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Thanksgiving With Tony Curtis And Janet Leigh

This is a Thanksgiving story about Tony, Janet and the kids. It’s a different kind of Thanksgiving story.

It all took place one night and one day early this past October.

What, you ask, has October got to do with Thanksgiving?

Like we said, it’s different, all right. . . .

It begins on a Friday night, at eleven o’clock, or thereabouts. The Curtises (minus Ginny, the nurse, who had a few days coming to her, and decided to take them now) had just arrived at their new weekend place in Palm Springs. Jamie, the baby, one-and-a-half, was already asleep in her crib. Tony and Janet were unusually beat. Only Kelly, their four-year-old, was her usual wide-awake and bright-eyed self.

“Okay, sweetheart,” Tony said to her, yawning, “it’s way past your bedtime.”

“Do I have to go to bed?” she asked.

“Please, Kelly,” Janet said, “we’ve had a long day of work, your Daddy and I. Daddy, especially—he’s been working every night till way past midnight on his picture. And we’ve had a tough drive. And we’re tired. So please?”

They took her into her room and tucked her in.

“Now,” Janet said, lowering her head: “Our Father. . . .”

Our Father. . . .” Kelly repeated.

Who art in heaven. . . .”

Who art in heaven. . . .”

Hallowed—” Janet started to say.

“Daddy,” Kelly said, looking up at Tony, who stood close to the little bed, his eyes closed, the picture of reverence some other time maybe, a panorama of exhaustion right now. “Daddy, but you’re not in heaven!”

“I know,” Tony nodded, opening his eyes a little. “I hear they get some sleep up there!”

“KELLY,” EXPLAINED JANET. “ ‘Our Father’ in the prayer doesn’t refer to Daddy. It refers to God who is the father of us all.

“Oh,” said Kelly.

“Now,” Janet said, “—and no more interruptions please—let’s finish our prayer.”

They did.

“Daddy!” Kelly called then.

“Yes?” asked Tony, his eyes snapping open again.

“Before I go to sleep, would you read me the story of Scit-Scat the Pussycat?”

“I can’t,” said Tony. He smiled. “That’s in a book we left home. I don’t remember it.”

“Yes you do,” Kelly said. “I do.”

“Then why, dear,” asked Janet, “don’t you tell it to yourself after the lights are out?”

“Because I forget the ending,” Kelly said, “and what happens to the poor little orphan pussycat.”

“He gets adopted,” tattled the star of Psycho.

“Yeah—adopted,” said Tony.

“Oh, that’s right,” said Kelly. “But—I want to hear how you tell it, Daddy.”

Between yawns, reluctantly, Tony told it.

“All right now?” Janet asked then. “Enough for one night? Are you ready now to go to sleep?”

“Oh yes,” said Kelly, “just as soon as we finish singing.”

“Singing?” Janet asked. “Tonight? Here?”

“We always sing at home,” Kelly said. “And isn’t this our home, too? And shouldn’t people love their homes, like you told me that time, Mommy, and sing in them for happiness?”

“Mmmmmmmm,” Janet said. And before she knew it, she was joining her young daughter in their current medley of nighttime hits: I’ve Got A Crush On You, Matilda, My Funny Valentine, My Darling Clementine, The Girl That I Marry and Yes, We Have No Bananas.

“Now—” Janet started again.

“Okay,” said Kelly, “just as soon as you hear my new song. I learned it for you both special today, from Sue Ellen next door, so’s we can sing it at her party next month.”

Without further ado, she began:

Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, Thanks-giv-ing

The Pilgrims were all glad to be liv-ing

They’d ’scaped from the Indians, the Apache’s and Sioux’s

They couldn’t wait to eat their turkeys ’n tell each other the nioux’s. . . .”

She stopped.

“Very nice,” Tony said, beginning to clap.

“No, Daddy, there’s lots more,” said Kelly. “I was just taking a breath.”

Desperately, Tony began to dance a groggy Charleston, on the spot, in hopes of distracting his daughter.

It half-worked.

“When’s Thanksgiving?” Kelly asked.

“The last Thursday in November,” said Janet.

And why do we have it?” Kelly asked.

