Picks and Pans Review: Which Reminds Me

updated 11/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tony Randall and Michael Mindlin

Tony Randall, best known as prissy Felix Linger in TV's The Odd Couple, narrates with charm this collection of showbiz stories, gossip and comic trivia. Familiar names—Brando, Olivier, Huston, Lunt and Fontanne—provide a real-life tone, but this is essentially a joke book, best read bits at a time; reading straight through is like enduring a stand-up comic with a daylong act.

There are, Randall tells us, "more amusing anecdotes about show business than about any other." What made him decide to gather them into a book? A dare from an old friend, publicist Mike Mindlin. This seems scant justification for Mindlin's co-author billing—the book is entirely first-person Randall—and it contains enough bummers to suggest that perhaps Mindlin should keep his dares to himself.

But the good stuff, in the end, outweighs the bad. There are golden oldies (Cy Howard's advice to Al Bloomingdale after witnessing a tryout of a Blooming-dale-financed play: "Close the show and keep the store open nights"); there is wit (Alan Jay Lerner's response to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who had asked why so many people seemed to take an immediate dislike to him: "To save time," Lerner said). And there are many real triumphs, among them the actor's diary story:

"Tues., Oct. 21: Dear Diary, Tomorrow I will be a star.... We open tonight on Broadway and...I've got the best scene that any actor in the history of the theater has ever had. It's all mine: I'm alone onstage for 20 minutes except for an actor playing an old man who sits upstage writing a letter. When that curtain comes down tonight, everything I have ever wanted in life is going to come true.

"Wednesday, Oct. 22: He drank the ink." (Delacorte Press, $17.95)

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