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Tony Curtis remembered at public funeral

October 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A funeral service was held Monday morning in Las Vegas for famed actor Tony Curtis.The 85-year-old Oscar-nominated actor died last Wednesday from cardiac arrest at his home in Henderson, Nev.

Family members were surrounded by friends, fans and celebrities as they paid their final respects and celebrated the movie star's life.

A film tribute to the actor's diverse and iconic career flashed before more than 400 guests at Palm Mortuary & Cemetery. The crowd laughed as an animated Curtis appeared in a scene from the television series "The Flintstones" and sparred with actor Kirk Douglas in "Spartacus."

Inside, seven colorful paintings by Curtis stood on easels while a photo of the young, dark-haired actor was projected on a screen. An American flag covered the coffin.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Curtis' daughter from his first marriage with "Psycho" actress Janet Leigh, teared up as she described a man who was, she said, "a little mashugana," using the Yiddish word for crazy, but always full of life.

"All of us got something from him. I, of course, got his desperate need for attention," she joked.

The father and daughter were estranged for a long period, but they eventually reconciled and he took pride in her on-screen credits that include "Perfect," "Halloween," "True Lies," "Trading Places" and the new comedy "You Again."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recalled Tony Curtis as a generous mentor who encouraged his budding Hollywood career when others told him his foreign accent and name were too much of a hurdle.

"'You are going to make it,'" Schwarzenegger recalled Tony Curtis telling him. "Don't pay any attention to those guys. I heard the same thing when I came here."

Schwarzenegger said Tony Curtis refused to feel old.

"I mean, who has the guts to take off their clothes at the age of 80?" Schwarzenegger said, referring to Tony Curtis posing naked for a Vanity Fair photo shoot in 2005.

The funeral was to be followed by burial and then a reception for 200 invited guests at the Luxor hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Tony Curtis' wife, Jill Curtis, eulogized her husband of 16 years. She said he was being laid to rest in his favorite Armani scarf and driving gloves. He wore them even after he no longer could drive.

"He was always, right up to the end, plotting ways to get his drivers license back," she said.

Longtime friend and pallbearer Gene Kilroy said billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, actor Kirk Douglas and singer Phyllis McGuire are among seven honorary pallbearers.

Curtis began his acting career in the 1950s and appeared in a long list of films including "Some Like It Hot," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Spartacus," and "The Defiant Ones," which earned him an Oscar nomination.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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