show
When I was watching the extras of The Odd Couple Season 1, I stumbled across a video of a much older Jack Klugman in 2005 talking to an audience at a bookstore about his book Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship. His voice, always having been very gravelly, was much worse after he had had a major operation on his vocal chords to get rid of invasive cancer. He beat the cancer but lost most of his right vocal chord to the disease. His love for acting, vocal training and the support from his good friend Tony Randall kept him going. When Randall died in 2004, Klugman was devastated. Writing about his friendship with Tony Randall and their parallel careers in show business, helped him deal with the grief.
It was a surprise to me that Klugman had written a book so the first thing I did after watching that video clip was to purchase the book online. Klugman self-published the book so he could get the most proceeds out of the sales (the money went to support Randall's life work: The National Actors Theatre). A lot of promotion was done for the book but as many self-published books and biographical books in general do, it went out of print fairly quickly. However, there are many new and used copies online and I was lucky to get a new copy that was flat signed (that is it was not inscribed; just a signature and not dedicated to any person in particular). If you love Jack Klugman or Tony Randall or you love to collect books about actors make sure you pick a copy up now before they are all gone!
The book started as a bet between Jack Klugman and his son Adam Klugman. Jack said he wanted to write a book about his friendship with Tony Randall. Adam told his Dad, in so many words, "if you write it, I'll publish it". Jack got Burton Rocks, a sports agent and writer, to help him write the book.
Tony and Me follows the parallel lives and acting careers of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Klugman was a poor Jewish kid from Philadelphia who idolized Jackie Cooper in The Champ and ran away from Philadelphia to become an actor so he could pay off a gambling debt. Tony Randall was a middle-class Jewish kid from Tulsa, Oklahoma who dreamed of being on stage. The two would have successful acting careers in film, TV and stage before they came together in The Odd Couple TV show, their most famous work together.
In the book, Jack Klugman opens up about how he and Randall weren't best of buds at the start but were two working actors who highly respected each others' talent, worked well together and had a knack for comedy and improvisation. Klugman had a difficult time opening up to people and letting them in. The real change came after Klugman lost his right vocal chord to cancer and Randall encouraged him to act again. After that, Klugman and Randall were as thick as thieves. They were close friends who supported each others hopes and dreams on stage and off. Tony and Me is not only a story of friendship, it's a love story too. Jack Klugman writes a heartfelt homage to the friendship he had with Tony and paints a portrait of him as a fine actor and a good human being. You'll be reaching for a box of tissues at the end.
I highly recommend reading this book. At 141 pages, you can read it in an afternoon. It comes with a DVD of outtakes from The Odd Couple. It has an introduction by Jack Klugman himself. It's a real treat for fans of The Odd Couple as well as of Klugman.
There was a website called TonyandMe.com that helped promote the book. It's no longer live but thanks to Internet Archive you can take a look at it through the lens of the past. Tony and Me Website
Jack Klugman also wrote a short-lived blog back in 2005 which is still up called Klugman's Korner.
(Jack Klugman signing books. Is he signing mine?! - photo from Klugman's Korner)