Tony Curtis: The Original Heartthrob

Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis wasn’t just good-looking.  He was ridiculously good-looking.

The jet-black, spit-curled hair.  The piercing blue eyes.  The tight, athletic body.  The brilliant smile.  The Bronx bravado and machismo.  They were all there.  He wasn’t just a matinee idol.  He was a great actor in a beautiful shell.

I remember the first time I saw Tony Curtis in a film.  The film was “Houdini,” and it was one of the many films featured as “Family Classics,” presented by WGN TV in Chicago by the legendary Frazier Thomas.  I spent many Sundays  with my family, watching classic movies like “Old Yeller,” “When Worlds Collide,” and “My Friend Flicka.”  “Houdini” was one of my favorites though, mostly because of the story of Harry Houdini, but especially because of the impossible-to-resist Tony Curtis in the lead role.

Cover of
Cover of Houdini

I was a pretty clever kid back in the day.  I paid attention to details, like actors’ names and directions to my relative’s homes.  It’s a trait that has stuck with me to this very day.  I knew the name “Tony Curtis,” and as I grew older, I would seek out films featuring stars I had seen that I had liked.   Tony Curtis was one of those stars.  Sure, I knew he was much older than me, but I didn’t care– I knew that he was good-looking and a good actor.  That’s all that mattered to me.

One of my favorite films was “Trapeze.”  It featured Curtis and Burt Lancaster, with the sultry Gina Lollobrigida in her first American movie role.  It was a tense, sexy movie that featured Curtis and Lancaster in all forms of skimpy attire.  My young gay self could hardly stand it.

Tony CurtisIt would be years before I finally caught all of the incredibly funny “Some Like It Hot,” with Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in the hilarious cross-dressing camp classic.  It quickly became one of my all-time favorite films– featuring someone I had admired for years, even though I never really had the chance to know how good he was at comedy as well as drama.

I could go on about his later years:  the crummy movie choices, the multiple wives, and the bouts with drugs and recovery– but I really prefer to remember Tony Curtis for the man he was at the top of his game.  I wanted to be him.  I wanted hair like his, lips like his, eyes like his.  He was the man every woman (and many men) wanted, and the man every man wanted to be.  He was, for me, my original heartthrob.

Way to be timely, Yahoo!

I just happened to click on this Yahoo Music article (the headline did not say that it was about Justin “Lesbian Boychild” Bieber) and could not help but chuckle when I saw the “More Artist News” articles in the sideline.

Note the date.  They are ALL from 2000.

Way to be timely with your music news, Yahoo!

In Memory: Frances Reid (Days of our Lives) 1914-2010

As of this posting, the media has not quite caught on, but I have learned from numerous sources on Twitter and We Love that Frances Reid, who played the role of Alice Horton on “Days of our Lives” from the show’s début in 1964 until the present, has died at age 95.

Frances was not just any ordinary actress.  She had the warmth of a grandmother and everyone loved her so very much, simply because of the character she played, day in and day out, on television.  On TV, she was grandmother, great-grandmother, and even great-great-grandmother to dozens of family members.  In real life, she was grandmother to millions.

As far back as I can remember, I recall my Mom and my Grandma watching Days of our Lives, and I remember seeing this radiant woman on the screen and I always knew I’d like her.  She reminded me of my Grandma in many ways.

As I grew, and I started watching “Days” with my family, I enjoyed her adventures with Bo and Hope, her wise advice and drugged donuts (remember that?), and her love of her Tom and her family.  As it turned out, she truly was everything I thought she was when I first saw her as a little kid.

We watched her as her kids grew up, and had kids, and moved away.  We watched her and cried with her when Tom Horton died (when Macdonald Carey died), and we watched her grow old and frail, but still with that sparkle in her eye.

We knew she’d be leaving us soon, but the loss still hurts deeply. She lived a wonderful, rich and amazing life. I’ll always remember her.

I think I’ll get some powdered donuts today to celebrate her memory.

Brittany Murphy – the new Karen Carpenter?

I awoke today to the news of yet another celebrity death, albeit not anyone I was particularly a fan of, nor did I know much about her… but the news struck me as eerily similar to another celebrity death that still, to this day, haunts me.

Take a look at the pictures below.

Brittany Murphy and Karen Carpenter

On the left is Brittany Murphy, who died today at age 32 of cardiac arrest.

On the right is Karen Carpenter, who died in 1983 at age 32 of cardiac arrest (which was later attributed to Anorexia Nervosa).

