Well, really, there is no ‘evolution’ to speak of when it comes to actor Tim Curry. I have admired him for years and years, though not for obvious reasons, and I don’t intend to quit with the admiration now.
It is a weekend summer’s night; the windows are open, letting in the darkness and the heat. I am four years old. Mom and Dad are talking. Older Sister, Younger Brother and I are fussy and restless from the humidity; Youngest Brother is barely one year old, and is already asleep. We are watching the weekend movie on TV, the “Wonderful World of Disney” or some similar program. “Annie” is on. After the beginning, with the orphans and their “Hard Knock Life,” we kids stop really paying attention. Until, all of a sudden….it’s “Easy Street,” and the three villains, a man and two women, are singing and silly-dancing in a stairwell. It’s the man that I’m suddenly entranced by, and I cannot understand why. My attention is riveted to the screen, like a laser beam. I am sitting stock still on the floor, in front of the blue-and-green terry sofa which is suddenly itchy at my shoulder blades, my hair sticking to the back of my neck. Mom and Dad are still talking, about what, I’m not sure, but I wish they would be quiet so I can listen and watch.
I do not know his name. Only his face. And his body. And his voice.
“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness” indeed….
Here is that moment, from “Annie”:
I couldn’t tell you why, as a four-year-old, at that moment, I was so enchanted by him. Maybe, with his dark hair and eyes, it was because I thought he looked like one of my uncles. (He doesn’t, by the way, resemble any of my uncles, on either side of the family.) I don’t know what it was about him. But he had my full attention.
In any case, by the time I went to bed, I’d forgotten about the moment, and by morning, it was like it hadn’t happened. I was four, hello. There was childish fun to be had. But he left quite the impression. For the longest time, he and the “Easy Street” number was the only thing I really remembered about “Annie.” Which held true when I finally rewatched it years later, at age eleven.
Also at age eleven, I saw “Ferngully” for the first time. It was an okay movie, full of cute characters and Robin Williams being annoying. But, once again, it was Tim Curry who got my attention. It was a typical villain role, but he played it so well. It was all the little things about it, the little giggles and the pauses and the inflections of his voice, that made it brilliant. The song “Toxic Love” absolutely got under my skin as an eleven-year-old….and I liked how it made me feel. It wasn’t the first time in my young life that I acknowledged the power of voice-over (another different couple of mentions for another time), but it certainly remains one of the more memorable.
This video features the movie version of “Toxic Love;” there exists another longer recording of the song that I don’t like as much as this one:
It wasn’t until “Earth 2” that the massive crush on the periphery took hold for good. On the heels of my family moving to Edwardsville, IL, this TV series came out. Tim Curry only guest-starred in the first four episodes, as the villainous Gaal. And it was a big deal, given all the coverage of it that I remember. But I never saw it, because it conflicted with Sunday night football. I only saw TV ads and pictures of him in the TV Guide, him with the facial hair and long grey hair, and the shell jewelry, and the absolute power he exuded in that intense gaze. It sent my thirteen-year-old heart aflutter. And my whole family seemed to clue in: “You only want to watch it because of Tim Curry.”
Well, DUH! Wouldn’t you?!?
I have since seen several things starring Tim Curry, among them “Legend,” “The Three Musketeers,” “Muppet Treasure Island,” “Clue,” “Stephen King’s ‘IT,'” “Oscar,” “McHale’s Navy,” and “Pirates of the Plain.” One of the more charming things I saw was his short-lived TV series “Over The Top,” co-starring Annie Potts. “Over The Top” premiered at a time in my life when I needed laughs in a desperate way – my world was rocked by tragedy, and I needed something, anything to lift my spirits, and Tim Curry delivered. Someone saw fit to put the whole series out there for download, and I at one time did so and watched it all and loved it. I wish it was available on DVD.
And his voice-over work is so prolific! He is highly acclaimed as a voice-over actor. Go to his IMDB page, and you’ll see he’s done so much, from “The Wild Thornberries” to “AAH! Real Monsters” to “Duckman” to “Peter Pan and the Pirates” to “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” and so much more. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite voice-over performance of his, but “Ferngully,” “Daisy-Head Mayzie,” and “The Wild Thornberries” stand out in particular.
Granted he’s been in some stupid movies, namely “Charlie’s Angels” and “Scary Movie 2,” both of which I watched only for him, and both of which were major disappointments, though I expected that. And how about “The Worst Witch”? It’s real, it happened. If you’re so inclined, look up ‘anything can happen on halloween’ on Youtube, and relieve the splendor. I couldn’t make that up! But it certainly is memorable.
But then….and here I must digress for….*SIGH* *rolls eyes*….
