BOOZY JACKIE GLEASON WAS A LIVING HELL!
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD! THE HONEYMOONERS “TRIXIE” JOYCE RANDOLPH tells all in a no-holds-barred interview!
THE HONEYMOONERS cast was a marriage made in Heaven, but Jackie Gleason’s drinking and bizarre habits turned some days into a living hell for his co-stars, reveals Joyce Randolph, the last surviving member of the legendary sitcom’s cast.
“Working with Jackie was the toughest challenge an actress could face,” the 88-year-old, who played Art Carney’s TV wife Trixie Norton, reveals in an exclusive interview at her Manhattan apartment. “You never knew what he’d say or do. He often ad-libbed and you had to think lightning fast to keep the laughs coming.”
The classic show centered onthe antics of Big Apple bus driver Ralph Kramden (Gleason), his sewer worker pal Ed Norton (Carney) and their long-suffering wives Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows) and Trixie. The program’s 39 episodes ran from 1955 to 1956.
Joyce says she’d break into “cold sweats of fear” because Gleason, who died at age 71 in 1987, had a photographic memory and found the idea of rehearsing “loathsome. He wanted everything fresh and spontaneous. We rehearsed behind his back with someone else reading his part. Performing live with him, we never knew what was going to happen next with him – but we needn’t have worried.
“Jackie hardly looked at the script, and every line came out perfectly. You were always on your toes to keep up with him.”
Joyce says Gleason also was “terribly moody.” He’d be “fun and charming” one day, but the next “he’d be barking out orders as if he hated everyone!”
Tactfully speaking about Gleason’s legendary thirst for alcohol, Joyce says she knew his coffee was often laced with whiskey, which “affected his mood.”
After The Honeymooners, Joyce concentrated on her family. She and her wealthy marketing exec hubby Richard Charles, who died in 1997 at age 74, had one son, Randolph Charles, in 1960.
“Nowadays, I don’t want to play old lady parts,” Joyce says.
“Nor do they make shows like the Honeymooners anymore – so my acting career is definitely over.”
But not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of her costars. “It’s hard to believe I’m the last one left,” says Joyce.
“I get quite tearful when I see re-runs of The Honeymooners. I still remember every line, every joke. It’s still funny all these years later. Jackie Gleason was a comedic genius.”