Requiem for the Gay Divorcé: Tony Randall, 1920-2004
An Obituary for a Thespian, Compiled Entirely from Information Gleaned from the Internet Movie Database’s Biographical Page for the Actor
Leonard Rosenberg was born February 26, 1920 and he eventually grew to be five feet, eight inches tall, or 1.73 meters. He attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. At some point, he changed his name to “Tony Randall.”
Mr. Randall studied acting at New York City’s prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse under the direction of Sanford Meisner, the legendary acting coach. The young actor got his big break as the voice of “Reggie” in the long-running “I Love a Mystery” radio series during the 1940s. Cultural anthropologists widely cite the Reggie character as the prototypical metrosexual.
At some point, he founded the National Actors Theatre in New York.
He was militantly opposed to smoking.
He married Florence Gibbs in 1942, and they stayed together 50 years, until her death. She was probably opposed to smoking, too.
Mr. Randall was originally cast as the voice of Templeton the Rat in the animated movie Charlotte’s Web, without even an audition. Joseph Barbera, the animator who was friends with Hannah, later realized Mr. Randall’s voice wasn’t quite right for the part of the rodent, so the studio paid Mr. Randall what he was worth, and replaced him with someone new—Charles Nelson Reilly. It is likely Mr. Barbera imagined the rodent even more flamboyant than within Mr. Randall’s wonderfully finicky range of talent.
He met Heather Harlan at a play in New York. She was fifty years his junior, and most likely does not smoke cigarettes. They wed on November 17, 1995. Florence probably would have wanted her widower to move on.
At the age of 76, the indefatigable actor’s virility proved to be spry as a college sophomore’s: the couple’s first child was born at the stroke of midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on April 11, 1997. The child was named Julia Laurette Randall, after her grandmother, Julia Rosenberg, and the actress Laurette Taylor, whom Mr. Randall once called “the best actress [he’s] ever seen in [his] life.”
Their second child, Jefferson Salvini Randall, was born on June 15, 1998, time unknown, thus cementing the agèd thespian’s unflagging potency. The boy was named after comic actor Joseph Jefferson and Italian tragic actor Tommasso Salvini.
The two children of Felix and Gloria Unger in “The Odd Couple” were named Leonard and Edna—Tony Randall’s birth name, and that of his late sister.
Mr. Randall suffered from tinnitus.
He took classes in ballet, and could dance at a semi-professional level, despite tintinnabulatory assaults on his equilibrium.