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. . . And Everything Goes Crazy!—Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh

One sunny autumn afternoon, Tony Curtis was stretched out on the living-room floor of his Wilshire Boulevard apartment clad only in shorts and a strait-jacket. As he puffed a cigarette held in one set of toes, and raked his curls with a comb clamped in the other—practicing up for his magician role in Houdini—his honey-haired wife, Janet Leigh, looked on with undisguised admiration, not unmixed with awe. She was pouring a glass of water down her husband’s parched throat and mopping his beaded brow when a rap summoned her to the door.

Good day, Madame!” began a beaming salesman: “You look like an intelligent young housewife. But in your humdrum duties are you keeping up with the world? Are you thinking sanely? Are you informed? I have here,” he stated, “a sensational magazine subscription offer—three for the price of one. Now, if you will permit me—”

At that point in the pitch, Tony struggled to his feet, still manacled and bound, and staggered toward the door, wearing a wild look, half feigned and half natural. “Excuse me, please,” said Janet.

“Now, Tony,” she soothed, “it’s all right. This isn’t the nice man, but he’s coming for you very soon, dear. It won’t hurt when they take you away. Why, you’ll love it there! And I’ll come see you every day and bring you a cake!”

She turned back to the peddler who was already edging away. “I don’t think,” said Janet sadly, “that we’ll need any more magazines here.”

“N-no,” he agreed, hurrying down the hall. “I can see that you won’t—”

After the door closed, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Curtis sank back to the floor and howled. Then Tony had an awful thought. “You know, Jan,” he said, “we’ve got to watch ourselves. I’ll bet that guy goes right out and tells everyone he meets that Tony Curtis is stark, staring, and out of his mind!”

“Well?” asked his wife, “aren’t you?”

Despite his reasonable fears, to date no one has tabbed Tony Curtis for the looney-bin—although the Curtises have been recklessly routed to the divorce courts, lavish apartments and maternity hospitals by various weirdly dreamed up reports. Now after a year-and-a-half’s experience as Hollywood’s most spotlighted couple, sometimes Tony and Janet are inclined to think a nice, quiet padded cell might be a cozy and peaceful retreat.

“It started off crazy,” says Tony, “—this marriage of ours, and it’s still that way. But,” he adds, “Janet and I are a little crazy, too. Maybe that’s why we’re still ‘happy though married in Hollywood.”

It was just 18 months ago this December that Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh jittered nervously around Greenwich, Connecticut, waiting two hours for their nuptial ceremony, because Jerry Lewis had taken a sleeping pill and couldn’t wake up in time. Then, after a jet-propelled three-day honeymoon in Manhattan, Tony had to run away on a picture junket with another girl, Piper Laurie. Janet traveled all by her lonesome home to Hollywood where there wasn’t a home. When the lovebirds finally located a nest there wasn’t anything to feather it with until Marge and Gower Champion came to their rescue with an emergency shower one Sunday afternoon. They grabbed the loot—towels, blankets, pillowcases and sheets—and used them that night when they moved in, whether Emily Post approved of their indelicate haste or not.

Since that hectic start Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Curtis have collected—besides household necessities—a varigated assortment of worldly goods. One .22 rifle, two sets of German electric trains, one model submarine, two sets of golf clubs, four cameras, a brace of fencing foils, pair of boxing gloves, two French painting outfits, a piano, a TV-phonograph combo, two ’51 Buicks, a toy French poodle, a kingsized bed and, as Tony puts it, “a very low bank account.” They’ve also assembled a total of nine hit pictures between them—six for Janet and three for Tony—a case of shingles (for Janet) and hives (for Tony). But most memorable of all, and peculiarly precious to the Curtises, are the dizzy days that have piled up in those 550-odd they’ve lived as man and wife. And they seem to get dizzier and dizzier as time goes by.

