Tony was the first one to visit me in the hospital when I had my right vocal cord operated on in 1989. I could only whisper, and I was mad I’d lost my voice. Tony said, ”Let’s face it, Jack, you never did sound like Richard Burton anyway.” And I laughed. Then he said, ”When you’re ready to come back to work, you let me know, and we’ll try to find a venue for you.” And I whispered, ”Sure! An actor who can’t speak!” But I appreciated his gesture.
It turned out to be prophetic, because a few years later he called me and said, ”If we could do one performance of The Odd Couple, I could raise a million dollars for my theater,” the National Actors Theatre. He loved that theater. Everyone had told him, ”You’ll never get a theater of your own; it’s impossible.” But he didn’t give up. He’d do jobs he didn’t want to do in order to make contributions toward it. And every Wednesday, even though it cost him $35,000, he would have schoolkids come in buses to see the classics. I kind of resented that he was never really appreciated in theater until he passed away. The night after he died, they dimmed the lights on Broadway — he would have loved that.
Tony seemed so cool and disinterested, but that wasn’t true. God, he had friends for 50 years, 60 years, 70 years! I’m still waiting for the phone to ring again — ”Jack, Tony calling!” (Randall died of pneumonia in New York City.)