Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Remembering John Randolph

My Story Salon friend Dan Tirman told a couple of stories about an actress named Anita O'Day. I realized that I had a similar link to old Hollywood.

After the Northrige Earthquake Donna and I had to move to a new apartment. It wasn't because of quake damage, it was because after the quake several of our neighbors left California for good. Since the building was not getting any new tenants, except some bikers with phony section 8 vouchers, the building's management decided not to repair things like lights or the security gate. The building manager also had her life threatened by the phony section 8 bikers causing her to never leave her apartment. This forced a lot of us to leave what used to be a very nice apartment complex. We moved about a mile east to a building built in the early 1960s. Several of the residents were older character actors, some were the buildings original tenants. In the lobby I heard a familiar voice. This was the voice of Emily's father on The Bob Newhart Show, Roseanne's father on Roseanne, Brad's father on Angie. Col. Potter's friend on M*A*S*H, The Mayor of Los Angeles in Earthquake. It all comes back to Earthquakes. This new building's manager introduced us. He greeted us with, "Hi I'm John Randolph, I'm an actor". The week we moved in we saw John as an evil white supremacist on Matlock, then as a man who lost his wife on E.R. The next time we saw him we went to compliment his work on the shows. He greeted us with "Hi I'm John Randolph, I'm an actor". Obviously he'd forgotten that we had already met, but that's okay we complimented his work on the shows and Donna mentioned that she hated him one day and he broke her heart the next. He really appreciated the kind words.

Our building used to hold a Christmas party. This was a great event, because for so many of the elderly residents this was their Christmas. When John entered the party it was like Norm entering the Cheers bar. JOHN!!! John greeted everyone with "Hi I'm John Randolph, I'm an actor". There were times we crossed paths at the elevator then forty-five minutes later were sitting on this black couch and he's telling me about the time when he and Will Geer were blacklisted. I had been facinated by that period in American history for a long time so to hear what it was like from a man who saw it first hand was priceless.

I don't remember exactly when but I was told by another neighbor that John had Alzheimer’s. This explained why he kept introducing himself and why he would tell me the same Will Geer stories over and over again. He once asked if I knew who Will Geer was of course to me he was Grandpa Walton and he stared in one of my dad's favorite movies Intruder in the Dust (1949) also staring Puerto Rican actor Juano Hernandez (We were both born in San Juan). I enjoyed hearing him talk about the good old days and he enjoyed talking to a younger man who knew of his contemporaries.

One time I ran in to him at the elevator and I was telling him about a scene I just did for my television production class. The more I talked about it the more excited I got. At one point he stopped me and said, "You hear that excitement in your voice? Don't ever loose that." Another time we met at the elevator and he went on a very long rant over the fact that the Academy was giving a life time achievement award to Elia Kazan. In 2000 the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike. Even though he was not in the best of health John visited us on the picket line. His presence was a shot in the arm for everyone’s morale. My only complaint about him as a neighbor was that he would flirt shamelessly with my wife. In his final years he had a caretaker help him walk the seventy-five or so feet from his apartment to the elevator. If he saw Donna he'd have his caretaker wait, walk over to Donna on his own and escort her to where ever she was going.

Even though John is no longer with us (Died Feb. 24, 2004) I still see him often when I channel surf. He may be the CEO, the General, someone’s father or a multitude of other characters thus proving that old actors never die they just change costumes. When I write my column I like to close with a quote. John had a lot to say either through his characters or as himself but the quote I want to use is the first thing he ever said to me, "Hi I'm John Randolph, I'm an actor" because that says it all.


Peter Miller said...

Don't forget, he was also the original Frank Costanza on "Seinfeld". John Randolph only did one episode as Frank, apparently he wasn't available the next time Frank was given marching orders so the role went to Jerry Stiller. When Seinfeld went into syndication, Larry David decided to reshoot John Randolph's scenes with Jerry Stiller. John Randolph's "Seinfeld" episode aired only once on NBC and never again.

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Anita O'Day there is a great group on Yahoo called Billie Holiday And The Disciples Of Swing. The group features audio files of classic Jazz Vocalists. This past month they have been celebrating Girl Singer's Month and this weeks playlist includes several unreleased track's by Anita. Here is the link to the group and the current playlist.