Take the other morning, for instance. Janet awoke with the birds, gave a motherly pat to her mate’s crinkled noggin dug deep and dreamless in the pillow, stepped out of bed and slipped on her pink chenille robe. Pattering carefully to the door for the morning paper, she pulled it open, gasped, “Oh!” And bounced back in surprise.

A disheveled 15-year-old girl with red-rimmed eyes extended the folded sheet. “Here’s your paper, Mrs. Curtis,” she said. “Now can I have your autograph, please?”

“What are you d-doing here?” stuttered Janet and then recovered. “It’s rather early, don’t you think?” she said as she scribbled her name.

“I want your husband’s, too,” stated the girl.

“Sh-h-h-h-h,” cautioned Mrs. C. “My husband’s asleep.”

After Janet cooked her breakfast, she tip-toed out past the girl who had curled up in the hall and was now fast asleep. Should she go back, wake and warn Tony? No—he liked to sack in, she was late for work at MGM, and the girl would probably soon wake and drift off. A few hours later, a bright and chipper, shaved and showered Tony opened the door. He looked down, and froze.

“A body!” he gasped. With visions of cops, district attorneys, and headlines Tony bent down and looked again. She was breathing, and in her hand was the telltale autograph pad. Reassured, he lightly hurdled the sleeping form and was on his way. But that was only the start.

On her way into the studio, Janet encountered a bunch of fans who swarmed over her gushing, “Oh, Janet—we just know you and Tony are going to have the prettiest baby ever. When is it due?”

“What baby?” asked Janet.

They giggled, “Oh, you know.”

“I don’t know,” sighed Janet, just a little sore. “I wish I did.”

Tony had his own problems. First, he dropped by a male beauty joint to get himself a permanent wave for this Houdini thing. A second blow to his nerves, but he assured himself it was all for art’s sake. At the studio they sealed him in a packing box and dropped it into a brimming tank of water. After they dredged him up he wobbled dripping to the phone to call Janet about a family matter. He told her that the low offer they’d made on a bigger apartment had been turned down. He considered that this was just as well because they had expenses enough already.

But on the set of A Steak For Connie where Janet lifted the receiver, eager ears heard her explode dramatically, “But Tony—I want to live in luxury! I’m a Hollywood star, aren’t I? Think of my public. What’s a few thousand dollars? It’s only money isn’t it?”

And at Paramount’s end of the wire Tony cried, “You’re so right, darling! Let us live recklessly, expensively. dangerously. I’ll write the check even if it bounces.” What that conversation really said of course, was, “Okay, let’s skip it and stay where we are.” But by nightfall one gossip column carried the news that Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were “really in on the loot these days. They’re moving into the swank, expensive Shoreham.” Another queried, “Have Tony and Janet at last gone Hollywood?” Before the publicity offices closed, four magazines had put in requests for layouts of the Curtises in their new home!

They got together for dinner that evening at Chasen’s and toying over a cocktail waiting for the lamb chops Janet lit a cigarette. “Put out that cigarette!” snarled Tony with his best Svengali leer.

“I’ll smoke if I want to!”

“—and drop that drink!”

“You Brute!” hissed Janet.

“D-r-r-r-op it, I say! Sit up straight, fold your hands—and s-m-i-l-e!”

Janet dabbed her eyes tragically. “I’ve had enough,” she breathed hoarsely. “You beast, you fiend! I’m going home to Mother.”

Just then the waiter steamed up with the entrée. Mr. and Mrs. Curtis fell happily to their sheep bones after Tony had grinned, “Love me?” and got his laughing reply, “Love you.” But when they got home the phone buzzed impatiently.

“Hello, Tony,” said a columnist. “I’m printing tomorrow that you and Janet are splitting up. I thought it would be the nice thing to do to let you confirm it.”

“Gee, thanks,” said Tony, “sweet of you—what? Splitting up? Get outa here!” And slammed down the receiver. “How do you suppose,” he asked Janet with a gasp of amazement, “people get crazy impressions like that?”

