If his estate would like to contact me, I'd be happy to pass on the £25
Mr Curtis was, unwittingly, a party to the World’s Best Ever Name Drop. Well, best I have ever heard and, therefore, best ever in the world.
Many years ago – getting on for 20 years ago in fact. More even – I was Deputy Editor of the Today newspaper’s gossip Column. Deputy Editor because there were two of us, and I wasn’t the editor. Actually no, there were two and a half of us – we shared a secretary with the Features Desk, the now rather more famous Kate Battersby. Oh, you have a Google go use it.
We used to print the usual scurrilous gossip such pages printed in those days, and had a lot of fun doing it. One of my favourite contacts was Jack Martin, an old Los Angeles hand who knew absolutely everyone in Hollywood and did us favours because he like our sense of humour. This was back when newspapers were allowed to have real senses of humour (man, I’m old).
So one afternoon I phoned Jack. “Ah,” he said, “I’ve just learned that Walter Matthau has had open heart surgery.”
Cool, I said. No one else had this story, a nice exclusive for us. “How did you find this out, Jack?” I asked.
“Well,” he replied, “I was in the bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel when I saw Dustin Hoffman wearing a sweatshirt which said, ‘I love Walter …’ and then this long, unpronounceable Russian name. Which I found out was Walter Matthau’s real name and that Dustin was wearing it to support his friend Walter.”
“Cool,” I said, “how did you find that out?”
“Well, I don’t personally know Dustin Hoffman, but I was with Tony Curtis so I got him to go over and ask.”
Tada! World’s coolest ever name drop. I told Jack that he should split our £50 tip fee with Mr Curtis but he said hey, he can get his own English newspaper gossip column. I told him to tell Mr Curtis to pop in and see us for his money next time he was in town and we’re still waiting.