Holding Hands with a Legend
Here's another great tale about meeting the legendary Tony Curtis, as told by my ultra-hip friend from Chicago, Ken Mottet. He and I have been doing some Tony Curtis bonding every since the start of "Some Like it hot" passed and Ken was gracious enough to give me permission to publish this story here.
You can also see this in the online pages of Keep Rockin' Magazine. I suggest you check out the site, and get yerself a rockin'! Many thank to Ken for sharing!
By Ken Mottet
(© Ken Mottet. All Rights Reserved)
Several summers ago, one of the last stars of Hollywood’s golden age made a victory lap through Chicago. Possibly the most handsome men in celluloid history, Tony Curtis appeared at a west suburban movie complex along with his film “Some Like It Hot.” It was a fairly typical fast money meet and greet. The star attraction sat behind a long table. The faithful fans filed past their screen idol, dropped the appropriate amount of cash in the jar and got their autograph and their photo. There was, however, a slight difference. The star at this event was not some actress from “The Facts of Life” or the guy inside the robot costume on “Lost in Space.” This was Tony Freakin’ Curtis!!! Tony Curtis…as in “Spartacus,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Houdini” and “The Boston Strangler.” Tony Curtis who was married to Janet Leigh and was the father of Jamie Lee Curtis. Tony Curtis who was Jerry Freakin’ Lewis’ co-star in “Boeing Boeing.” THAT Tony Curtis.
Obviously the years had been a little rough on the leading man. After all, it isn’t exactly easy to be that good looking in your youth and then get older. Tony was finally back in public after a prolonged illness and time in the hospital. He arrived in a wheelchair but he walked to the stage before his film was shown. He told stories about making out with Marilyn Monroe…on and off cameraq And he was nothing short of absolutely marvelous to all his fans who were there to see him, thank him and shake his hand.
My wife Mary and I were nervous nervous nervous waiting in line to meet him. After all, it’s not every day that a real live movie star steps down from the screen and says hello. And boy, how he said hello. Even though he was in his early eighties at the time and even though there didn’t appear to be a single strand of that legendary wavy black hair left under his jaunty driving cap he still managed to make eyes at my wife the moment she said hello. She melted instantly. And so did her husband.
We only spoke with him for a minute or two. But it seemed like an hour. He took his time autographing the old 8x10 I brought. He even drew a wobbly heart in the corner with an arrow right through it. I managed to choke out how much I deeply love his film with Burt Lancaster “Sweet Smell of Success.”
He reached out and he shook my hand. It was not a frail old man hand at all. It was big-knuckled. It was broad. It was a Bernard Schwartz of a hand, born and raised on the wrong side of town. He shook my hand…and he didn’t let go. At first I was thrown off kilter. When shaking hands there is a time to shake and a time to release. Tony Curtis had gone well past the release point and he was still hanging on. And I let him. I was not going to let go until he did.
Mary and I huddled behind the table with Tony thanking him again and again for all he had done. The photographer stepped up and took our picture with the great man. And in that moment in that photograph Mr. Tony Curtis was holding hands…with me.