They finally got to bed, only to be routed out at midnight by a sloppy-joed miss on a scavenger hunt. They gave her a celery stalk. At three A.M. Jerry Lewis called from the east saying he couldn’t rouse Patti and was worried. They took care of that and called him back. Things were really very peaceful until about 5:52 when Janet awoke with the house rocking, the china tinkling, the pictures flapping on the wall. She dived for Tony. “Earthquake!” she screamed. He only yawned and mumbled, “Just a settling shock, honey—or maybe just another rumor about the Curtises going round.”

The above saga is a fairly accurate sample of a 24-hour-span in the married life of Mr. and Mrs. Tony Curtis of Hollywood, and if you think it’s confused and crazy you’re only agreeing with Tony. But when Tony says “crazy” he usually means “wonderful” at the same time. That’s how it is with “Tona-la” and “Tzc-a-la”, as they call each other when nobody’s around. Those are private endearment terms. Another one that influences their lives is “schtick-lok” meaning those crazy bits of business which Tony and Janet swing into at the slightest provocation, or even without it.

The strait-jacket scene was a schtick-lok, and so was the phone talk, and that Svengali scene at Chasens, too. They’re seizures of impromptu nonsense that attack Tony and Janet Curtis because both are high humored, volatile characters, because both need a constant escape valve for the steam that their double movie pressured lives build up. The truth is, the Curtises can’t resist schtick-loks any more than a kid can pass up candy, although they know that because of them a lot of those crazy marriage rumors which swirl about their heads are nobody’s fault but their own.

But behind all the funny: business there’s a mutually devoted marriage as solid as Gibraltar’s rock, although, admittedly not quite as serene. In fact, if you level down sensibly with Tony and Janet on the subject of rumors, and the more general subject of placid domesticity in Hollywood, Tony Curtis will shake his handsome head and grin, “Sure, I’m having trouble with my wife. But,” he’ll add, “she’s having trouble with me, too. And you know why? Because we really love each other!”

If you think that’s a cockeyed contradiction, Janet Leigh doesn’t. She backs him right up, because neither member of that team has anything to hide. “Of course we have our disagreements and sometimes we have our fights,” she’ll say. “Who hasn’t? I’ll tell you who hasn’t—people who don’t live and love. Couples who don’t care enough about each other to work up a real concern. Marriages where there’s nothing there to raise a notch of blood pressure on either side of the house. Marriages that are dead and dull. And that’s not Tony’s and mine!”

It certainly isn’t. Around last Valentine’s day, for instance, Janet was going through the clothes in Tony’s closet, which as anyone knows, is extremely risky business for any wife. But Patti Lewis had asked her to go horseback riding and she wanted a vest. Tony had eight sport vests (he collects them) and pretty soon Janet picked just the right one. As she hauled it out and ‘started to try it on, she felt an object in the pocket. Eve had trouble with curiosity and Mrs. Curtis is one of her daughters. She pulled it out, unwrapped the tissue—and there was a beautiful lady’s cigarette lighter engraved on the top, “To My Love.”

“H-m-m-m-m,” said Janet, puckering her brow. All afternoon she wondered. It was completely unreasonable, of course, but any psychologist will tell you that a normal amount of jealousy is an integral part of love. That night when Tony breezed in he could tell right away something was wrong.

“What’s the matter?” the asked.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Yes it is.”

Then Janet blurted it out: “Who did you buy that lighter for?”

“What? Why, why—” The guy was stunned. Then light broke and he exploded. “You beautiful, you dumb, you darling, you stupid, you impossible dame! So you’ve got to snoop through everything I own! And you’ve got to pick the one safest hiding place in this house—a vest I haven’t worn for two years! Who is it for? Three guesses! But just for that you’re not gonna get it.” She didn’t either, not until enough days had passed for Tony to have certain alterations made in the engraving, which testified beyond any doubt that the pretty was for nobody but his wife, Janet Leigh.

