I had the great and rather unbelievable(to me anyway) privelege of interviewing the late, legendary Hollywood star Tony Curtis, who just passed away of a heart-attack at 85. Jeffrey Wells has a great piece on him on his site www.hollywood-elsewhere.com He puts so much up there, I think now you have to scroll down a bit.
I had the chance to catch him at a press conference in Montreal, and actually get a good ten minute interview with him, accompanied by his wife, Jill. They were both there because Tony was being honored for his work and he had a new doc about him and his wife and their efforts at horse-rescuing at their ranch outside Las Vegas…
He did say some remarkable things. Like discussing his relationship, an affair, with Marilyn Monroe early in their respective careers. Very early. And also admitting to me that he did think his daughter actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, did look like him in drag! As he so memorably was in “Some Like It Hot.”
“Some Like It Hot” ranks as one of my all-time favorite movies as I’m sure it is for many of you dear readers, dear cineastes.
Tony was from the Bronx, as am I. And we shared the same accent. He was from an area that was very, very poor, and he got out. I can understand why.
He was in a wheel chair in Montreal, with this HUGE white 10 (or rather 20!) gallon Texas cowboy hat. And completely bald. And absolutely REVELING in the attention and applause he was getting from Les Montrealais.
I think he had that fear of being forgotten…But in Montreal, he certainly wasn’t.
I was so overwhelmed meeting him! I couldn’t believe it! I suppose he was one of my idols growing up seeing movies at the Palace Theater in the Bronx(no longer there). I don’t remember seeking out his films. I wasn’t obsessed with him. But I certainly saw “Some Like It Hot” when it first came out , more than once, if I remember correctly. And of course, I have it on DVD today.
And he touched my forearm and hand. He grasped it and held it, and I remember being slightly shocked about how cold his hands were and how tiny. He had bird-like hands. Delicate.
And of course, I did hate him for all the homophobic remarks he made about “Brokeback Mountain,” that probably caused it to lose the Oscar as Jeffrey Wells points out in his piece. So I didn’t know HOW I could possibly interview this man who I had felt such hostility towards as a gay adult, but whom I had worshipped as a great Hollywood star as a child.
But he was so fragile in person and more than a bit forgetful. And the wheel-chair shocked me. And he was so delightfully warm in person and so grateful and glad for all the attention he was getting in Montreal that all those hurt “Brokeback” feelings just melted away. I had them, still, in the back of my mind, but I could tell if I brought them up he would’ve terminated the interview immediately. Or his wife Jill would. She was watching over him like a hawk.
She was certainly in dutiful attendance upon him and so he would’ve certainly been well-taken-care-of up to the end…So in the last years of his life, he was happily married. Finally.
And I didn’t know until afterwards that he and his daughter Jamie Lee were estranged. And THAT could’ve almost ended the interview, but didn’t. He said some very interesting things about her, too…”She’s successful, but she’s not happy” and he went on.
It was thrilling to have seen that little slice of Old Hollywood in person…
And you can see my interaction with him and Jill on my You Tube site. www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow
Just type “Tony Curtis” into my search box. There were two parts…And I’ll put him in the Main Frame later today.
I interviewed Christian Science Monitor Film Critic Peter Rainer about him at Montreal and Peter said he was happy to see Tony being honored and that he was very underrated as an actor.
Tony never won an Oscar….and wasn’t even nominated for “Some Like It Hot”, though Jack Lemmon was…I think that hurt.
R.I.P. Tony C. (real name Bernie Schwartz) Your fans will never forget you.