A CONVERSATION WITH THE DEVIL
Interview with Tony Randall
Starring as the Devil Mr. Applegate in Theatre Under the Stars' Damn Yankees
Theresa: How did you prepare for this role so far? I believe you start rehearsals today.
Tony Randall: Yes, well I did what any actor has to do when he prepares for any role. He has to do his research. He has to find the part. And so I spoke to the Devil.
Theresa: You did? What did he say?
Tony Randall: He said I didn't have far to go.
Theresa: (laughs) Yes, this is a Faustian legend.
VHI Trivia: The all-girl group TLC (T-Boz, Left-Eye, and Chili) signed a contract
for seven cents on the dollar. Talk about selling your soul to the Devil.
Theresa: Have you ever come across a point in your life wherein you felt like you had to barter a part of yourself to be able to gain something that you felt is important to you?
Tony Randall: Well, we all do in our business, and in life. Sooner or later, we sell out for money.
Theresa: That is true. And what do you do?
Tony Randall: You make the best of it. And you justify it. And you say, "Well, baby needs shoes "
Theresa: Why did you choose to become a part of this play?
Tony Randall: I was asked. Mr. Frank Young called my office, and asked my general manager if I would do it. My general manager asked me and I said yes.
Theresa: Wonderful. We're happy to have you here.
Tony Randall: Thank you.
Theresa: You were quoted as saying that "the best actress I've ever seen in my life is Laurette Taylor", whom you named your daughter after. Laurette Taylor was a silent film actress in the 1920's. How did you gain the great inspiration from this lady?
Tony Randall: That's true. I never saw any of the films. I don't know her as a silent film actress. I didn't even know she had a film career. She was a stage actress, and I saw her three times in two different parts. I only saw her in the theatre. Her most famous role in the Theatre, when she was young was Peg O' My Heart. In her latter years, she created the mother in The Glass Menagerie. That was a great, late success of hers. No one who had ever saw her, would forget her. I think if you ask any actor who ever saw her, they'd all say the same thing.
Theresa: Now, you have always been in the Arts, your father was an Art Dealer.
Tony Randall: No, he was a junk dealer. He sold antique furniture and things like that. He was sort of an elevated junk dealer. I've not always been in the Arts.
Theresa: Which part of your career did you enjoy the most? (A question from Delissa Seale)
Tony Randall: I've always enjoyed Acting. Acting is acting.
Theresa: Which do you prefer, comedy or drama?
Tony Randall: Doesn't matter, acting is acting. And now you're gonna ask me, "Which do I prefer, stage or television?" You're not going to ask me if I'm anything like Felix, because that's just a stupid f___king question, that I can't imagine someone as intelligent as you would even possibly have it in her notes.
Theresa: (I looked down at my legal yellow pad. Question #5 - Did your character Felix Unger reflect your true personality? How close were you to this character? I crossed it out with my blue ball point pen.) No, no. Of course not.
Tony Randall: But Acting is acting.
Theresa: How did you get along with Jack Klugman?
Tony Randall: Never met him.
Theresa: (The devil is lying. His horns are beginning to show.) Any fond memories?
Tony Randall: (No answer.)
As a tribute to the great writer Neil Simon:
On November thirteenth Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down he knew she was right. But he also knew that someday he would return to her. With no where else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return.
-----from THE ODD COUPLE
Theresa: You won an Emmy Award in 1975, which is one of the highest achievements as an actor
Tony Randall: So many people have won Emmys, so many people have won multiple Emmys that I think it's a degraded award. You mustn't take any award so seriously. Awards are only a publicity gimmick. That's all they are. Awards sell tickets, and they're a clever publicity stunt. But anyone who believes them, believes in Santa Claus.
Theresa: (Note: Satan does not believe in Santa Claus or Emmy Awards).
Theresa: The National Actors Theatre's production of Inherit The Wind won Drama Awards for Best Revival and Best Actor award for George C. Scott
Tony Randall: (disgusted) What kind of dumb question is that? I just said that Awards are worthless. You're not listening to me.
Theresa: (I looked down on my notes: Inherit The Wind broke box-office records for The National Actors Theatre and received the Best Revival and Best Actor Award from the Outer Critics Circle, A Drama Desk Award for Scott. Perhaps the Devil is so far beyond the line of Fame and Fortune, these accolades, which are stuff that dreams are made of, mean absolutely nothing to him now.)
Theresa: Inherit the Wind won Best Actor award for George C. Scott. You didn't find that rewarding?
Tony Randall: (his nose flaring, he starts breathing fire, he screams) No, it didn't! It should have, but it didn't.
Theresa: (It was nominated for the prestigious Tony Award, but didn't win)
Tony Randall: Inherit the Wind is a wonderful play, and I was in the original with Paul Muni. And I felt this was a classic, it had been on my list from the beginning, and to get it done was a major achievement because in the original, we had 65 actors. These things are expensive. We had 55 in my production. That's why I'm broke.