“To give thanks,” Janet said. “To pause and thank the Lord for all our blessings . . . In our case, we thank him for giving us you, and Jamie, and for all the other wonderful things he’s given us.”

“And,” added Tony, “if you want to see a preview of Thanksgiving, right here, tomorrow, you just be a good girl and go to sleep now, and let me and Mommy sleep late in the morning . . . and we’ll be the two most thankfulpeople in town.”

“You’re funny, Daddy,” said Kelly.

“Will you?” Tony asked, bending down and kissing her. “—Let us sleep late tomorrow? As a big and special favor to me? To Mommy?”

“Sure, Daddy,” said Kelly.


“THAT WAS SOME SONG Sue Ellen taught her,” Janet laughed a little while later, as she sat fixing her hair for the night.

“I’d hate to have heard the next twelve verses,” Tony said, from bed.

“She is adorable, though, that child of ours,” Janet said.

Tony nodded. “She’s the end,” he said.

“And she’s a good child, too,” Janet said proudly. “Just like Jamie is. . . . Of course, they do have their days. But they’re certainly not like some of these other kids you keep hearing about. Always cranky. Always fussing.”

“Not our dolls,” agreed Tony.

Janet clipped the last of the curlers to her hair, rose and walked over to a panel on the wall. She pushed a button, which connected with the inter-com system in Jamie’s room. Then she pushed another button, which connected with Kelly’s room.

She listened for a moment.

The silence in both rooms was lovely.

“Sleep well,” she whispered then, as she got into bed, alongside Tony. “Sleep well, darling.”

Tony already was sleeping, very well.

Janet lay her head back on the pillow And she smiled as once more she listened to the silence about her—lovely, so lovely.

And then, she too slept.

At five-thirty the next morning, promptly, it began.


“It was the beginning of one of those days,” Janet says, “on which Doctors Spock and Gesell, had they been around, would have run back to their offices and taken down their diplomas. . . . At five-thirty came the screaming, from Kelly’s room. She’s at an age in which nightmares are not uncommon. And, let me tell you, she was having one now. . . .”

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” Tony asked as he and Janet rushed into her room.

Kelly bounded up from bed and threw herself in Tony’s arms.

“The big fat beetle was sleeping with me, Daddy,” she cried, the tears streaming down her cheeks.

Tony continued holding her. He looked over her shoulder. “There’s no big fat beetle here anymore, Kelly,” he said, after a moment.

“He’s hiding now,” said Kelly, confidentially. “You just look for him, Daddy. And you’ll find him.”

Tony put her down and began to search the room—under the bed, under the rug, behind the curtains, the closet, the bathroom adjoining the room.

“See?” he said, when he thought he was through. “No beetle.”

“Did you look in the drawers?” Kelly asked, pointing to a bureau.

Tony walked over to it. He opened one drawer, then another, then another. He had just opened the fourth and final drawer, when suddenly, something shot up and hit him in the eye. 

“Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!” he shouted.

He looked down to the floor then, and saw a green rubber frog rolling away from him.

“That’s Freddie, Daddy,” Kelly said. “He always jumps when you get him jiggled.”

Tony looked up and over at his daughter. He tried to force a laugh. “Well,” he said, “—and wasn’t that funny?”

“No,” Kelly said. “I’m still afraid . . . Please someone,” she said, “please stay with me for a little while.”

Tony and Janet went into a huddle. One of them should stay, they knew. But who?

They chose for it.

Janet lost.

Smilingly, sprintingly, Tony began to head back for the big bedroom.

HE’D ALMOST MADE IT, too, when he heard the noises, coming from the other room.

“Honey,” he heard Janet’s voice call then, “will you see what’s wrong with Jamie? She’s crying.”

Ten minutes later, Tony stumbled back into Kelly’s room. Jamie was in his arms. “She’s still crying,” he said. ‘What’s wrong with her?”

“Mouf, mouf,” the baby muttered, between sobs.

Janet looked into her mouth. “Poor thing,” she said, “—she’s teething.”

“But she’s teethed before,” Tony said. “She’s had plenty of teeth in her time.”

