How sad it is to hear of the passing of Tony Randall at the age of 84. Most knew him only as Felix Unger in the sitcom version of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," or perhaps as the possibly gay man who takes in an unmarried mom and her child in the short-lived TV comedy "Love, Sidney," or maybe as the prissy third wheel in those fluffy Doris Day/Rock Hudson flicks from the 1950s and '60s. But Randall was a whole lot more.
Fanatical about the craft of acting, he was a gifted practitioner of the art. Randall, boasting a resonant baritone and a graceful demeanor, made any stage his own — this was certainly evident when I saw him shine brilliantly in "M. Butterfly" on Broadway in 1988.
And he truly cared about the theater community, actors, playwrights, and theatergoers alike. He took $1 million of his own money back in 1991 to found the National Actors Theater in New York ; his goal was to keep great classic plays on the stage at reasonable prices. Thanks to Tony Randall, many modern day drama fans have been able to enjoy the works of Ibsen, Miller, and Chekhov. This has been a marvelous gift.
Of course, in recent years, the octogenarian Randall has been the poster boy for elderly virility. His first marriage of more than 50 years — by all accounts a happy union — produced no children. After the widower's remarriage, he became a first-time dad at the age of 77 and sired another child three years later. To Randall, aging was not about to get in the way of fully living his life. This wonderful anecdote comes from the New York Times:
Mr. Randall actively fought the aging process. When he was approaching his 80th year, his second wife introduced him to Rollerblading, which he thoroughly enjoyed until some young woman passed him, turned around and yelled, "You must be out of your mind." He decided she was right and immediately turned to bicycle riding.
God bless you, Mr. Randall. Condolences to his wife Heather Hanlan; to his kids, Julia and Jefferson; and to all who admired him.