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Exclusive Jack Klugman Interview

On February 23rd, 2006, I was fortunate enough to be able to do a phone interview with Jack Klugman, who was doing publicity for his book, Tony and Me. Please note that I am not a professional journalist or interviewer, just a fan with a list of questions. :)

About your book, how long did it take you to write it?
About six months.

How did you choose which bloopers to include with that DVD that came with the book?
I do a one-man show, and those are the bloopers I show. They''re the only bloopers that we have. And the audience''s reaction is so funny. They laugh so much, and it puts them in the right mood for my one-man show. So I decided to show that, but they''re all the bloopers I have.

What was the last thing that you worked on with Tony Randall?
We did a Bush play, an adaptation of “The Play''s the Thing.” We did it out in Coconut Grove Playhouse, in Florida.

I have a couple of questions about the show, Odd Couple. I know you had a lot of guest stars on the show. Did you have a favorite guest star that you worked with?
Well, I liked Howard Cosell. He turned out to be a very good friend, and we palled around for a number of years after that. But I tended to be a loner, I didn''t really mix that much with the guest stars, especially if they were opera singers.

Was there anyone that you would have liked to have as a guest star on the show that they didn''t get?
No, I never thought about asking movie stars to do television, but Tony did, and I''m glad he did.

Do you think that the show could have gone on longer than five years, or do you think that was just the right amount of time for it?
I think that was the right amount of time, yeah. I think we were kind of ready to quit. We wanted to go on to new things.

You worked with Garry Wahlberg both on the Odd Couple and on Quincy. Was that just a coincidence, or did you ask…
No, no, he''s a dear friend. I''ve known him for over fifty years, almost sixty years, and from New York. And when he auditioned…he called me when he auditioned for the Odd Couple and I called Tony, and I called Garry Marshall and I said, “He''s a good actor – use him.” And I also cast him as Monahan in Quincy.

Do you know what happened on the show to the character Nancy Cunningham? Because they never actually showed her and Oscar breaking up. Do you know if it was a case of the actress wanting to leave the show, or if the writers just wanted to…
It just happened. It didn''t go anywhere, so we just didn''t do anything with it.

According to a website I saw – this may or may not be true – I saw a website about DVDs that says that your son Adam was quoted as saying that “The Odd Couple” was going to come out on DVD this year. Do you know if there''s any truth to that?
I have no idea about that. I hope it will, but I have no idea.

You''ve done a lot of work, on both theater and on screen. Do you have a preference of one over the other?
Yes, I love the theater. I don''t like television. I don''t like movies. I like television if I have the power to tell everybody what to do. But I don''t like movies. I LOVE the theater. I love it. I''m doing a play with Eli Wallach in the fall, “In the Sweet Summertime.” I love the theater – that''s where you learn acting.

And do you prefer doing comedy or drama?
It doesn''t matter. I mean, if you''re a butcher, you know how to cut pork and lamb and beef, and I think the same as an actor. You should be able to do comedy, drama, anything.

Now you''re in California – when you do theater, do you stay out more in the west coast, or do go out to the east coast at all?
No, I usually go to the east coast to do theater. They don''t do much theater here. But Garry Marshall has opened a theater. So I''ve done a couple of plays at his theater. I did “Death of a Salesman.” And I did a play "Golfing with Alan Sheperd" there. And I did my one-man show, I did it at Garry''s theater.

Did you ever watch the Odd Couple when it was on Nick at Nite, or any of the reruns?
I rarely did. I mean, I never knew when it was on. But when it was on, Tony Randall made me laugh more than I made myself laugh. I love watching him. He was the best Felix there ever was.

What are your thoughts about the new version of the Odd Couple on Broadway with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick?
I went and saw it, I saw it. I thought it was pretty good. I love Nathan Lane, I love Matthew Broderick, I think he''s a good actor. I had a good time.

Now about the album, “The Odd Couple Sings.” How did that come about?
It was silly. I guess they never heard me sing. They just called and said, “Would you guys do an album?” and I said “Sure.” It was a week in England, we did it in England, and we did it. We had a 55-piece orchestra. It was terrible – Tony sings very well – sang very well. I can''t sing at all. I couldn''t even when I had my good voice. When I did the musical “Gypsy,” the reviewer said I had a “voice like a loud snore.” [unintelligible] Whatever that meant. They paid us and gave me a week in England.

Do you have any professional regrets, like maybe a role that you didn''t take but you later wished you would have?
No, I have no regrets. I''m 83 ma''am, and I enjoyed everything I''ve done, and I''ve done almost everything I''ve wanted to do. I can''t think of a play that I haven''t done, that I wanted to do. “Salesman” I did. “The Price” I did. “All My Sons.” I did all the plays I wanted to do.

That''s great. The last question I have then is – on the website I have about the Odd Couple I have a message board where a lot of people come and they discuss the show, and I asked them if they had any questions that they wanted me to ask you. So one person said, “You should tell Jack that there are a lot of die-hard fans of the Odd Couple who come to this message board, and we love the show, and can you ask Jack if he has anything that he''d like to say to all of us die-hard fans, any kind of message.”
I just think you guys are great. I just went on a five city tour, and I used to go for ratings but they were just numbers. And I met people who said, “I saw you on the Odd Couple. I grew up with you. And I saw you in my father. My mother, we sat on the couch and laughed at your show.” And the fact that I touched these people, and they began to have identities, they had faces and names. Tell ''em I love ‘em all. And it''s very touching. I get goosebumps right now, to know that you''ve touched people''s lives. You know, you don''t know that, because you''re insulated in a studio. So tell ''em I love ‘em.

Oh, I will. I think that covers everything I wanted to ask, so thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you.
My pleasure.