Theresa: You were just in town for The Concert of the Arias. You're a great lover of the Opera. What is your most favorite Opera?
Tony Randall: OTHELLO.
Theresa: I've seen Aida by Wagner
Tony Randall: Aida is by Verdi. The difference between Verdi and Wagner is the difference between Black and White (laughs mockingly) but, since they look alike to you, Fine!
Theresa: (What? Is the devil trying to teach me a lesson? At this point, I felt like Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney in the Saturday Night Live Skit. I asked my next question.) Do you play any musical instruments?
Tony Randall: No.
Theresa: What is the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation?
Tony Randall: Myaesthenia Gravis is a wasting neuromuscular disease. There is no known cause, and there is no known cure. It attacks approximately one person in twenty- thousand. That makes it rather common. More common than, say, Muscular Dystrophy or Multiple Sclerosis, or several of the other, rather, better-known diseases of the same family of wasting neuro muscular diseases, which include polio and stroke. Stroke is the same, in that it ends up with the same result. You end up paralyzed.
Theresa: You have dedicated two decades of your life to this cause ..
Tony Randall: I've been honorary president or fund raiser for about 30 years. And I travel all over the country for them. And generally, I can recognize a myasthenic at a hundred yards. They have an identifying look. Which, anyone trained can spot immediately.
Theresa: How did you come into becoming such a tireless worker for this foundation?
Tony Randall: I was just asked one time, by my press agent, if I would go to a banquet. So I went, and I got interested.
Theresa: What are your other interests besides Acting and the Theatre? (a question from Tara Imani) How do you like to spend your leisure time?
Tony Randall: Well, I'm a tape-recording nut. I like to play my tapes. I tape the Opera every Saturday. I guess I'll miss it today. But I've been taping the Opera broadcasts since 1955. I've been listening to them all my life. That's about as far as my interests go, really (pause). Museums, I love museums.
Theresa: (I can't help but think he is so much like Felix Unger.) Tell us about some of the legends you've worked with, Marilyn Monroe ..
Tony Randall: Marilyn Monroe was no fun to work with. She would report to work around 5:00 in the evening. You've been in make-up since 8:30 in the morning waiting for her. That ceases to be amusing after about a week.
Theresa: Lucille Ball
Tony Randall: Oh, she was dynamite!!! She was a lady- in-charge! While acting with you, she was directing the cameras, "What's that camera doing there, for godssakes! Move it over there!" Then, she'd continue to do the scene ..(laughs).
Theresa: Doris Day and Rock Hudson .
Tony Randall: Well, they were dear friends, we made 3 movies together. I think of them always with good humor. They're always pleasant, always professional, always fun. Always laughing. We were laughing every minute of the time.
Theresa: Bob Hope .
Tony Randall: Hope's the old master. I thought that I held the record of most appearances on the Bob Hope Show, but I think - It's Brooke Shields. Brooke Shields beat Tony Randall. But someone told Bob recently, "There's someone who beat Brooke Shields." But I can't remember who it is. (laughs)
Theresa: Carl Reiner, the director.
Tony Randall: Oh yes, lovely friend. Lovely man, sweetheart of a guy. He called me only two days ago.
Theresa: Johnny Carson
Tony Randall: Now that's a peculiar story. I was on the Johnny Carson show, I believe 114 or 104 times. And aside from those times on the air, I never spoke to him. I never met him.
Theresa: (laughs) You were hilarious on the air
Tony Randall: No, he was. It was all Johnny.
Theresa: I miss him, I miss him terribly. The shows that I see now .
Tony Randall: Johnny was in a class by himself. And he made his guests funny. You know, I kept thinking, "I've got to bomb sooner or later." But every single time, I was out with him, was funny. And I realize he was doing it! He was making me funny.
Theresa: He brings the best out of you.
Tony Randall: Yeah.
Theresa: David Letterman. You're on the show all the time.
Tony Randall: I believe they wanted me last night. I was here, and I checked my machine, and they were calling. I do gag appearances. And they know they can get me 'cause I live only about 3 minutes away.
Theresa: What advice would you give to young actors? (a question from Delissa Seale)
Tony Randall: Study. Study Acting. Study Acting. Study Acting. Study Voice, Voice, Voice! Acting, Acting, Acting! You never finish studying it. The competition is pretty rough these days. The young actors coming out of the Universities are well trained. Many of the Universities have very good Theatre Departments these days. Didn't used to be so. In fact, it used to be a joke if you studied at a University. But now, they've changed and they have first rate instruction. And you better work hard at it if you want to get anywhere.
Theresa: Do you feel that the opportunity is still there, as it used to be before?
