December 2012

Memory of Jack Klugman at a NYC Steakhouse

Back in the wild and carefree late 1980s, when money was abundant and mild corporate excess was not purely the province of the 1%, I was part of a company that used NYC's swank steakhouse Smith & Wollensky as our lunchroom. The maitre' D knew us, we could always get a table (back then it was always jam packed, lunch through dinner), and it was a rather luxurious and posh perk we gave ourselves. The company was doing well, things were good. It got that we were there so often that we were ever so slightly chummy with some of the other regulars. Some we knew by name, some we spoke with,others we nodded to or acknowledged as familiar faces. Among those in the latter group, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
The two of them had a standing weekly or bi-weekly lunch date there, and they always were seated in a table that was in a slight alcove, away from the general restaurant floor on the ground level. Tony Randall would graciously stop, shake hands with admirers, and with as much class and style as you can imagine, be the warmly appreciative star. Jack Klugman, on the other hand, would make a beeline for their table, keeping his head down and steering clear of interactions with the crowd.
One afternoon Tony Randall, chatting with a group of fans at a table, called to Klugman to come over. Klugman, two-thirds of the way to their table --and directly beside where my partners and I were seated-- turned around, and gave a nod to indicate that he was headed straight to the table, and not joining Randall. This elicited a groan from a good many diners at the restaurant. Klugman grinned, looked at us, and said, "Somedays I think he'll never get to the table, I could be on dessert before he gets there." Stunned that he spoke, much less spoke to *us*, I responded by saying, "Wow, Jack, you spoke to us!" He gave us a grin that could light up the room, and said, "You guys, I see you here all the time, it's like I know you." And then, to top it off, he said. "And you guys never stop either of us, you let us get to our table in peace!" Then he winked, turned around and walked to that recessed table they always shared.

Rest in Peace Jack Klugman.


The NY Times notice of Jack Klugman's passing: Jack Klugman Dies in Los Angeles