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Thomas F. (Tommy) Curtis

Died: May 5, 2020

Tommy Curtis was born in New York City January 12, 1945. He attended the Colgate School in New York and completed high school at Choate. At Yale he was a member of Silliman College where he was on the student council social committee and did intramural crew. He was lightweight champ in freshman boxing, belonged to Phi Gamma Alpha and majored in political science. After graduation he moved to Washington, DC to attend American University Law School.

Tommy Curtis was born in New York City January 12, 1945. He attended the Colgate School in New York and completed high school at Choate. At Yale he was a member of Silliman College where he was on the student council social committee and did intramural crew. He was lightweight champ in freshman boxing, belonged to Phi Gamma Alpha and majored in political science. After graduation he moved to Washington, DC to attend American University Law School.A brief part time job at Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Washington inspired him to start “Wayne’s Luv” in downtown Washington, a night spot he ran with Frank Polar who would become his longtime business manager. According to the Washington Post he invested in several other night clubs while becoming a popular personality on local FM talk radio. He tested his popularity by running for a position on the Washington School Board, losing by only two votes. He became a celebrity on the Washington ABC TV affiliate, winning two Emmys. During the 1980s he joined his brother Bruce in the family business of making movies. (His granduncle, Harry Cohn, founded what became Columbia Pictures.) Products of their collaboration tended toward horror and included such titles as The Seduction, Dreamscape, Hell Night and Fear City.

Tommy returned to Washington and recognized an unmet need for a club catering to (in his own words) “the upscale over-35 suburban set.” This led in 1989 to his signature creation, The Yacht Club, which was located in downtown Bethesda, miles from navigable water. He was the master of ceremonies, greeting everyone at the door and never failing to complement his female guests. A night at The Yacht Club was considered “a cruise.” Tommy would host as many as 2,000 guests in the course of a week at his club. According to Bart Barns of the Washington Post Tommy “thought of himself as a coach, giving a pregame pep talk, orchestrating the plays. A marriage of two Yacht Clubbers was the equivalent of a touchdown.” He claimed as many as 200 Yacht Club marriages and several Yacht Club babies. He declined to count divorces, stating it was “bad publicity.”

Renovations to the Holiday Inn that housed The Yacht Club forced it to close in 2006. During that year an auto accident seriously injured his right leg. Following a painful recovery he threw a huge party to celebrate. This event was documented in the Vimeo video Match Me If You Can: A Profile of Tommy the Matchmaker. As a flamboyant impresario he claimed to have at least popularized, if not invented, the phrase “meet and greet.” He encouraged socialization by selling “TTM” lapel pins, a symbol of availability meaning “talk to me.” The letters also stood for his own favorite nickname, Tommy the Matchmaker.

In spite of his skill of bringing others together he never married. His brother, Bruce Curtis, told the Washington Post that Tommy over the years had several female housemates, partners and significant others. He died from heart disease at his home on May 5, 2020.

Edward Folland