A Tribute by Jill Curtis
Editor’s Note: “I have long known of Tony’s equine rescue called “Shiloh” located in Nevada. A steadfast operation that Tony felt great passion for as he was dead set against the government’s destruction of our American wild horses and vocal in his opposition to the predatory business of horse slaughter, to me, that made him a Star. Our flag flies at half mast for Tony and in our hearts we know that he was met by many a loving, animal soul as he crossed the bridge. May God bless him” ~ R.T.
Thank you to everyone, all his fans across the world, for loving Tony like you did- you all meant more to him then you will ever know. All of you will all always be in my heart and we will always be friends.
Thank you to my Shiloh Family, who were there for me, both at the service and in spirit, and helped me stay strong. My heartfelt thanks to Dave Hickey who helped my family make arrangements at the Palm Mortuary and who stood by Tony’s side to make sure that everything was done right and to show Tony the respect and dignity that he so deserved.
On behalf of Tony and myself, I want to thank you all for coming to help us celebrate and remember the life of this remarkable and larger than life man.
As Tony would always say, “I greet you with cordiality and good cheer.”
Tony and I have been together for 16 years, we would have been married 12 years next month. What a wonderful time that has been. Everyone here knows “Tony of the Movies”, I would like to take this time to honor the man behind the Matinee Idol.
As you may have already read, Tony passed in his sleep. He had been ill and had actually almost passed away in the hospital one day a few months ago. But in true Tony style, he fought his way back, in fact he recovered enough to come home. Those of us who were with him these last few months, have come to realize that he came home so that we would all have time to say good bye. This was his final gift- time to talk, to love, to kiss and hold hands, to sit together and watch a movie, to hug. To help us let go gracefully and to finally accept that his long and full life was naturally coming to an end. An end that came peacefully and quietly in the early evening, on his terms and at just the right time.
I have always told people that Tony was just the that way you always hoped he would be. By that I mean- that charming handsome man that you feel in love with on the screen- that was the real Tony. He was hilarious, kind, gentle, tough and strong, highly intelligent and incredibly witty.
Tony absolutely adored his fans and loved it when people would approach him for an autograph or to take a photo. At signings and events, he always made sure to spend time with each person in line, to make everyone feel comfortable and appreciated. We would watch as fans nervously approached with shaking hands but they always left with a big smile and stars in their eyes.
Tony was an enigma, a word he loved.
On the one hand a “yeaderman”- an everyman. He was a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, a Brother, an Uncle, and a Friend. A hardworking man who came from very humble beginnings, a son of immigrants, a patriot who defended his country, a proud American citizen. A man who walked the streets of the World unencumbered, always curious, always approachable.
He was for the most part self educated. A man who barely finished High School but who could comfortably converse with Prince and Pauper alike, from Presidents to the working man.
An amazingly creative person, Tony wrote multiple books and volumes of beautiful poetry. But what he was the most proud of was his artwork. Tony loved to paint and he began drawing at a young age on the sidewalks of New York using his father’s tailor chalk. His acrylics are brightly colored, his line drawings precise and clean. But, to really appreciate the incredible workings of his inner mind, one only has to look at his boxes that he created. These artistic assemblages are of unrelated objects placed together in such a way as to evoke emotions unique to each viewer. They perfectly depict his complex personality and, right up to his death, he was working on his newest book to share them with the World.
Of course, we all know the Mega Watt Movie Star- bigger than the silver screen could ever contain. Someone who was revered, looked up to, and emulated. His immense body of work bridged the gap between Old Hollywood and New Hollywood; he was a true Movie Star in every sense of the word and he loved every minute of it.
One of Tony’s favorite poems is Mr. Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson. He could, and would, recite it by heart. A part of this poem just personified Tony perfectly and I wanted to share it with you.
“Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We the people on the pavement looked at him;
He was a gentleman from sole to crown
Clean favored and imperially slim.
He was always quietly arrayed,
And he was human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said
Good Morning and he glittered when he walked.”
Those of you who knew Tony well, will remember his fondness for white shorts and white sweaters and his ever present Stetson- this was all he ever wanted to wear. Of course, he loved to dress up for the evening and when he did, we always called him “The Armani Cowboy”. For Tony it really was “Armani or your Life”. But, if he could get away with it, and Tony could get away with almost anything- white shorts it was. Tony is even now wearing his favorite outfit- he is being laid to rest in his white shorts, his very favorite white sweater that had to be mended more times that can be counted, his Armani scarf around his neck and with his well worn Stetson under his arm.
