RIP, Tony Curtis: His Little Piece of Houston History

Categories: Stage
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Tap-dancing into Houston's hearts
Tony  Curtis has died, the longtime actor and comedian checking out at 85.

Yes, he had a Houston connection. And a fairly recent one.

Eight years ago, when construction was finally nearing an end on the $100 million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS announced what show and what star would get the honor of opening the impressive facility.

Some people -- well, us, to be sure, but others too -- hoped the fact that TUTS had an amazing new theater guaranteed to draw crowds no matter what was on stage would mean that the company might expand its horizons at last.

`Twas not to be, as we wrote in a feature on TUTS' years of cliched seasons:
Finally -- after 15 or so years of planning and scheming and begging money and plotting political machinations, after enduring endless seasons of cramped spaces, crumbling infrastructure and shabby, faded surroundings that screamed Podunk to the rest of the show-business world, after three years with no home at all -- the day had arrived.

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts was ready at last. (Almost ready, anyway, and what would such an opening be without a few furiously crossed fingers?)...

Now TUTS has announced its biggest season ever -- the first in its glorious new home, the palace built largely for its benefit. Brimming with pride, TUTS staged a press conference to let the world know what shows had made the cut to be put on in this most important of all years. To shout out just what would be presented in that magnificent venue after it opens in May.

To do so, it brought along the star of the opening production; the star who, along with his show, would forever be remembered as having the honor of opening the Hobby Center.

Hey, Houston, TUTS said at that press conference, bursting with peacock pride, meet...Tony Curtis. Who'll be coming to town in a warmed-over rehash of a mediocre 30-year-old musical called Sugar, which is now called Some Like It Hot.

...Not only was Tony Curtis alive, not only was he "singing on pitch," according to officials, but -- in a TUTS-ian moment if ever there was one -- [TUTS head Frank] Young beamed a few days later that Curtis "is taking tap lessons!"

Much of Houston's arts community simply shrugged their shoulders about the new TUTS season; "That's Frank" was heard more than once.

For others, their thoughts were summed up best by Mary Lou Aleskie, executive director of the critically acclaimed Da Camera society. "You build an amazing $100 million performing arts facility, and what you get is Tony Curtis taking tap lessons," she said. "You don't know whether to laugh or cry."
RIP, Tony. You had a hell of a ride, and you opened up the Hobby Center. And learned to tap.
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