The Tony Curtis Hollywood freeway mural has delighted jaded locals and enthusiastic tourists alike for over a decade. This week as we bid farewell to the Hollywood Legend, Class Act and 1950's Heartthrob, we can still look to his face smiling over us as we battle gridlock. The painting by artist George Sportelli covers the Sunset overpass of the southbound Hollywood Freeway and is perhaps best viewed from down in the gridlock grind.
Now, the constant battle against taggers has the artist looking for a new location for this famous piece of Los Angeles street art.
The mural has a digitized headshot that changes focus depending on distance plus an image of a long, lanky Curtis leaning against the wall next to himself. He's wearing the standard Hollywood Heartthrob uniform; tight jeans and a t-shirt.
In a way, this mural has a story similar to the great Curtis himself. It reflects the daily battle in this town for recognition, endurance, survival and remakes (no, I'm not talking about plastic surgery).
This is actually the second version of Tony Curtis. It was first created in 1995, but graffiti is such a problem it has already been completely repainted once. This newer version added a round Hollywood, CA date stamp with a filmstrip frame in the upper left corner and a yellow outline around the standing Tony. The mural is primarily maintained by the artist himself at his own expense.
This second photo of the mural shows how simple maintenance can be a dangerous affair. The ivy spilling over the top of the overpass is turning Tony's perfect ducktail into a shag hairdo and completely obscuring a ladder to the stars on the far right.
I cannot imagine having to hike down that steep hill to work on the wall and I shudder to think what is hiding under the ivy. The short little fence is missing part of the rail. Then there's the drop-off directly onto the freeway. Even the Caltrans sign identifying the Sunset overpass is covered in gang tags.
In the upper right corner of the photo, across from the palm tree is part of the retro KTLA sign, each letter is on a block going up the side of a radio tower.
Tony Curtis Freeway Mural Moving?
To the dismay of drivers, Tony may be moving off the freeway completely. On September 30, George Sportelli posted this on his deviantART page:
After over 15 years of maintaining it all by myself and at my own expense as well... I just can't do it anymore.. but I've invested too much time and money in it to just let it go...I promise when I do find a new location somewhere on Hollywood Blvd...it will be just as visible and never damaged or tagged ever again and people will get to enjoy it up close. If you drive by my other murals regularly you'll still see this one because it will be in the same neck of the woods as the others.... I'm just waiting for the perfect wall to show itself to me preferably somewhere by his star on Hollywood and Highland.
Perhaps it is time to let Tony retire from his rough and tumble freeway location to a more comfortable existence on the Hollywood streets. The artwork would be easier to maintain and fans could linger to appreciate the artwork without causing a 10 car pileup on the freeway. But the question remains; when Tony is moved, will they paint over the overpass version -- or make us watch his slow demise as he is obscured by graffiti?
You can see the 1995 version of Mr. Sportelli's Tony Curtis mural (and let him know if you can help him) on his deviantART site.
No matter where Tony Curtis resides in Hollywood, he will always remain in our hearts and dreams.