My Close Encounter With Tony Curtis
When I was a teenager back in the 1960's, I would take the bus east to Beverly Hills so that I could study at the public library there. I found more resources at this more affluent library than the one closer to my home. One Saturday, when I had finished studying, I was walking back to the bus stop for my trip home. Rather than my usual route, I chose to walk down one of the side streets in downtown Beverly Hills. Being a bit "off the beaten track" from the more touristic Rodeo Drive, there were few people on the street that Saturday afternoon. As I walked along, I passed the storefront of a fencing studio. I had only seen people fence on television or in the movies. I quickly found myself glued to the window staring in with surprisingly unselfconscious adolescent fascination. This was certainly the most interesting thing I had ever seen up close and personal! It finally dawned on me that I recognized one of the two people in the studio. It was none other than the famous movie star, Tony Curtis, getting a lesson from his fencing instructor! I could not believe my eyes at this bit of serendipity!
I continued to press my nose to the window. After a few minutes, Mr. Curtis stopped and took a break from his lesson. Before I could blink, he walked out the door and ask me if I would like to come in, sit down, and watch him finish his lesson! Oh my God, I thought, was this really happening to ugly-duckling ME?!
Without thinking twice, I marched into the studio and sat down with my schoolbooks in my lap. I frankly don't remember the rest of the lesson. I was in such a daze, so awestruck at what was happening at that moment! Tony was a really big movie star at the time! I guess he was practicing for his next "Prisoner of Zena" (swashbuckling) movie epic. At the end of his lesson, Tony took a few minutes to sit and chat with me. Hollywood is so full of stars with big egos that it was a surprise that he would spend a few minutes of his time with me. Remember that there were only Tony, his instructor, and myself in the room during that session. I did have one card up my sleeve though. I knew that Tony Curtis's real name was Bernie Schwartz and my last name is also the same. I shared that information with him.
We both smiled at our common link, the two of us were from the same "tribe" (so to speak). After that, I stood up, we shook hands and I went off to catch my bus home. Decades later, he was interviewed on a local radio station, and I was able to call in and share this memory with him.
I have never, ever forgotten this kind & gracious man.