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Encounter with a star comes full circle

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2003


NEW PORT RICHEY -- When they met 50 years ago at a movie shoot, Jackie Simcock Owen never kissed her big screen idol, Tony Curtis.

Who says there are no second takes in life?

Invited backstage after Curtis' performance Sunday in the musical Some Like It Hot, Owen got more than she hoped for.

The 77-year-old star of stage and screen gave Owen a kiss. And a hug. And a few tears. And more than a few minutes of his time.

"He's very spiritual. He said that this was meant to be. 'We lived our lives, and we were meant to meet again,' " Owen said Monday after her brush with fame at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

As a journalist recently out of high school in Pasadena, Calif., Owen, then known as Jackie Russell, spent three days on location with a 20-something Curtis. Curtis was making his 19th film, called The All-American, released in 1953.

All Owen had left of those interview sessions were a few black-and-white photos. She shared her tale with the St. Petersburg Times last week. The newspaper published a story Saturday.

That's when things turned interesting. Hoping to bring the article to Curtis' attention, Owen traveled from her home in New Port Richey to the theater in Clearwater.

Like a star-struck teen seeking an autograph, she left a note attached to a copy of the story with a back-stage security guard.

When she got home, a message was waiting on Owen's answering machine. Two free tickets awaited her for a Sunday matinee of Some Like It Hot.

The show thrilled Owen. But nothing matched what happened later. Curtis, stripped of his costume, greeted her back-stage wearing a T-shirt and shorts.

Shown the photos from 1953, Curtis said he remembered his young interviewer. When Owen offered him her Tony Curtis scrapbook compiled from 1950s movie fan magazine clippings, the actor's eyes welled up.

"He hugged me and kissed me and kept touching me. He was touching his youth probably," Owen said.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. Owen said she's "heartbroken" she forgot to take a picture with Curtis. But she did have Curtis sign her old black-and-white glossies from their initial meeting.

"I told him, 'You know, I never got your autograph," Owen said. "He signed all my pictures with words like "at last" and "with affection."

Owen, 69, left the theater feeling closure in her fleeting relationship with the star. Owen returns to her life on the Pithlachascotee River. Curtis' touring company has moved to other cities.

"What a blessing this was," Owen said Monday. "After having had a nice encounter so long ago to have a finale to it."

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