That the kind of sure love symptom a wise story teller named O. Henry could have made something out of. So is what happened in Paris last year, where Tony and Janet celebrated Christmas on their European tour. They had ten wonderful days in Paree poking around for paintings on the Left Bank, sipping vermouths in sidewalk cafes, and exercising Tony’s “fractured French” on the taxi drivers. One night, leaving a little Russian restaurant to visit an artist’s apartment, they strolled through the old Seine section and in a tiny jeweler’s window Tony spied a pair of old gold cufflinks (his weakness) which drove him out of his mind. But the place was closed. Janet made mental notes of landmarks and counted her steps. 

Next morning, while Tony snoozed peacefully. she slipped out of the room, hailed a fiacre, jumped out at the landmark and paced off the steps until she arrived at the obscure little shop, haggled and bought the beauties. It was pushing noon before she got back and Tony was pacing the hotel room. He demanded to know just where the: blue blazes she’d been.

“Out for a stroll,’ lied Janet, “getting some air.”

“You’re out getting air when we’ve got a million things to do!” blew up her mate. “Christmas shopping and Lord knows what-all. Heaven help me, I have married an idiot!” But Janet didn’t mind. She had her secret. Christmas morning when Tony discovered it—well, he could have cut out his tongue.

If Tony and Janet Curtis live to celebrate their Golden Wedding Day they will undoubtedly still encounter mix-ups like those because two deeply devoted, emotional characters like them will never change. But meanwhile the marital adjustments of two attractive opposites go on day by day, settling their union more securely, but with little after-shocks as Tony chuckles, “just like that earthquake.”

It’s a little hard right now to imagine any girl tossing Tony Curtis out, but as Tony frankly points out, he was far from housebroken to model husbandry when he married Janet Leigh. Nor, he’ll also confess, is he yet. But there’s progress.

“I was a real Bohemian,” he confesses, “just a big, healthy slob doing what I liked. If I got hungry, I ate; if I got sleepy, I slept. If I wanted to get up at four a.m. and go swimming, I went. If I had a buck, I spent it. No rules, no order, nobody else to consider in my habits. That doesn’t work when you’re married,” he grins.

“That’s why sometimes we seem a little” crazy—even to each other.”

That’s the truest of talk from Tony Curtis. Because these differences in Janet and Tony stem straight from the contradictory slants you’d get as a free-wheeling, self-reliant tough kid roaming the Bronx—and a small town, Stockton, California, girl with set social patterns of ordered lite. On top of that, Tony went through a war in the Navy to make him even more footloose-minded while Janet has undoubtedly accented her yearnings for stability because her first marriage was so unstable and helter skelter. But strangely enough, some of Tony and Janet’s other early problems have been actually the same, although what they’ve reaped from encountering them are two totally different outlooks. Take money, which is an important item in any home. I remember talking that over with them one day.

“It’s funny,” said Janet thoughtfully, “how not having any money has affected Tony and me in completely different ways. Because I never had any I’m cautious, careful and thirfty about it. I worry about the bank balance. I want to pay my bills by return mail. Mrs. Cash-andCarry, that’s me. I’m Scotch, you know; maybe I’m tight. Anyway, I got in debt from a business venture with my first husband and it took-me two years to pay off. That scared me. The other day, I saw a woman working hard at a small job right in this studio. Once, she-was a star making $2,500 a week, in the silent movie days too when you coud pile it up and keep it. But she didn’t save and now—”

“There you go,” shrugged Tony, “a 25year-old girl thinking like a 55-year-old woman. Now it’s different with me. I was brought up to value myself, not a buck. I have no money vices. I don’t gamble or throw it away. I hardly ever carry any of the stuff with me. But if I want a new suit and it’s a $150 and I want to pay $50 a month to get it, why not? I’m not conscience-stricken. If I get a $30 pair of shoes and I want them, I buy them. I deserve them. I work hard tor my money and so does Janet. Why shouldn’t she buy that new Adrian dinner gown if she likes it and can use it?”

