News is just breaking that actor Tony Curtis has died today at the age of 85. His most famous role was in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. But that film was made well before I was born. So to me he was most famous for having had relationships with some of Hollywood's most famous leading ladies back in the day, and then for having been married six times.
I remember seeing a piece about him on Entertainment Tonight 15 years ago or so, which profiled his retired life in Las Vegas as he turned 70. It noted that he had become a well-regarded painter whose works sold for tens of thousands of dollars. But what impressed me most at the time was that he was accompanied by a statuesqe blonde woman who looked to be 30 or 40 years younger than he. (He later married her. Jill Vandenberg was 42 years younger than he, as it turns out.)
That profile made a surprisingly strong impression on me at the time. So I I was oddly less surprised than I might have been when I bumped into the couple, literally, on the dance floor of "Club Ra" at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas about a decade ago. It was well after midnight, and the techno dance music was blaring. As I was dancing on the not-so crowded dance floor, I accidentally bumped into someone behind me. I turned around to apologize and there was Tony Curtis and this same beautiful, tall blonde woman, looking pretty much like that photo above. Despite never having seen Some Like It Hot, I instantly knew who they were. My first reaction was not, "No way! It's Tony Curtis!" though. Instead, I remember thinking in that instant, "This guy is amazing. He must be 75, and yet he's out dancing at 1 AM at a club with this beautiful woman in her 30s. Incredible!"
Before I could say anything, he immediately apologized for bumping into me. He was really nice, and didn't 'big time' me at all. Then there was that moment he must've had a million times in his life, where he could see in my eyes that flash of recognition. But then my eyes darted to his wife for a second (I couldn't help myself), and then back to him. I could tell that he knew exactly what I was thinking in that moment, because he flashed a knowing smile at me before dancing on.