A huge crowd full of New York stars and celebrities bid farewell to Tony Randall this morning at Riverside Memorial Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue.
Those who came for the traditional Jewish service punctuated by heartfelt eulogies included Walter Cronkite with wife Betsy; plus Kitty Carlisle Hart, Judd Hirsch, James Naughton, Len Cariou, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, two former New York mayors -- David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani -- as well as Marian Seldes, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara, Steve Buscemi, and, of course, Randall's great friend and acting partner since 1970, Jack Klugman.
I was walking into the chapel when an attendant handed Klugman the printed program with a lovely color portrait of Randall on the cover. He nearly lost it.
Later, during his eulogy, Klugman said, "A world without Tony Randall is a world I will never recognize."
I will tell you that in the month since I last saw him, during which Randall was in intensive care from pneumonia following heart surgery, Klugman looks like he's aged considerably. It's obvious Randall's decline and death have had a huge impact on him. How rare that two actors from a sitcom that ended its run almost three decades ago would still be such close friends.
The praise for Randall was effusive with a series of anecdotes attesting to his largesse, his love of actors and acting, and the love for his new family: wife Heather and children Julia and Jefferson. There was much mention of the couple's huge age disparity -- 50 years -- having meant nothing when they found each other.
Outside the funeral parlor, after Wallach, Klugman, Giuliani and Cliff Robertson all spoke, and after opera great Sherrill Milnes sang, Stiller told me a story. "Tony called me in 1993, when I thought my life was over. It was right before I got 'Seinfeld.' He said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Nothing.' He said, 'I have a part for you in 'Three Men on a Horse.' It's the third banana. But it's a good part.' I said, 'Fine. Do I have to read for it?' He said, 'No you don't have to read for it. Just bring your coat.' It turned out I had a coat he liked, black and white check, like a zebra. That's what he wanted," Stiller said, holding back tears.
And that's the way it was inside, too. Wallach talked about how he met Randall in the elevator of the Neighborhood Playhouse Theater on West 46th some 66 years ago.
"We studied for two years with Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham," he said. "For our graduation, Miss Graham said we had to do a dance piece. Tony danced like Nijinsky." Wallach said the last time he saw Randall in the hospital, his friend said, "Next time, don't come empty-handed."
Wallach told the crowd: "I've come again, Tony, and I'm broken-hearted."
Schuyler Chapin, the retired longtime head of the Metropolitan Opera, reminisced about Randall's evaluation of his own singing voice: "If beautiful voices are golden," he said, "mine is aluminum."
Giuliani said that after he officiated at Tony and Heather Randall's wedding, Randall began introducing him publicly as "the man who married me."
"That's not good if you're a Republican," he said.
Rabbi Robert N. Levine, of nearby Congregation Rodelph Sholom, called Randall "a proud Jew" who twice played God in children's shows at the synagogue, who took the subway, eschewed celebrity trappings like limousines and often hitch-hiked home up Sixth Avenue after a show.
"I'm Tony Randall," he would say, "someone will pick me up."
But it was Klugman who brought out the hankies, of course, in the end. He recalled that when Heather called to say she was pregnant with their first child, Randall and Klugman were in London performing "The Odd Couple."
"Tony came in and he said, 'The machinery still works!'"
Klugman finished with this memory: "My favorite episode of 'The Odd Couple' was one where we were on 'Password," he said. "They were throwing Tony off the show and he had a great adlib. He said, "Oh boy, what a gyp! And that's the way I feel now. What a gyp."
A great service for a great man. Rest in peace, Tony.
Michael Jackson once sang, in a little remembered 1996 song, "Tell me are you the ghost of jealousy/The ghost of jealousy."
The ghost — also described as "ghoul upon the bed" — was meant to be Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon. And what a ghost Sneddon has turned out to be. His office refuses even to answer the phone, forget about violating a gag order. Everything is turned over to his PR company in Los Angeles, so Sneddon doesn't have to deal with the hot glare of a free press.
Jackson sings in the song, "Who gave you the right to shake my family tree?"
So I don't have an answer to this question, but I do have a rumor that's building up strength. Sneddon apparently is interested in indicting Michael Jackson's former attorney, Mark Geragos, on the conspiracy charges of kidnapping. Sneddon, in his zeal to convict Jackson, has totally bought the story from the mother of Jackson's 14-year-old accuser that she and her children were held hostage by Jackson associates in February and March 2003.
