“Some Like It Hot” still sits atop most polls and surveys as the #1 most enjoyable comedy ever. Whenever we’ve shown it, we’ve always enjoyed great crowds – most of whom have already seen the film several times. In that regard its like “Casablanca” . . . there always seems to be an audience eager to see it in a great setting.
My remembrances of my brief day with Tony Curtis always bring a smile to my face. About a month before his appearance at Tampa Theatre, my phone rang at my desk. I picked it up and on the other end of the line was Tony Curtis who with great gusto said “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!! This is Tony, Tony, Tony!”. Now, I’ve personally dealt with celebrities from time to time (from Ben Vereen to Vincent Price), but I can tell you I became a babbling idiot on the phone during that first phone call. I mean, it was Tony Curtis on the other end of the line talking to me like I was an old friend.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the event I got more phone calls from him, as did staff member Tara Schroeder who was handling all of the press relations for his visit. Her phone would ring, and she would hear “Tara, Tara, Tara!! This is Tony, Tony, Tony!” He became personally involved in making sure his appearance worked for us, and we really looked forward to hosting him in person.
On the day of the event, we wanted Tony Curtis and his family members travelling with him to arrive at the Theatre in style. We made arrangements for a friend who had a Rolls Royce to pick him up from his downtown hotel and bring him to the red carpet in front of the Theatre. Tara and I waited with anticipation with a throng of fans in front of the Theatre for his arrival. We became excited when we saw the Rolls pulling up Franklin Street. The Rolls got to the front of the Theatre and, aghast, I realized that no one but the driver was inside. He had a look of shock on his face.
Thinking the driver either got lost or had lost Tony Curtis, I ran over to him and asked “Where is he?!!!??!” He replied that Tony had a few more people than expected and he didn’t want to take separate cars, so he called for a cab.
About that time, a beat up station wagon taxi pulled around the corner, screeching tires with smoke billowing out the tail pipe. The taxi’s back end looked like it needed suspension work because it appeared overloaded and dragging. The taxi skidded to a stop, the door opened, and Tony and six others came pouring out of the cab. The crowd roared its approval, and my heart rate returned to something resembling normal.
We had him for just a day, but it was enough for us to appreciate his spirit and how much joy he found in living his life large.
All of us at Tampa Theatre extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.
Tony, Tony, Tony: Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.