Note on Tony
Tony is my brief tribute to Mr. Tony Bennett. I’m not at all familiar with Mr. Bennett in a personal way but I am rather a music lover who later in life has developed a great appreciation for his music. Tony’s music soothes and rocks and connects to all of us with a message of love and romance. As reflected in the story, by my experience Tony is a very genuine and personable individual who’s made many great contributions to American music.
by Robert R Ducker
It is life’s little unexpected twists, turns and encounters that add new spice to our days. Days that begin with the expectation of predictability may, in fact, hold events that will affect, in small or great ways, all the days that follow. Such an experience began for me as I boarded a plane at Pittsburgh International one sunny Sunday morning in June. It was Father’s Day. I was bound for La Guardia and Manhattan, already enough `spice’ to make this day potentially more interesting than my average.
As I entered the plane on my way back to coach I immediately noticed the older gentleman who was seated to my right in the last aisle seat in first class. It was Tony Bennett, dressed super sharp, lightly tanned and smiling broadly to the people around him. This music icon whose name I had known since my childhood was seated just inches from me.
The encounter was too sudden and too brief for me to think to speak to him. I continued to my seat, turned to my traveling companion and questioned, “Do you know who that guy was up in first class?” “Tony Bennett!” I continued, giving no time for a response.
It was then that I noticed a general buzz among the passengers. Yes, it really was Tony Bennett. An off-duty flight attendant, who, I noticed, was wearing a heavenly perfume, said something to me about what Mr. Bennett could do with her if he wished. Within a few more minutes the general excitement over having Mr. Bennett on the plane had settled noticeably. The flight continued to New York without further incident. The hushed tones of the passengers’ conversations gave no clue to the excitement that had just passed. Still, I believe that most on board held the feeling that it was a special flight.
While waiting at the luggage conveyor with my driver, who was at least fifteen years my junior, I noticed Tony again. He was standing alone across from me at the other side of the conveyor waiting for his luggage. I informed the driver that the gentleman standing there alone was Tony Bennett. I wondered, since the driver was younger and a native New Yorker, would he know who Tony Bennett is or even care?
My answer was made instantly clear when the driver excused himself and walked quickly over to Tony and began talking to him. After a few minutes the driver returned and informed me that “Mr. Bennett” was returning from a “gig” in Pittsburgh and that he lived in New York. He then showed me the note and autograph that Tony had written for him to present to his father as a Father’s Day gift. The driver was glowing with delight and spoke rapidly and loudly about how polite Mr. Bennett had been and how attentive he had been to the request for an autograph.
So I’m thinking, at the time and since, here is this guy who in one moment has hundreds of people on an airplane buzzing excitedly just because he is there and within the hour is standing alone waiting for his luggage with barely anyone taking notice. I imagine that it has been this way for him for a very long time. He just goes on being himself. And that’s good enough for him.
Thank goodness I have lived long enough to see another side to the stereotypical attitudes of the sixties generation: peace, love, freedom, rock and roll and gag me with music from my parents’ generation. I believe that I am, thankfully, in the process of maturing beyond that holier-than-thou attitude that so ironically allowed us to speak of total freedom of expression and cultural diversity while being closed-minded and judgmental toward such time-tested, simple pleasures as the music of Mr. Tony Bennett.
“Red Hot and Cool” is how he was described in the November issue of Modern Maturity Magazine cover story. As a result of my brief encounter I could add physically vital and vibrant as well as genuinely personable. You may want to check out this story in Modern Maturity, there are some great photos, including one of Tony painting in his art studio/apartment overlooking Central Park that he was returning to on that Sunday morning last June. This story also presents a brief outline of Tony’s career that may serve as a solid introduction for those closed-minded types, such as myself, that didn’t see him standing there all along.