“Because,” Janet answered him, “we can’t afford it and I don’t have a right to it. We could trade in our cars, too, and get a Cadillac—but we don’t rate a Cadillac.”

“Why not?” countered Tony, tossing his hands in the air. “Now; I don’t need a Cadillac and I don’t want one. But if I did there’s nothing in the world to keep us from getting one if we can swing it. I’m not afraid of debts, because I’m banking on myself. I owe money now. Owe some to Janet I borrowed when my dad was sick. Owe some more for a $50,000 contract suit I settled for $4,000. But so what? I’m not worried. I’m young and healthy, and so’s my gal!”

Actually Tony and Janet Curtis have no real money worries. They make enough, Janet at present more than Tony. They have formidable expenses and responsibilities, both of them, but they’re getting along. Actually, too, Tony’s no more a spendthrift than Janet’s a miser. On a lot of things, in fact, he’s closer with a buck than she is. The other day when a model submarine he bought and launched in Jerry Lewis’ swimming pool sank to the bottom, Tony was outraged. He wrote the manufacturer demanding his money back or a new sub. It had cost all of $13. As for Janet Leigh’s Scotch blood—you should see the watches, rings, cufflinks, tie clasps and things with which she’s gifted the man she loves.

There is still no predicting events at “the Boarding House” it’s true, but as Tony says, “we’re simmering down slowly to a rational life,” and Janet sighs, “at least we have meals to eat at specified hours and a maid to cook them.” In fact, since starting Houdini together, with the same working hours, they feel like solid, respectable citizens.

There are still six keys out to their apartment. “All of them to men, not one girl, darn it,” Tony complains. Among the men are Jerry Lewis, Danny Arnold, his funny-business writer, and Jerry Gershwin, the MCA representative who keeps track of The Monster. That pack of clowns, aided and abetted by some others, including one named Curtis, are likely to turn the Curtis menage into a three-ring circus at any hour of the day or night.

Coming home from a movie the other evening, Janet and Tony found Jerry Gershwin and his girl sitting on the floor watching television while Danny Arnold bounced on the sofa acting out some insanity gags he’d dreamed up for Jerry over the phone to New York. “Are we intruding?” inquired Janet politely. “Would we be awfully in the way if we came in?”

“Please don’t worry your pretty heads about it,” they were assured. “You kids are always welcome. We like you. Make yourself at home. Use anything you want.”

Janet really adores such mad surprises and the individuals who create them, because she owns an oversized funny-bone herself and is happiest when the zany chums swoop down and charge up the joint. But even when she’s there with only Tony, Janet Leigh is conditioned by now to all sorts of rather rugged moments as the loving wife of a guy who gets lost in his screen jobs to the point of schizophrenia.

For months after The Prince Who Was A Thief and throughout Son Of Ali Baba, swords, sabres and scimitars whistled around their small apartment at the risk of life, limb, and the overstuffed pieces. Then Tony turned into a ring punchy making Flesh And Fury. He shadow boxed, skipped rope, taped his hands, batted his nose and trotted up and down Wilshire Boulevard doing road work in a pair of gym trunks. Since this Houdini business began—with both of them mixed up in the magic—Janet’s had so many hoops passed over her body that she feels like a beautiful barrel.

Sometimes Janet thought she’d go off her rocker too if she had to “pick another card,” when she’s already picked at last forty-million. But the truth is she’s really as wrapped up in Tony’s interests, career and otherwise, as he is, and if he wants to saw her in half or nail her in a coffin and drop her over Niagara Falls, that’s jake with her.

The real hassles of the Curtis married life are much less spectacular—just the tiny clashes of daily living habits which any married man and maid who have progressed beyond the honeymoon stage will recognize at once.

Janet, for example, is convinced that Tony is undernourished and living off of a diet designed for pellagra.

