Miraculously, we were ready and on the road in 20 minutes. We arrived an hour early for the services, but the parking lot was full and there were crowds of people. The main chapel filled up quickly with family, close friends and dignitaries. They had three other rooms set up with audio and television, so we got in the front row of the one of those rooms. Waiting in line, there were collages of pictures of Tony and Jill and above our heads on a TV Screen, was this picture of Tony Curtis in his prime. The same picture was on the program, only with his line from the movie Sweet Smell Of Success, "Cat's in the bag, bag's in the river".
It was a beautiful ceremony. It was opened with a prayer from the Rabbi, as Tony Curtis was Jewish. They had a very touching DVD presentation entitled, An Affair With Tony Curtis. There were clips from almost every movie he had ever played in. Some of his paintings and drawings were set upon easels on either side of his flag draped, closed casket.
The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the first eulogy. He really was very funny. He met Tony at the height of Tony's career and Arnold as a struggling actor, before Terminator. Arnold sat next to Tony at an actor's dinner. Tony was very friendly and down to earth, , giving him generous and encouraging, helpful advice.
Later, when he had made it with his Terminator and other movies, Tony would call him up and congratulate him. Arnold also likes to draw and paint, only showing it to his family. Again, Tony took the time to show him how to draw figures, fingers and hands and how to paint. Tony gave him one of his paintings, but Arnold would not allow him to give it to him for free and insisted on paying for it.
He talked of Tony being 85 but obviously seeing himself as a young man. Tony had conversations with Arnold about how much he hated getting older. Tony had hair pieces, sports cars and dated beautiful women to feel younger. Arnold and everyone who spoke talked of the great love between Tony and Jill, his wife and now, widow.
Arnold told everyone how proud Tony was of the way he lived his life and took care of himself. On his 80th birthday, he had a picture taken of himself in the backyard of their home, with Jill lying in her bathing suit on a chaise lounge, and Tony naked, except for holding two of his small dogs in front of his privates. Arnold exclaimed how no one in their right mind would pose naked at that age, or if they did, would put a fig leaf to cover themselves. "Not Tony", Arnold said, "His private parts were so huge he had to hold two dogs in front of himself!" That brought a huge roar of laughter from the crowd. (See top left in collage below)
The Rabbi commented after Arnold sat down that he had NEVER heard a eulogy given quite like his eulogy.
Jamie Lee Curtis followed Arnold. Her first words were, "Talk about a hard act to follow!" She began her eulogy by doing some imitations of her Father, which sounded really good and made everyone laugh with her. She told everyone she inherited her Father's compulsive need for attention. She read a very moving poem written by her sister Kelly, because Kelly was very emotional.
Jill, who was clearly struggling with her grief, had everyone spellbound with her courage and strength. She told us all how much she will miss his wonderful sense of humor and how his positive attitude was so infectious. She told us how he loved animals, but did not realize how much he would have to love animals, until they married. She told of all the animals they had in their home, including a baby burro, who lived with them two weeks before getting him well enough to stay at their Horse Rescue.
Tony's wife spoke of his quirk of wearing his signature white shorts and a tattered white sweater any where they went, which was a major source of "discussion" between them. She apparently had to keep mending the sweater, but he wore the outfit every where. When we went to visit him, he had his famous white shorts on but a bare chest. He even painted, wearing white. (See pic on lower right)
She told us how Tony used to refer to his iPhone phone as his "IV" because it was his life line to friends and families. They were together sixteen years, but would have celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary next month. She told of one of her favorite quips from Tony; someone had asked Tony if he thought it was dangerous dating a woman 45 years his junior. Tony replied, "If she dies, she dies". Jill laughed and everyone joined her...
Tony hated not being able to drive, being bound to his wheel chair. Jill shared with everyone how he always wore his driving gloves when he used to drive, so he continued to wear them while in his wheel chair. Jill put his driving gloves in the coffin with Tony as part of his "travel kit". Dressed in his favorite white shorts and sweater, with his stetson under his arm, other items in his "travel kit" were his iPhone, some gold coins, some money, some of his paint brushes, pad of paper and his drawing pencil, pictures of his kids and grand kids, and a poem from his favorite book. His grandson Nicholas' baby shoes were also included. There were quite a few sentimental items, but these are the ones I remember.
She told us all Tony's friends and family knew, when they were at home, any where or even at a restaurant, Tony would find anything to draw on. Napkins, table cloths, scraps of paper, all carried his drawings as he constantly was creating. On the collages on display, there were several of his drawings on napkins or a piece of a table cloth. Also displayed were love notes to one another...
One touching note from Jill, she wrote to Tony telling him to have fun in Heaven, but not too much fun without her. She wrote she would join him one day. She told him how much she loved him, being grateful for the time they had.
The Rabbi ended the eulogies by saying Tony Curtis was 85 going on 21. He spoke of how disappointed Tony had been not receiving an academy award, but he said how much more he achieved by being so important to so many friends, family and fans.
Another DVD was shown at the end of the funeral. It was more clips from several of his movies and at the end, it showed Tony in his younger years, black and white, smiling straight ahead at the audience. He looked to his right and the word THE appeared. He looked to his left, and the word END appeared. He then looked straight ahead again at the audience, smiled, shaking his head, like he was thinking, "No way, this is not the end for me...there is still so much more".....
Everyone followed to the grave sight, covered with tents for privacy. He was buried with military honors as he was an injured Navy veteran from World War II. Jill had told us how much Tony loved clouds and how he would call to her to come and look out their home windows to enjoy them. He would say to her, "Today is a good day to be a cloud." I have never seen such beautiful cloud formations as I did today above his grave. Absolutely breath taking.
Everyone was invited to a reception at the Luxor, but my son in law and daughter in law had to return to work. My sister and I decided not to go to the reception. Instead, we went to lunch together and talked..
I am so grateful the funeral was open to the public and my sister agreed to go. I have been a life time fan of Tony Curtis. Just the brief encounters my husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy with Tony Curtis, thanks to my husband's son, allowed us to see what a truly gracious and loving person he was. At the end of the last DVD, the last sentence said, "Thank you to all my fans for allowing me to be part of your lives" I think that statement sums up what kind of a person he was.
My sister's gift for today, were some Mary Engelbreit scrap booking embellishments.