Aside from those similarities, note the similarities in their facial features.  The gaunt, stark chin.  The long, flowing hair that disguises the thinness of the neck.

I’m not a doctor by any means… but I can’t help but wonder if Anorexia didn’t play a part in Ms. Murphy’s death.

I find it frightening that the entertainment industry as a whole has still not learned its lessons from Karen’s passing.  Why are our actresses, singers and other performers being subjected to this mentality?  What is this teaching our children?

These photos do not show either woman at their worst.  I have seen much worse photos of Karen Carpenter, where she looks like a skeleton with skin on her face; and I have seen much worse photos of Brittany Murphy, where the effects of what had to be an eating disorder were very apparent.  But photos aside, the similarities– which COULD just be coincidences– are just too obvious to ignore.  Time will tell.

The Rule of Threes – Ed, Farrah and Michael

The Rule of Threes struck again, and it struck with a vengeance, especially today.

I remember as a kid, when a celebrity or notable person would die, my Dad would say, “Well, two more to go – they always go in threes.” He was always right. Somehow, another notable person would die, and then another, and the three were chosen.

This never became more apparent to me in 2006, when my family suffered three losses — first my cousin Arlene, then my Dad, and then my cousin’s Grandma Madge. The Rule of Threes was most painful that year.

When Farrah Fawcett died today, I posted a tweet on Twitter that said, “Rule of threes – Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett… will Walter Cronkite be next?” It seemed to make sense. Just days earlier, news reports stated that Cronkite, the veteran news reporter, was “Gravely Ill.” I didn’t realize at the time just how wrong I could be.

I never expected Michael Jackson to be the one to round up the Rule of Threes, and certainly I never expected it to happen that same day.

So what to say of these three losses…

Well, for one thing, each of them reminds me that I, myself, am growing older. The heroes and idols and superstars that I remember from my youth are quickly fading away.

I look at their careers and wonder if they lived happy lives, good lives, fulfilling lives.  Some did… some had harder times.

Ed McMahon lived a long, full life. He had many careers – military, music, entertainment… he seemingly did it all, and did for a very long time. As memorable as Johnny Carson was, so too was Ed and his hearty laugh and his legendary introduction to the Tonight Show, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Many nights I can recall laying in my bedroom trying to sleep while my parents were in the living room watching Johnny walk onto the stage through the rainbow-colored curtain after that hallowed call. Then when I got old enough, I, too, enjoyed Ed and Johnny’s antics. They were friends of mine too. And now they’re gone.

Farrah Fawcett, with her windswept, dirty blonde locks, was every boy’s fantasy… even a burgeoning gay boy like me. I can’t deny that I wasn’t fascinated with her– I was. She got all the men, and she did it all with the flip of a feathered lock. But there was much more to Farrah than “Jiggle TV” showed, and she knew it. She knew she had the talent to make a name for herself, and stuck up for herself to prove it. She was a survivor, and a fighter. Those truths about Farrah don’t come out often enough, and I hope they do now, because she needs to be remembered for all of her accomplishments. Her final fight, cancer, was probably her greatest. Angered by tabloid trash talk about her disease, she decided to the turn the cameras on one last time, and tell the truth… and she did so with amazing dignity and perserverence. I watched “Farrah’s Story” and was moved by her bravery in the face of death. She knew– she HAD to know– that her end was coming, but she wasn’t afraid to tell the world that she wasn’t afraid. So she kept on fighting, right up until the end. Ryan O’Neil said he loved her more than ever during those months… and I have to say that I did too. Rest well, Farah… you’re truly an Angel now.

But Michael Jackson was the greatest shock of all. Poised for a comeback after many years out of the spotlight, which was rare for the superstar who had been in the spotlight since he was a very small child; it looked like Michael Jackson was on the road to recovery after the trials and accusations that faced him just 4 years ago. There is no sense judging him for all of that now. That isn’t my place, anyway. I want to focus on the brilliant music he made, from his meager beginnings with the Jackson 5 to his incredible years with Off the Wall and Thriller… and his countless charitable and humanitarian works. Michael Jackson may have become a persona later in life, and his odd behavior turned off a lot of people; but most of those who were turned off by the oddities agreed– the man knew music. The King of Pop? Maybe an overblown title… but he sure as heck sold it the best way he could. He truly was a legend, and I’m still stunned that he’s gone.

Each of these legends… icons… were present in my youth and adolescence. And now they are gone. Life goes on, but it’s a little sadder than the day before.