Actor Jack Klugman, best known for his characterization of New York sportswriter Oscar Madison in TV's "The Odd Couple," passed away Monday at the age of 90.
The esteemed actor had been sick for a while but died quietly with his two sons and wife at his Northridge, Ca. home.
Klugman was lauded a s a great character actor who debuted in Broadway's "Golden Boy" and made his mark as a tough juror in the gripping film "12 Angry Men" before appearing on several episodes of "The Twilight Zone."
The Philadelphia native is most associated with and became famous for his partnership with Tony Randall on the TV comedy series "The Odd Couple" which ran from 1970-75.
Klugman played the messy half of two men sharing a Park Avenue Manhattan apartment with Randall playing his neat-freak, nose-honking roommate Felix Unger who left us with these immortal sitcom words, "Oscar, Oscar Oscar."
As Madison, the slovenly, cigar-chomping divorced sportswriter for a New York daily newspaper, Klugman made the profession look sexy and fun. Where else could a paunchy, middle aged-guy in Hagger slacks bounce from the Garden to Shea with a quick jaunt to Belmont and still find time to hook up with stewardesses and models nearly half his age.
It was the end of a romantic era of sports in New York and Oscar made it look possible for any regular guy.
In real life, there was no ESPN, Internet or screaming heads relaying sports to the public — only the hard-nosed reporting of guys like Dick Young, Red Smith and Phil Pepe as your only link to the sports world.
For the sports stars, this was before posses, Club VIP areas or athlete's Twitter accounts with more followers than the circulation of the News, times and Post combined. Oscar Madison and his typewriter-pecking ilk hung out with athletes at the great saloons and what happened in those watering holes, mostly stayed in those watering holes.
And a lot of those stars hung out at places like Toot Shor's and PJ Clarke's.
Some of the most glamorous and gilded names in New York sports history were still playing or playing around the city during The Odd Couple's 114 episode run.
In the early 1970's, there was Reed, Frazier and Dr. J.. Tarkenton, Namath, Giacomin and Gilbert. Mantle, Mays, Munson and Seaver. The city was still basking in the glow of the Miracle Mets, the Jets Super Bowl upset and and the Knicks last championships but on the verge of fiscal and social collapse while still getting acquainted with George Steinbrenner.
Still, Oscar and Felix brought laughs to Channel 7 every week.
Howard Cossell, Deacon Jones, Bubba Smith and Billie Jean King were just a few of the sports stars of the '70's who played themselves on the show.
Klugman and his legendary character Oscar Madison are links to New York sports and television that remind us of a simpler time that will never return.
Except in reruns.
Who can ever forget The Odd Couple theme song.