For this Italian American, Tony Bennett is family. Sinatra, in all his glory, was one of us too, but he had the only house on the golf course on Mount Olympus. Tony Bennett may have crashed there for a weekend, but the rest of the time, when he wasn’t touring, he lived next door, walked the same sidewalks, and made the same gravy that we did. If he wasn’t spending time with his own family, or painting, he traveled the world taking his brand of home and elegant jazz styling everywhere he went.
A few years ago, my husband and I attended a charity event honoring our good friend Len Riggio. His beautiful wife Louise had invited us to sit with them at their table. When we arrived, we took our seats. Across the table sat Tony and his wife, Susan. Usually, in those situations, I stop breathing, clam up and feel like I might pass out, but not that night. Mary Ellen Keating of B&N told me not to be shy. I was happy to meet Mr. and Mrs. Tony Bennett. When Mr. Bennett and I were introduced, I told him what his music meant to me.
I carried that little exchange around in my heart ever since. Yesterday while having lunch with old friends, one mentioned she was going to the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga concert that night. I was sad, because I hadn’t heard about the concert, and didn’t have a ticket. In a matter of minutes, she arranged a ticket (thank you Juiene and Kim!) and I was set to see the final concert, a 95th birthday celebration in honor of the man and his music.
Radio City Music Hall is one of my favorite theaters in New York City for many reasons- among them, the Rockettes, the annual Christmas Show and memorable live performances, including the greats Bette Midler, Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. When I was a kid, we saw a movie (Mame with Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur) followed by the Easter pageant. Years later, I attended both premieres of the Sex and the City movies (with my bestie Michael Patrick King (director/writer/producer of both… and his family). Before the second movie got underway, to my eternal delight, Liza Minelli herself floated by and down the aisle in palazzo pants and took a seat. She is one of the only Italian girls on the planet that can pull off palazzos. So, you get the picture- I love Radio City Music Hall. It is always full of surprises and moments of pure joy- and last night was no exception.
So much of our musical entertainment is recorded, mixed and fixed these days- but nothing compares to the Radio City stage filled with actual, living, breathing musicians who play for a living. An orchestra! Set like a tiara on the stage… the sound, as smooth as gin cascading in a waterfall down a magical mountain. The lighting was superb, it illuminated the simple stage design to its dazzling best- simple, free form mesh clouds dripping in crystals floated over the orchestra on a sea of blue, on the stage right and stage left wings, massive necklaces of light hung from the rafters. Sometimes they conjured jewelry, and other times, suspension bridges made of diamonds. There were café tables set up onstage, filled with fans and friends. For those of us in the red velvet seats from the orchestra to the top tiers, we were part of the nightclub scene too- never had that hall felt intimate- but last night it did. There was camaraderie in our row QQ- and when I looked around, the same was happening all through the theater. Human beings can come together, we can get along, and we can revel in the same glorious experience and share it with one another.