Sharing laughter and tears, fans and family members gathered Monday in Las Vegas to pay tribute to Tony Curtis, who died last Wednesday at age 85.
The legendary actor’s flag-draped casket sat at the center of a stage at Palm Mortuary next to two of his paintings as guests heard stories of his life and watched clips of some of his best-known movie scenes.
Befitting a movie star with a comic touch, humor was sprinkled throughout the service. His daughter Jamie Lee Curtis even did an impression of her father.
“We are the evidence of him,” she said before getting emotional. “We walk the walk led by him. We all got something from him. I, of course, got his need for attention.”
Genuine, Forever Young
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who directed Curtis in Christmas in Connecticut, spoke of the Some Like It Hot star’s genuineness. “He was always paying so much attention to me, even when I was a nobody,” said Schwarzenegger.
Recalling a photo that appeared in Vanity Fair of Curtis naked, he said, “Who has the guts to take off clothes at the age of 80? He felt like he was a 21-year-old.”
Curtis’s wife, Jill Vandenberg, wept throughout the service, summing up her husband this way: “He was a once-in-a lifetime man.”
Upon entering the mortuary, programs were handed out with Curtis’s likeness and featuring poems and proverbs written by Curtis, as well as a famed quote from Sweet Smell of Success: “Cat’s in the bag, bag’s in the river.” Photos of Curtis’s paintings were in the hallway.
Wife: He Was Charming, Handsome
“People always wonder what he was really like,” Vandenberg said. “He was exactly like you thought he would be. He was that charming, handsome man you saw on the screen.”
Known to wear white in the years leading up to his death, Curtis was buried in his favorite outfit – white sweater, white shorts, white scarf and his favorite Stetson hat under his arm.
Many of his favorite items were also buried with him: seven packets of Splenda, iPhone, medals, gold coins and his late son’s baby shoes.
Always the showman, even in death, clips of Curtis’s movies and the stories of his life had the crowd laughing and clapping through the one-hour service. It was something Curtis would have appreciated, his wife said.
“He was a movie star and he loved every minute of it,” she said.