He is also being laid to rest with his traveling bag, packed full with what he would always refer to as, “his goods”. In his bag we have placed:
Meaningful Photos and letters
A model of his car, the 25th Anniversary Edition Trans Am with what Tony called, “the screaming chicken” on it’s hood.
His favorite pair of driving gloves, Tony always wore driving gloves, even when he had stopped driving. After his illness in 2006, he was no longer able to, and was extremely fond of telling anyone who would listen that “Jillie won’t let me drive”. He was always, right up to the end, plotting ways to get his driver’s license back and convince me that he was still able to drive. But, more than once in the years before, I had arrived at the scene of a minor fender bender involving Tony, only to find him charming the people and signing their damaged hood or bumper. No need to pay for the auto detailing in Louisville KY for this car owner, what a champ.
As a child who grew up in poverty during the Depression, Tony always felt secure with money in his “kip” as he always called it. Of course, being old school, Tony didn’t call money ”money”, he called it Dough. So Tony, you have some dough in your kip, just in case you might need it.
We have included, a copy of his favorite poem Mr. Cory and a copy of Anthony Adverse, the book that he read while in the Navy and which later became part of his new Hollywood name,
Some of his Navy medals, Tony was a proud sailor and a World War Two Veteran.
His late son Nicholas’ baby shoes that Tony always brought with him wherever he traveled,
A patch from Hungary, Tony loved to speak Hungarian and was extremely proud of his heritage.
Tony loved to collect gold coins, so we added some of those.
His two favorite watches,
A yarmulke from the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest which he had helped to restore in his father’s name,
A bag of interesting colored stones that he had collected during his travels, which included stones from his friend Dodi Fayed’s grave,
A DVD of his film clips,
His “IB” which is actually his iPhone- We don’t know why he called it his “IB”, but he did and after a while so did we. Tony loved to “work” on his IB.
A few items from his Father’s Tailor shop,
A pair of sunglasses and a pair of reading glasses,
Seven packets of Splenda- Tony loved to sweeten everything with Splenda- no less than seven packets. Tony had a huge sweet tooth.
A pair of sleeping eye blinders, which he always wore to sleep or to nap,
A picture and a recent poem he wrote to his little dog, Bronx,
The ashes from his dog, Jack, who was found abandoned in the desert a few years ago and who fell in love with Tony instantly and faithfully followed him everywhere. When Jack passed on, Tony kept his ashes. Now Jack is following Tony again.
We also included some of his favorite paint brushes and some paint and a sketch pad and a pen. Tony loved to draw on anything at anytime. Many of his friends would leave the dinner table with a napkin or even part of the table cloth that Tony had drawn on. He loved to do that.
An accomplished Fencer, he is also being laid to rest with one of his favorite Fencing sabers at his side.
As sad as it is to say good bye to our beloved Tony, we are so happy for him that he had such a long and amazing life. As Tony was fond of saying, “It would have killed an ordinary man.”
I want to thank you, sweetheart, for taking me, a simple horse girl from San Diego, on the ride of a lifetime. Thank you for all you have done for me. You will remain in my heart always and someday, I will take your hand again and we will continue on our journey together. I just want to share one very funny story that I will always treasure. Because we had such a large age difference, soon after we met, Tony was asked if it was dangerous to be with such a young woman? To which he immediately quipped, “Well, if she dies, she dies”.
Tony loved animals but it wasn’t until we met that he realized just how much. When I met Tony, he did not have any animals and his LA home was filled with pristine white carpet. But during these years here in Vegas, our house has always been filled with barking dogs, cats, and injured animals of all kinds including a paralyzed chicken, Ernesto. He even helped me care for and bottle feed an orphaned baby burro who lived at our Anthem home for 10 days until he could move to our ranch. Tony loved to visit our ranch, Shiloh. In fact, right before he became ill this last time, we were planning to build a house and permanently move out there. He was excited about the change and many times these last few weeks when asked about living at Shiloh, he would say “it’s going to be fabulous”.
Let us remember Tony as a gentleman, a kind, compassionate and elegant man, with a loving and generous heart, an iron will, a strong work ethic, a stubborn streak, a brilliant sense of humor and an enlightened way of moving through life. We won’t forget his unmistakable voice or his infectious laugh. As a friend simply said- “He was a thrill to know”.
His journey here has ended, but I know that he is somewhere even now, grinning that charming smile with that mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes, reaching out to take the hand of a friend or loved one. I can still hear that incredible voice saying, “Hi, I’m Tony”.
What a Life.
What a Man.
He was, as one loving fan so eloquently put it,
A Once in a Lifetime Man.