Sneddon's office, citing the case's gag order, declined to comment. Geragos did not return our call. But a Geragos insider told me: "I wouldn't be surprised if it's true. Sneddon is trying everything he can to get Michael. He wanted to make Mark a witness in the case if he could."
Where exactly does Geragos fit in this story? Early on, the mother retained a lawyer named William Dickerman, quoted here in this column on November 17, the day of the Neverland police search. Dickerman later told this column that he wrote several letters to Geragos, including one on March 26, 2003, asking for the return of possessions the mother said were taken from her apartment in East Los Angeles by Jackson associates and put into storage.
Those associates, Frank Tyson and Vincent Amen, working at the direction Marc Schaffel, Dieter Wiesner, and Ronald Konitzer, were all unindicted co-conspirators named in the latest Jackson indictment. But kidnapping? Held against their will? There will be reams of testimony indicating that the mother did not want to leave Neverland, and that the possessions she claimed were missing amounted to very little, if anything.
Rosie O'Donnell, looking relaxed and ready for her debut, showed the world her paintings last night.
The occasion was O'Donnell's premiere of a one-woman show at the Pop Gallery in SoHo. Previously she'd shown a few paintings upstate at another gallery, but Soho, the art world — this was the equivalent of a Broadway debut.
"I just got Rosie back to see a Broadway show," said her wife, Kelly Carpenter, while literally a throng of fans and press examined the many canvases and collages hung on the white walls. "After 'Taboo,' she didn't want to go for a while."
But "Taboo," the Boy George musical Rosie produced, actually has earned several much deserved Tony Award nominations, so there's been some vindication. And the main execs at magazine publisher Gruner & Jahr who cooked the books and lied on the stand to get rid of Rosie have been fired. More vindication.
Interestingly, the collages — and there were many — reflected a lot of the chaos from O'Donnell's twin nightmares last winter. The judge in her magazine lawsuit literally stopped that trial the same day "Taboo" was opening on Broadway. Headlines from the case are a theme through the collages. Included also are pictures of Rosie's kids, of Kelly, of friends Cyndi Lauper and Boy George, quite a bit of anti-George Bush rhetoric, and some aphorisms like "Silence Equals Death" and, in a rebuke to the trial gossip, "Lying Causes Cancer."
While the collages certainly told a story of anger and redemption, the paintings — which are huge — were, I think, the focal point. O'Donnell, raised in poverty without parents, told me she had really never been to an art museum. She does not know the names of modern artists, contemporary or recent. She isn't kidding. "Madonna has an amazing art collection," she said, "but I never know who painted what."
Nevertheless, her paintings recall the late Jean-Michel Basquiat's most tortured work in many instances. There is also a little bit of Sam Francis, and some Warhol.
"After a friend showed me a book on Basquiat, I painted three more canvasses. I call them 'After the Basquiat Book.'"
At the Pop Gallery, there is maybe too much on the walls. With better editing, O'Donnell's show might have more impact. There is real talent at work here, especially large oil canvas rendering of her grandmother that is startlingly good. But there are also many different genres all mixed together, which could show the same kind of genius as say, Prince.
"Everything here was made after September 11th," she told me as we looked around. "And then, what happened was, during all the trouble with the magazine, I wanted to call people, send e-mails, write letters. But they wouldn't let me. So we'd come home and I would go into the studio and work."
The paintings are angry and dark, which makes them alluring. There are "cutie patooties." It's disarming, but not surprising, to see the real Rosie here at last. It's what made her a hit stand-up comic in the first place.
All the proceeds from the sales of the art works, by the way, go to charity. You can find out more about at rosiesbroadwaykids.com.
Alec Baldwin dropped onto one knee last night and took Al Pacino's hand in his own. It was a touching moment, but no ring was offered, and none was taken. But when Baldwin spotted Pacino sitting with Bobby Zarem at Elaine's, his eyes just about bugged out. "You look incredible!" he exclaimed, and then all but asked Pacino out on a date. It was kind of cute actually.
Then Baldwin — who'd just come from his hit Broadway play, "Twentieth Century" — returned to his table which included actor Dan Butler (noticeably absent, along with Bebe Neuwirth, from the "Frasier" finale). Pacino, by the by, did look great. He was wearing a beautiful suit and sporting an excellent tan. He'd just come from a fundraiser at the Guggenheim Museum.
To the New York Post's Page Six, which today cites our item about Courtney Love hanging out with former Times writer Neil Strauss at a house in Hollywood... and to Brian Hiatt of Entertainment Weekly, for crediting us with the whole Ricky Fante/song lifting saga. If only everyone were this kind and generous!