Now Columbo 10:00PM Touched by an Angel

7 fascinating facts about Jack Klugman

Learn what the Odd Couple actor has to do with Charles Bronson, Carly Simon, the Kentucky Derby, French yogurt and watermelon popcorn.

Top image: Klugman in 'Quincy, M.E.'

Jack Klugman was a Philadelphia kid attending Carnegie Mellon University, then called Carnegie Tech, in Pittsburgh. A drama teacher told him, "Young man you are not suited to be an actor. You are suited to be a truck driver." We wonder what was running through that teacher's head as Klugman accepted each of his three Emmy Awards?

Klugman earned two of those trophies for his work on The Odd Couple, the other coming for his work on The Defenders. To many, Klugman is Oscar Madison, that slovenly sportswriter and difficult roommate. Klugman again found great success as the inquisitive forensic pathologist Quincy, M.E. In between and beyond those televisions roles, the actor carved dozens of memorable characters, often playing the impassioned everyman.

To celebrate his birthday, here are some things you might not know about Klugman.

1

He was once roommates with Charles Bronson.

After college and the Army, Klugman headed to New York City to pursue his dream. There he shared an apartment with fellow rising actor Charles Broson, who reportedly got Klugman into a regimen of "vigorous exercise." The workouts helped, as Klugman landed a role in the Broadway comedy Mister Roberts by taking off his shirt and showing his physique. 

Image: Gunsmoke

2

He was in Tom Waits' favorite 'Twilight Zone' episode.

"In Praise of Pip," Klugman's fourth appearance on The Twilight Zone, is a gut-wrenching tale of man's love for his son. The fifth season opener was perhaps the first American television episode set in the Vietnam War. Ironically, the script originally had the young soldier heading to Laos, but the network wanted to relocate the setting to a less contentious region. This was early 1963. In his book Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters, the gravel-voiced singer named the episode as his favorite, recalling, "Jack Klugman—who looked exactly like my father—played an alcoholic bookie who gets shot in the gut during a holdup."

3

He sang a Carly Simon cover on an Odd Couple album.

The record bins of history are filled with celebrity oddities, but fewer odder than The Odd Couple Sings. Klugman and Tony Randall croon in character in tunes like "When Banana Skins Are Falling (I'll Come Sliding Back To You)" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Though no track is quite as fascinating and cringe-worthy as Klugman singing a croaking duet with Randall in a cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain."

Image: Discogs

4

His horse named Jaklin Klugman almost won the Kentucky Derby.

Klugman's two-year-old thoroughbred Jaklin Klugman won the California Breeders' Champion Stakes and finished third in the 1980 Kentucky Derby. The horse was retired to stud on El Rancho de Jaklin in California and died in 1996.

Image: AP Photo

5

He testified before Congress for drug industry reform.

The 1981 Quincy episode "Seldom Silent, Never Heard" centered around the death of a teenager with Tourette's. In the show, Quincy then fights for the development of "orphan drugs," medications for rare diseases that were not deemed profitable by pharmaceutical companies. The fight bled over into real life, as Klugman headed to Washington to testify before the House Subcommittee on Health and Environment. The Orphan Drug Act, which provided economic incentives to pharma firms for developing these lesser used drugs, was passed in 1983.

Image: AP Photo/John Duricka

6

He had a gourmet popcorn shop called Jack's Corn Crib.

According to a 1983 article in The New York Times, Klugman and his partners received 1,480 franchise requests for his popcorn store. Jack's Corn Crib scooped out 28 flavors, including pina colada, pizza, licorice and watermelon. The chain was not a success.

Image: Thinkstock

7

He was in the first American commercial for Yoplait yogurt.

"What happens when Americans get their first taste of Yoplait?" this introductory 1979 commercial asked about "the yogurt of France."

Image: thejumpingfrog.com / Pinterest

Love memorable entertainment? Find out where to watch MeTV