When she seats away before he does she leaves notes by the breakfast table: “Eat this and eat all of it—or don’t come home tonight!”

“Man, it’s murder!” grumbles Tony, “to Janet a lunch isn’t a lunch unless it’s at noon; and a dinner isn’t a dinner unless it’s at seven—no matter how much I eat in between. She likes a farmhand breakfast, I can’t eat eggs that early—and so I’m headed for rickets!”

There’s the sleeping business—Janet’s a six-hour girl, Tony’s a 14-hour boy in the hay. Just when he’s sinking into a cozy coma, she hears a rooster crow and gets up, soft footing it around but making enough commotion to penetrate his sleepy head. “Sometimes I could heave a shoe at her,” Tony will grin, “but I haven’t yet. Just maybe a slipper.” And there’s dancing—it’s ecstasy for Janet but Tony doesn’t dig the light fantastic on a crowded floor. And movies—Tony likes swashbucklers, fight pictures and murder mysteries; Janet goes for romance. You like coffee and I like tea. Janet’s tidy, Tony’s not . . .

The other afternoon Tony was reading. “Honey,” he called, “can I have a glass of water?”

“Sure,” said Janet, and brought him one. He took a sip and set it down, read on a while and reached for the glass. It wasn’t there.

“Hey,” yelped Curtis, “where’s my glass?”

“Why, it’s washed and put in the cupboard where it belongs,” announced his wife.

“It doesn’t belong there when I’m still drinking out of it!” reasoned Tony.

That night he hung up his sport shirt on a chairback by the bed. Next morning he reached his hand over for it. No shirt. “Where’s my shirt?” he cried.

“In the laundry, of course,” he got back.

Well, he’s learning, as all husbands do. He’s getting trained. “And I really don’t mind,” Tony confesses, “ ’cause I love her so. Why, I even fill the cigarette lighters now and all kinds of things. Maybe I let a butt linger a minute or two in the ashtrays but honest,” he laughs, “once we get our own house Janet won’t fuss about little things like that. She’ll have so much to do she won’t have time to. Right now I let her revel in her household chores, let her get carried away with ’em. If it makes Janet happy—why not?”

Actually, both Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh know they couldn’t live at this point without each other. If any doubts about that ever hung around they vanished up in the Rocky Mountains around their first wedding anniversary one day last June.

Janet was making The Naked Spur near Durango, Colorado, so Tony, who was free then, traveled there to celebrate the sentimental milestone with his bride. One day, when Janet rolled away with the picture company for some mountain shots, Tony hopped off the bus along the way with his trout rod. They arranged to meet at the same place in the evening, when the company came home.

At dusk she had the driver let her off at the appointed spot saying, “Go on, I’ll walk in with Tony.” Only after she’d looked around—there wasn’t any Tony.

The canyon was silent and the sun was sinking. The shadows stretched and the dark pines whispered. Something slithered in the grass, something moved behind a bush, something howled. Janet was scared.

She clambered down the cliff to the trumbing stream and stumbled along the boulders crying, “Tony! Tony!” She called and called and she got a little hysterical. All kinds of horrible speculations raced through her head.

Then she finally saw him—a tiny figure in the distance, standing on a rock in the middle of rushing rapids. She got there somehow, wet and dripping, her shins scraped raw from the boulders, but she didn’t feel that or care. She climbed frantically up on the rock and, crying and laughing at the same time, grabbed her guy:

“S-h-h-h-h, Jan!” Tony cautioned. “You’ll scare him. He’s right under this rock!”

“I don’t care what’s under it,” she chattered. “I want what’s on it!”

“That’s me, all right,” admitted her mate, “but I just crawled out from under this rock myself!”

So even in tender moments it’s sometimes a little crazy with the Tony Curtises. But it’s also pretty wonderful. That’s the way it has been for almost two years now, and I suspect that’s how it always will be—crazy but with plenty of wonderful love and lovely troubles, too. 





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