“This one’s a molar,” Janet said. “Tony, just take her to her room and put some lotion on her gum. That’ll soothe her, and then she’ll go back to sleep.”

Tony went.

“Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!” Janet heard him shout a few minutes later.

“Honey,” she called, “what happened?”

“Jamie bit me,” Tony called back, ‘‘that’s what happened.”

Janet shook her head. “Honey, easy when you put on the lotion,” she said, “and then just put her down. And she’ll go back to sleep.” She crossed her fingers. “You’ll see. . . .”

“Needless to say Jamie didn’t go back to sleep that morning, nor did Kelly, nor Tony, nor did I,” Janet says, remembering. “At about seven o’clock, when the commotion had quieted down, I decided I’d make breakfast. Things went pretty well for that next forty-five minutes or so. Oh sure, Kelly accidentally flung a spoonful of corn flakes and banana into Tony’s hair. And Jamie gave her high-chair a shove at one point, while she was in it, and nearly gave us heart failure as she started to fall over. But, I mean, it was relatively quiet, breakfast was. And things stayed quiet till all the way up to about nine o’clock, believe it or not. . . .”

By nine, Tony had gone back to bed for a while. Janet was on the phone, ordering some groceries from a nearby market. The children were outside, in a sand-box, “playing.”

Suddenly, again, there came a scream, long and loud.

Janet hung up the receiver and raced outside. The first thing she saw was Jamie, lying on the grass, blood trickling from her lip.

As Janet rushed over to her bawling child, she looked around for Kelly.

And there was Kelly, sitting in the sand-box, pretty as an angel, quiet as a church mouse, watching.

“Kelly,” Janet called, “what happened?”

“Jamie fell against the fence there and hurt her mouth,” said Kelly.

“She got out of the sand-box herself?” Janet asked, as she got on her knees and began to lift Jamie from the grass.

“Yes, Mommy,” said Kelly. “And I didn’t follow her. And I didn’t push her.”

“Are you sure?” Janet asked.

“Well,” said Kelly, “maybe I was there for a minute. And maybe I touched her. . . .”

“Kelly,” Janet said, “you know that Jamie doesn’t like to be—”

She interrupted herself.

“Jamie!” she called then, watching the little girl! who had just managed to slip from her arms. “Where are you going, Jamie?”

Jamie didn’t answer. But it was obvious that she was headed for her sister.

“Ja-mie!” Janet called.

“I didn’t push you on purpose, Jamie,” Kelly said. “You know that.”

Jamie had reached the sand-box and Kelly by this time. For one moment, she looked her big sister square in the eye. And then, the next moment, she lifted her arm, made a fist and she hauled off and slugged her one.

“Mommmmmyyyyy,” Kelly began to scream now.

“My mouuuuufffff,” Jamie screamed, conscious again of her boo-boo.

“Tonnnnnyyyyy,” Janet called. “Help. Tonnnnnnnyyyyyyy!”

He came running out of the house. He wore only his shorts. He rubbed his eyes. “Wh-what’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s one of those days, Tony,” Janet said. “the kind I bragged we never had . . . The children. They’re cranky and fussy. We’ve got to keep them amused. And separately, for now. I’ll take Kelly. You take Jamie . . . Come on, Kelly,” she said.

“Where are you taking her?” Tony asked.

“To the grocer’s, to ride ponies, to fish—I don’t know,” Janet said.

“And how about me?” asked Tony.

“You stay with Jamie,” said Janet.

“But I’m supposed to get some sleep,” Tony moaned.

“Tonight, honey,” Janet said, “—if it’s the last thing we ever do, tonight we’ll get some sleep. . . .”

“THE REST OF THAT DAY was incredible,” Janet says. “Our two good girls. What had happened to them, we wondered. There’s an old Arabic saying that goes: ‘Once in a while the sun slants wrong on a family and, for the day, things do not sit well with family.’ That’s a free translation. But you get what I mean. Because this was the day that Arabic saying was applying to us, and the sun sure was not slanting right . . . All day it went on. The children wouldn’t eat their lunch. They wouldn’t nap. They wouldn’t play the way they were used to playing. Late in the afternoon some friends dropped by. Kelly, normally the gentlest and friendliest of girls, announced in her loudest voice, after the people had gone into the garden to see her: ‘No, I won’t say hello. I’ll only say goodbye when you go!’ And Jamie, normally so sweet, so careful, managed to break one lamp, one ashtray and, finally, one highchair which, luckily. she wasn’t in at the time.

