Tony Curtis, An Elevator Love Tale

Tony Curtis passed away on September 29, 2010, making yesterday the 6th anniversary of his death.  He was a terrific actor and many of his films comprised the backdrop to my childhood.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in "Some Like it Hot"

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in “Some Like it Hot”

“Some Like It Hot” was filmed right here in San Diego, in 1959, at the Hotel Del Coronado, about twenty minutes from where I live. Tony Curtis co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. In 1960, Stanley Kubrick directed “Spartacus,” which featured some of the best actors of that time – Peter UstinovKirk DouglasLaurence Olivier and Jean Simmons.  Tony Curtis played Antoninus.  The film won four Academy Awards.

Five years later came “The Great Race” focusing in on a spectacular land race from New York to Paris in the early 20th century.  Tony Curtis plays the dashing hero in white, The Great Leslie.   Jack Lemmon plays the dastardly, black-suited Professor Fate. Peter Falk and a beautiful, young Natalie Wood also star in this film.

Acting runs in his family. You may be familiar with the work of his wife, Janet Leigh (“The Manchurian Candidate” and “Bye-Bye Birdie”) and daughter, Jamie Lee (The Scream Queen).

Tony Curtis as Antoninus in Spartacus

Tony Curtis as Antoninus in Spartacus

Elevator to the Penthouse

My husband, Mark, and I once met him as we were riding up an elevator to the penthouse of the Hilton in Las Vegas to a Penthouse party.

In those days, Mark and I attended annual video software shows to find new distributors for our home videos, and to shmooze with our friends in the business.

When Tony Curtis stepped into the elevator with Mark and me, his regal bearing was quite striking. He wore an ascot and had a beautiful woman hanging on each arm. Mark was bold enough to address him. “Mr. Curtis,” he said, “I really have enjoyed most all of your movies.”

Tony paused for the perfect amount of time before replying, “Sir, you have me at a disadvantage, for I have never seen any of YOUR movies.”

Mark grinned and said, “Touche, Mr. Curtis!”

Just then, of course, the elevator car came to a stop and the doors rushed open. Mr. Curtis and his entourage stepped into the teeming cocktail party, and were immediately enveloped by martini-toting, buxom Penthouse girls, thus ending our Tony Curtis moment.

But oh, what a moment it was.

Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at San Diego’s award-winning video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.