01 And This Is My Beloved.mp3
Gloria Lynne at Basin Street
912 K

01 As Long As I Live.mp3
Peggy Lee (rehearsal, 1962)
989 KB

01 Darktown Strutters Ball.mp3
Alberta Hunter, 1978
2532 KB

01 I Didn't Know What Time It Was.mp3
Sarah Vaughan, 198X
1938 KB

01 Manhattan.mp3
Lee Wiley
1627 KB

01 S'Wonderful.mp3
Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr.
1320 KB

01 They Raided The Joint.mp3
Helen Humes at the Pasadena Auditorium, 1952
836 KB

02 Loud Talkin' Woman.mp3
Helen Humes at the Pasadena Auditorium, 1952
1385 KB

02 The More I See You.mp3
Keely Smith, studio session, 6/20/1985
2791 KB

02 Willow Weep For Me.mp3
Billie Holiday, Toronto, 8/57
1939 KB

03 Flying Home.mp3
Ella Fitzgerald, Carnegie Hall, 9/18/1949
2602 KB

03 I Only Have Eyes For You.mp3
Billie Holiday, Toronto, 8/57
955 KB

03 I'll Get Along Somehow.mp3
Nancy Wilson
2581 KB

03 Mood Indigo.mp3
Lena Horne and Tony Bennett
1217 KB

04 Billie's Blues.mp3
Billie Holiday, Toronto, 8/57
1614 KB

04 Lucky Day.mp3
Annie Ross,1959
1051 KB

04 One Night Stand.mp3
Janis Joplin, 1970
1468 KB

04 Why Don't You Do Right.mp3
Linda Hopkins, 6/18/82
1572 KB

05 After You've Gone.mp3
Kay Starr, 1975
1177 KB

05 Azure-te.mp3
Ernestine Anderson, studio session, 1958
1395 KB

05 Lover Come Back To Me.mp3
Billie Holiday, Toronto, 8/57
1088 KB

05 Miss Brown to You.mp3
Carmen McRae, studio session, 6/29/1961
1172 KB

06 Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby.mp3
Ann Richards, studio session, 1960
1272 KB

07 I'd Rather Go Blind.mp3
Etta James live at Memory Lane, 1986
3213 KB

07 Influences.mp3
Billie Holiday
432 KB

07 The Way We Were.mp3
Peggy Lee (1974 Academy Awards)
1997 KB

08 My Funny Valentine.mp3
Anita O'Day at Carnegie Hall, 1986
3213 KB

08 No Ways Tired.mp3
The Barret Sisters, 1983
2535 KB

08 You've Changed.mp3
Shelby Lynne, studio session, 2006
1706 KB

09 But Not For Me.mp3
Gladys Knight
1885 KB

09 Influences part 2.mp3
Billie Holiday, Toronto, 8/57
2278 KB

09 Porgy.mp3
Nina Simone at Westbury Music Fair, 1968
1634 KB

09 Skylark.mp3
Aretha Franklin, Detroit Music Hall 1986
1799 KB

10 Mean Way Of Loving.mp3
Helen Humes at the Pasadena Auditorium, 1952
1095 KB

13 He Brought Us.mp3
The Barret Sisters, 1983
2927 KB

13 My Funny Valentine_The Gentleman is a Dope.mp3
Peggy Lee and Lena Horne, 1978
912 KB

15 I Wish You Love 1.mp3
Barbra Streisand, JFK Stadium 1966
1408 KB

15 More.mp3
Baby Jane Dexter
1300 KB

15 Only The Lonely.mp3
Aretha Franklin, studio session, 7/16/64
2306 KB

17 I Cried For You.mp3
Helen Humes at the Pasadena Auditorium, 1952
868 KB

17 You Turned The Tables On Me.mp3
Anita O'Day on the BBC, 1964
1382 KB

18 Medley.mp3
Anita O'Day and Chris Connor at Michaels Pub, 1989
3253 KB

19 If I Were A Bell.mp3
June Christy Live At The Dunes
856 KB

20 It Don't Mean A Thing.mp3
June Christy Live At The Dunes
1045 KB

21 Jeepers Creepers.mp3
june Christy Live At The Dunes
817 KB

22 Too Marvelous.mp3
June Christy Live At The Dunes
826 KB

25 Mixed Emotions.mp3
Dinah Washington Live At Basin Street, 7/10/55
1480 KB

26 Come Rain Or Shine.mp3
Dinah Washington Live At Basin Street, 7/10/55
798 KB