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August 23, 2014

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Jill and Jamie Lee Curtis, Arnold Schwarzenegger pay tribute to Tony Curtis

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Scott Harrison/Retna/HarrisonPhotos.com

Jamie Lee Curtis attends the funeral of her father, entertainment legend Tony Curtis, in Las Vegas on Oct. 4, 2010.

The chapel at Palm Mortuary overflowed with more than 400 well-wishers, friends, fans, family members and media representatives at the funeral service for film legend Tony Curtis.

Curtis died Wednesday night at age 85 after suffering cardiac arrest at his home in Henderson.

The star sampling of those in attendance reflected Curtis' lengthy and universally acclaimed career as an actor and artist. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Curtis' daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, impressionist Rich Little, longtime Las Vegas comic Steve Rossi, and Robert Goulet's widow, Vera, paid tribute to Curtis.

"He was a a true movie star in every sense of the word and he loved every minute of it," Curtis widow Jill Vandenberg Curtis said in her moving and spirited eulogy. " The two were together for 16 years and married for 12.

"He was once asked if it was difficult being with such a young women," Jill Curtis said. "He answered, 'Well, if she dies, she dies.' "

Schwarzenegger arrived about 20 minutes into the service and was asked to speak first by Rabbi Mel Hecht.

"Part of my appearance today is to raise money for the state of California," said Schwarzenegger, who met Curtis at a fundraiser in 1976. Curtis encouraged Schwarzenegger to continue acting lessons and also to change his last name, as Curtis did when he shed "Bernie Schwartz."

"Get rid of the accent, change the name, take your accent and you will make it,” Schwarzenegger recalled Curtis as saying. "He said that no matter who you are or who you meet, you help that person. That’s the way he was."

Schwarzenegger drew one of the loudest laughs of the 90-minute service when he remembered Curtis' zeal for staying young, driving sports cars and favoring younger women -- "Marrying an extraordinary younger woman, Jill," -- and even posing nude for Vanity Fair. "He had a picture of himself at age 80 standing at the swimming pool, naked. Who has the guts to have a naked photo taken at age 80? Normally men have a fig leaf to cover their private parts, but Tony's private parts were so big he had two dogs covering them!"

Jamie Lee Curtis recalled that the family convened Sunday night and performed their best impressions of Curtis.

"No matter what the question is," Curtis said, "the answer is love. Remember that in my father's memory."

A film montage titled "An Affair With Tony Curtis" played at the start of the program. A private celebration of Curtis' life and career was set for today the Luxor.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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