Okay, I’ve been aware of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” since it first ever premiered on television at Halloween, back when I was about nine. I remember that clearly, because it premiered on the Fox network, and they were all gung-ho advertising for it during football games. Plus there were articles about it in TV Guide and the local paper, with a character list and detailed how-to-follow-along-with-props guide and whatnot, and I read all about it. For whatever reason, I did not make the Curry connection at that time. I just remember being scared of the man in makeup, and not wanting to go trick-or-treating that year for fear I would run into him. We were not allowed to watch any television that Halloween night, I guess on account of us accidentally stumbling upon the movie.
For years after that, we kids would bug Mom and Dad about it, and all they would say about it was that Tim Curry played a mad scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter. I didn’t see it when it played on VH1 on the Halloween it celebrated its 20th anniversary, because the band marched in the city’s Halloween parade, but I was strangely stiff with the knowledge of it during that time, like it was pursuing me. Certainly I was curious about it, but not to the ends of the earth, and I didn’t harbor any kind of preconceived notions about it, other than it was probably pretty weird.
Then when I was fourteen, my parents gifted me the soundtrack of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for Christmas. Apparently Dad was most worried about my reaction to the “Sweet Transvestite” song, sung by none other than Tim Curry. On the whole, as a fourteen-year-old, I was all at once confused and not greatly impressed by what I heard. I mean, it didn’t shock me or disgust me. But it was definitely strange. Trippy. But it was good music. So that satisfied my curiousity for a time, but again I felt stiff with the knowledge of it.
Around Christmas time the following year, when I was fifteen years old, I finally got to see the movie – my parents allowed me to tape it one night (heaven forbid it interfere with basketball!), and I watched it very very early the next morning.
I still don’t see what my parents were worried about. Nor still do I understand all the fuss and the hype. It wasn’t that great of a movie, at least to me. I mean, I understand the hilarity and the brilliance behind it, and his performance certainly is memorable (one article I read once stated that, if he were the same age and that film were made today, he’d be nominated for, if not outright winning, an Oscar for his performance). But it remains an enigma to me. And I’ve seen it enough to last me the rest of my life, thankyouverymuch, so I do not own it on DVD and I do not wish to own it on DVD.
Bottom line is, it is not how I would choose to remember him. Give me a choice of cult classic, and I would choose “Clue” over “Rocky Horror.”
Anyway. That digression over. (And again, if you are so inclined, go watch either the whole movie or clips from the movie on your own time.)
May this be one occasion where I say thank god for the Internet. The Internet is how I discovered the entirety of “Three Men In A Boat,” “Times Square,” “Blue Money,” and “The Shadow.” (Him and Sir Ian McKellen, in the same movie; oh, how I wish I could’ve seen them as Mozart and Salieri!) It’s how I discovered his “Tales from the Crypt” guest appearance as an entire hillbilly family (Whoa, BRRR!). I saw the episodes of “Psych,” “Monk,” and “Criminal Minds” in which he guest starred. And there are other shows and guest appearances which he made, again, too many to name, from “Will and Grace” to “Wiseguy” to “Family Affair.” And interview clips – lots of interview clips; my favorite, surprise surprise, being a 1997 interview with Sinbad of all people.
One other thing that has endeared him to me is the fact that he sings really well. He released three, well, four albums, all of which I have since found and have: “….from the vaults,” “Read My Lips,” “Fearless,” and “Simplicity.” And he sings in several different appearances in various movies and TV shows.
Here he is singing his own song “I Do the Rock” (yes, he wrote it himself):
And then check this little beauty out. It’s “The Pluck Song” from a movie called “Wolf Girl”:
And let’s not forget his Broadway career, which ranges from “Amadeus” to “Pirates of Penzance” to “My Favorite Year” to “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” In fact, when he was on Broadway all those years ago in “Spamalot,” I wish I had had the money to have gotten myself a plane ticket and a theater ticket and gone to New York and watched the show myself. People who did are sooooo lucky.
Here is Curry in “The Pirates of Penzance”:
And again in “Spamalot,” playing King Arthur:
Circumstances always seem to bring my feelings back around to him. I’ve had plenty of celebrity crushes, but this one has always been different. Melodramatic as this may seem, I feel a sort of kinship with Tim Curry. I couldn’t tell you why, but I just feel that way. The other day, I read an article about him receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Actors Fund. I knew he’d had a stroke some years back, and I’ve been praying for him ever since. Seeing him then almost made me cry. And, should that day come, know that I will cry.
This was a man who taught me many things. He taught me how to still believe in what a person was capable of (think of all the typecasting, and all the people who still only see him as Frank-N-Furter). He taught me how to stay strong, despite everything life could possibly throw at a person. He taught me life is meant to be celebrated, not feared. And he taught me how it’s okay to be, in his words, “chubby and plain.”
I haven’t forgotten. And I won’t.
To Mr. Curry – Even though there were a lot of words here, words cannot express how much you mean to me. Thank you so much for not giving up. Thank you for being you. Thank you for everything. You are such a wonderful actor and person, and I love you so. God bless you, Tim Curry.