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Buddy Books, Part 1

By RD Heldenfels Published: November 3, 2005

A couple of books landed on my desk recently: ''Tony & Me: A Study of Friendship,'' Jack Klugman's memoir of life with his friend Tony Randall, and EdMcMahon's ''Here's Johnny! My Memories of Johnny Carson, 'The Tonight Show' and 46 Years of Friendship.''


With two ''buddy books'' the same pile, there's a logical link there for a book review. But I don't have a regular block of time set aside for reading, so I'm going to post some notes here about ''Tony & Me,'' which I have finished, and then talk about ''Here's Johnny!'' once I'm done with it.


One reason I was able to finish ''Tony & Me'' quickly is that it's a brief book: 141 pages, with lots of white space on the page, a chapter that's an interview with Randall's widow and another chapter where Klugman is interviewed by co-author Burton Rocks. Getting interviewed for your own memoir -- there's a good trick.


The bonus DVD, out-takes from Randall and Klugman on ''The Odd Couple,'' is also brief -- under 9 minutes by my tally -- although it's funny. And how often do you get to hear someone with Randall's precise diction swear repeatedly? (There's also a good DVD introduction by Klugman.)


I think Klugman has more book in him, a full-length autobiography. This is a guy, after all, with a long and wonderful career in TV and movies. And ''Tony & Me'' often alludes to Klugman's life in a way that begs for elaboration -- if only this book were Klugman's alone.


Instead, he's trying to explain not only his working relationship with Randall but their genuine friendship, so we get biographical sketches of both men, memories of their working together, Randall's crucial role in Klugman's post-cancer comeback and, doggonit, a lot of love.


And even though I wanted more book, the love got to me. ''The real gift that Tony's friendship gave me was the capacity to truly trust another human being completely,'' Klugman says. ''I'd spent my entire life -- my entire life -- making sure that I never, ever owed anybody anything. ... Our friendship made me a better human being.''


And, of course, it gave us all some great laughs. Those ''Odd Couple'' episodes are gems. And this book is a small one, too.


''Tony & Me'' is available from Good Hill Press. It costs $24.95. You can find out more at www.TonyandMe.com.

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