“If lunch was a catastrophe, dinner was worse. I had all of their favorite foods for them that night. But did it matter? No. They nibbled like they were eating a strange Tibetan meal, and then they stopped eating, and then they complained, a lot, loudly, and the complaining went on and on and on.

“But then, suddenly—miraculously, I guess you could say—what rays of sun were left in the early-evening sky began slanting our way. Because, suddenly, the noise stopped, and the complaining, and the children began to yawn, and even to smile, and very quietly, sweetly, they indicated that they were ready to go to bed.

“We put Jamie in her crib first, kissed her and cuddled her and watched her go off to sleep.

“Then it was Kelly’s turn. She was like a different child; her old self again. She got into her pajamas and she hugged us, Tony and me, hard. And then she said, ‘Mommy . . . Daddy . . . I think I’ve been a bad girl today. But I won’t be anymore . . . I’ve been thinking,’ she said, ‘about what you told me last night about Thanksgiving, next month. And when it comes I really want you to be thankful for having had me. And so I’m sorry about how I was today, and I’m sure Jamie is too. And from now on we’re going to be the best little girls in the whole wide world. And we’re going to have the happiest Thanksgiving, too. You wait and see.’

“It was so touching, the way she said that, that Tony and I nearly wept.

“ ‘No, Mommy,’ she said then, ‘may I say my prayers with you, like always?’

“ ‘Yes, dear,’ I said.

“ ‘And Daddy, will you tell me one quick story, like always?’ she asked.

“ ‘Yes, darling,’ said Tony.

“Then, the prayers and the story over with, we kissed her, put out the light and went to the living room. There, we sat and watched some TV for an hour. And then, on tip toes, we gently stole off to our room.

“We were in bed in a jiffy. Finally, finally, we were in bed.

“I had turned on the inter-coms and everything was so quiet, so peaceful.

“And off we fell, to sleep, at last.”

Janet began to tremble a little here.

“And then,” she said, “and then. . . .”

IT WAS ABOUT TWO A.M. when the little voice came roaring over the intercom.

“Mommy! . . . Mommy!”

“It’s Kelly,” Janet said, startled, awakening.

“Probably another nightmare,” Tony said.

“Oh, the poor child,” said Janet.

They rushed into their daughter’s room.

“Hi,” Kelly greeted them, smiling, sitting up in her bed.

“Is . . . is something supposed to be wrong here?” Tony asked.

“Yes, Daddy,” Kelly said. “Mommy and I forgot something.”

“What?” Janet asked.

“Well, we said our prayers, like always,” Kelly explained, “and you told me a story, like always, Daddy . . . But you Mommy, you forgot to sing with me, like always!”

“Sing?” Janet asked. “Tonight? Now?”

“We always sing at home,” Kelly said, “and—”

“I know,” said Janet. “I know.”

She sat down on the bed alongside her daughter.

“All right, Kelly,” she said, “we’ll sing. But very fast this time, huh? And no lingering over the high notes?”

“All right,” Kelly said.

Janet cleared her throat.

I’ve got a crush on you—” she began.

Sweetie pie-yyyyyy—” Kelly joined in.

“Mommy,” she said, stopping, pointing. “What’s Daddy doing?”

Janet looked down.

“He’s laughing,” she said.

“On the floor?” Kelly asked.

“That’s what they call hysterical laughter, dear,” Janet said. “. . . Now come on we’ve got five songs to go after this. . . .”

“All the day and nighttime—” she began again, trying hard to hold in her own laughter.

Hear me ca-ryyyyyy—” Kelly joined in, shaking her head, not getting the big joke at all. . . .


Janet can still be seen starring in PSYCHO, and Tony stars next in Universal-International’s THE SIXTH MAN and THE GREAT IMPOSTOR; SPARTACUS.



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