Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Newscast With Tony Curtis

Another Hollywood great just passed on. Actor Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85, leaving behind more than 100 films where he'll always be the textbook definition of a movie star, handsome and dashing.

My brush with his greatness wasn't even a brush. I got to watch him through a glass window as he appeared live on the set of KOLD News 13 at 5:00 in February 2000. He was in town after a Tucson family won him for a day as part of a Turner Classic Movies contest.

"Guess who you get to interview today?" I told Barbara Grijalva, as I was producing the newscast. "Tony Curtis!"

I can't remember if she was a bit puzzled or awed by it. I was pretty nervous myself, being only on the job for a couple of months and not wanting to blow a big event. Curtis' handler also had a loose schedule, meaning they knew he was to appear on the 5:00 news, but he could very well walk into the building at 5:05 -- which he did.

During a commercial break, we sat him next to Barbara, who went on to painlessly quiz him on his visit to Tucson and his career at this point while I sat in the control room and made sure the director ran clips of his movies while he talked. Curtis, true to form, was the absolute gentleman, the guy I loved watching in The Great Race, Operation Petticoat and The Greatest Show On Earth, although people will always say "he was best remembered for his role in Some Like It Hot."

Curtis ended the interview unexpectedly and yet politely by getting up off the set, thanking Barbara while he took off his microphone. He walked off into the newsroom, probably shaking a few hands along the way. The Hollywood legend also left my anchor a parting gift: a sketch on the back of a notebook of a cat watching a fish in a bowl, demonstrating his blossoming artistic side.

The next day, he rode in the famous Tucson Rodeo Parade and enjoyed a whirlwind tour of the Old Pueblo. If he came back here before he died, I never knew about it, but I wished I could've told him just once, "I loved you as The Great Leslie."

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