Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goodbye Norma Jean....and Tony and Me, The Odd Couple

What was one to do during approximately 40 hours of flights and layovers during the last 10 days?  Read, of course. So early in the week of July 28th,   as I prepared for my first trip to the  country of Thailand, I glanced about my library, pondering fiction and non fiction.  Chose a Stuart Woods, a James Lee Burke, two of my first and his first Dirk Pitt adventures by Clive Cussler .

For non-fiction, I wasn't sure.  A small book by author/photographer, Lawrence Schiller has been at the top of the heap of literary selections on my coffee table for some time now and I thought, why not. Perusing my showcase of entertainment/media memoirs an odd thing struck me so I glanced at it and selected that book as well, a short remembrance by Jack Klugman.  Serendipitously, these two books connect on subject matter and with Schiller's book the date upon which I read it. More on that later.*

Now one could argue, six books in ones luggage is a bit much, why not a kindle or e-reader. Well, we've broached that subject enough - - no, no e-readers in this house.

40 hours of travel time I also thought, since I'm going with the wind, how about Margaret Mitchell's tome? I've never read it, so make it seven books.

With two pieces of luggage in hand(plus a carryon), one not quite full, the other a third full, off I went to Phuket Thailand via Tokyo and Singapore.

I cut my teeth on Cussler's first two Dirk Pitt (no relation to Brad Pitt, fiction or non) adventures in The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg. Dirk Pitt - think, Jack Ryan of Tom Clancy fame, with a more oceanic flavor, a touch of James Bond and a bit of McGyver thrown in. Both great journeys, with Iceberg being my favorite of the two.

Another chapter in the life of Dave Robicheaux in James Lee Burke's, A Stained White Radiance. Burke captures a piece of your heart as you witness the growth of  his adopted daughter, Alafair. A young Colombian girl who he rescued from a plane crash in Heaven's Prisoner's.

Then there's a night at Elaines. No not Elaine Benes of Seinfeld fame,( don't you wish you could dance like her?)  but Stuart Wood's characters love for the famous eatery, in NY called Elaines.  The back drop for many if not all of Stone Barrington's crime solving exploits, this one being Lucid Intervals.

Somewhere above the south China sea between Singapore and Tokyo during my return flight, Lawrence Schiller's book found it's way onto my seat 32J's tray table. Schiller, one of the first to photograph Marilyn Monroe penned this short but insightful, pictorial experience in Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories.

Schiller talks about being a true beginner giving us a glimpse into negotiating fee's for his photographs as he finds an opportunity to transport himself into the stratosphere of famous photographers that have gone on before him.   Having access to Marilyn both allowed and being a bit assertive, Schiller's works found their way onto the cover of Life magazine and many more. During the movie, Something's Got to Give, Schiller captures Monroe with co-star Wally Cox* and regrets the missed opportunity to spend dinner with them at Marlon Brando's home.

Learn about Marilyn's concern about her career fading as Elizabeth Taylor was making much more money per film than Marilyn and how she insisted that she approve his photos before publication.

I turned to what would be the final chapter and gasped. Having read Schiller's book on August 4th, the last chapter is entitled, August 5, 1962. The death of Marilyn 50 years ago today and here I was reading his book the day before the anniversary; serendipitously connected, I hadn't realized it!

Schiller provides shutter speed insight on meeting Robert Kennedy at Monroe's house , offers his opinion but appropriately closes the lens cap on the mystery surrounding her death and prefers to remember her just as he saw her, funny, playful and angelic.

I believe the jumbo jet had yet to land in Tokyo so I grabbed the other memoir, this one by Jack Klugman; Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship.

Just the thought of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, makes you want to start humming the opening theme song to their show, The Odd Couple

Revealing how they both met and how each got their start in TV, Klugman in a soap opera , Randall in his breakthrough role in Mr. Peepers also starring, Wally Cox*,  Klugman opens up not only on his relationship with Tony, but gambling and his own shy and aloofness when it comes to trusting people.

Funny and ancedotal, Klugman tells of how they struggled to find the right style of clothes for him to wear as Oscar Madison. Then one day, they suggested he wear his own clothes! The producers actually bought his clothes from him to wear on the show!  The book also includes a DVD of outakes from the show.

After suffering the loss of his voice due to throat cancer surgery, Klugman credits Randall, with revitalizing his career and writes a warm loving, honest tribute to the man many of us know as Felix Unger.

Having survived the heat, the sun and humidity of this asian community, a round of golf at the Blue Canyon course, an elephant trek through a mountain range, the seediness of Patong Beach, an overindulgence of mango, banana, pineapple and the liquid that goes with them as well as the consumption of what seemed like a fifty pound bag of rice, it is good to be home.

I never got to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, but the simple reference to wind reminds me of Elton John's eloquent tribute to Marilyn...

 "And it seemed to me, you lived your life, like a Candle in the Wind..."

* so we connect two books and one which the day it was read, Marilyn Monroe starred with Wally Cox in the movies, Tony Randall starred with Wally in TV and Norma Jean dies a mysterious death on August 5, 1962,  all serendipitously connecting without forethought.


  1. I love to read your interesting commentaries/reviews! You should write books, as well!

  2. thanks Deb; I absolutely love to read, can't get enough. Oh, and thanks for the suggested in writing books, who's to say that I haven't tried or have been? :)

  3. I have been out of the loop for some time, haven't I? Not surprising that you would be writing. You are quite talented!