Tony Randall: It's never been easy. Forty years ago, the Department of Labor made a study of our Unions. I belong to three Actors Unions: stage, television, and movies, Equity, SAG (Screen Actors Guild), and AFTRA. And they made a study of all the Unions and they found the unemployment rate stood at 85%. Today, I would say, it stands at 90%, that is only about 10% of the actors make a living.
Theresa: Gosh, that's hard.
Tony Randall: It's terrible. But that's the situation. It shouldn't be that way. We have too many actors for the jobs available. And that has always been the case. It's always been that the odds are against you. Therefore, the advice is, if you can be talked out of it, go into some other line. There are other countries where there's a shortage of actors. There should be a shortage of actors here. We should have State-supported Theatres. Everyone town of 100,000 in the United States should have a Classical Theatre supported by the town, or the state of the county, or the Federal Government, as they have in every civilized country. We're the only country that doesn't have it.
Theresa: (Satan is getting political)
Tony Randall: We're also the only country that has the Death Penalty. That's something to boast about, isn't it? For you people in Texas. Something you should be hideously ashamed of. You should bury your heads in shame with this. Instead, you boast about it. There's something wrong with you, deeply wrong with you. And you call yourselves Christians.
Theresa: (That's probably an issue that both God and the Devil agree on). Would you recommend Acting to your son or daughter?
Tony Randall: To my son, I certainly would. I want him to become an actor. To my daughter, I would not. It's much too difficult for a girl. It's just the game. A girl is over the hill at 25. How old are you?
Tony Randall: Oh, you're over the hill! (boisterous laugh, quite amused)
Theresa: I am. I'm way over the hill. (I wish this mean, evil man would stop it with the insults.)
Tony Randall: But that's the case with Actresses. Whereas a man, Sean Connery is still teaming up with the young chicks on the screen. It's just too mean and tough for girls. I wouldn't want that heartbreak for my daughter, whom I named for Laurette (pause) Julia Laurette.
Theresa: Can you give us an insight with your plans for the future? (A question from Mike Salinas.) What goals do you have in the future?
Tony Randall: I never achieved my first goal in the National Actors Theatre, which is to have a permanent Acting Company. Never been able to keep people together, and pay them 52 weeks a year, year in, year out. And I still have to achieve that first goal.
Theresa: If you had to do it over again, what one thing would you change? (A question from Delissa Seale)
Tony Randall: I would have started the National Actors Theatre 30 years earlier. It's what I wanted to do from the day I started. And I finally had the guts to do it. Also, I finally had enough money in the bank that I could do what I wanted with my life and didn't have to earn a living.
Theresa: What would you like to say to the Houston Theatre-going Audience?
Tony Randall: Well, I like Houston. It's an unusual town in that you have a permanent Theatre. You have a wonderful Opera company. You have a lot to be proud of here in Houston. It's the other towns that should catch up with Houston. If other towns are listening in, they should all have a theatre. They should all have Opera Companies.
Theresa: I heard that in L.A., they don't have as much stage theatre as they do here or in New York.
Tony Randall: No, no. And it's a crime because the great plays of history, going all the way back to the Greeks, are part of everybody's heritage. It's just like in music, Beethoven or Mozart, that's everybody's heritage. Imagine if you never heard Beethoven or Mozart. The great plays from Aeschylus. You shouldn't study them, you shouldn't study Shakespeare in school, that's utterly wrong! It's just the poorest substitute for the real thing. The real thing is, you should be seeing these plays in the Theatre. That's what they were written for. That's where the enjoyment is. Studying them is no enjoyment whatsoever. When did you last see a play by Aeschylus?
Theresa: (I shook my head)
Tony Randall: Never in your life! This is a scandal! A scandal! Something you should be ashamed of.
And that's how I felt after this interview, sort of ashamed, a little degraded. The Devil sure taught me a good lesson. But then, I remember the times when I used to watch Tony Randall almost harass Johnny Carson on his show, or when Felix Unger used to scold Oscar Madison for being untidy. He did it to me today, the Devil did, and I didn't have a chance in Hell. But I came out of it wiser, and determined to be better. From this day forward, I resolved to start scheduling my Saturdays tape-recording the Opera.
Overall, the visit with the Devil Mr. Applegate was pleasant. It's not every day that one gets to have a conversation with the great legendary icon Tony Randall. He signed a birthday card for my father, and told me, "You're charming." On the way out, he kissed my ear telling everyone, "See my eyes were closed, I aimed for her lips."
And so, in the immortal words of the late great comedian Chris Farley, "Aaaaw-ho-ho-Aaawesome!"
DON'T MISS FILM AND TELEVISION STAR TONY RANDALL IN THE LEADING ROLE IN DAMN YANKEES, BROADWAY'S SPORTING TWIST ON THE FAUST LEGEND, TO OPEN THEATRE UNDER THE STARS' 2000 SEASON OF "BEST MUSICALS" FROM MARCH 21 - APRIL 2, 2000 AT THE ARENA THEATRE, 7326 SOUTHWEST FREEWAY.