Brushes with Greatness - Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis' Sword

As a kid, I thought Tony Curtis was the handsomest movie star I ever saw. Years later I worked with him a few times and dined with him a few times.

curtis_swordWhen I was 13, I remember standing at the window of the fencing school at Little Santa Monica and Canon and watching him practice his swordplay for “The Great Race”. Years later, we painted together a couple of times. With our professor's permission, Tony would sometimes sneak into our painting class at UCLA if we had a particularly stunning nude model. He was a pretty good painter, but what I remember most is that he had a term of endearment he used on almost every woman (and probably anyone else he was trying to charm.) He would call them "my dear", occasionally just "daaaahling!" curtis_images

In 2007 we interviewed him for the Some Like It Hot DVD and finally got him to admit on the record that he had once said, "kissing Marilyn Monroe was like kissing Hitler", but that he thought that was actually a compliment. He also claimed that Marilyn did her best to keep him erect through the entire filming of the scene where he's supposed to be impotent. He claimed they had had an affair years earlier, but that by the time they made Some Like It Hot, she was so whacked on downers that some days she would forget how to get to the studio. She was always late and couldn’t remember her lines. He and Jack Lemmon (in full drag, makeup, wigs and high heels) grew to hate her as they waited day after day for her to show up. At one point, it took two days and 67 takes for her to remember the line, "Where's the bourbon?" despite it being written on the door, the mirror, and every drawer. And yet she's perfect in every frame of the finished film.

Another time, I made a film clip tribute for an award Tony won. He gave a very respectable thank you speech, but as he was leaving the stage, his daughter Jamie yelled out, "tell them the Yvonne De Carlo story". He walked back to the podium, "When I was a young starving actor named Bernie Schwartz I was studying at the actor's studio in New York. All the greats were there at that time. One thing leads to another, I get a contract at Universal and after my first movie they send me to New York on a publicity tour and give me a limo. I tell the driver, take me by the actor's studio. We park the car out front but nobody is walking by, finally Walter Matthau comes down the street, I roll down the window and I scream, "Walter, I fucked Yvonne De Carlo", then I rolled up the window and we drove off." All Rights Reserved 2012