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'He's San Francisco': Tony Bennett honoured for 90th birthday

Published 20/08/2016

Smoke clears as the statue of Tony Bennett is unveiled (AP)
Smoke clears as the statue of Tony Bennett is unveiled (AP)

If ever there was a man worthy of a grand birthday bash in San Francisco, it had to be Tony Bennett.

After the speeches, the music and the praise for the legendary crooner, hundreds of people on Friday watched as an 8ft-tall bronze statue of Bennett was unveiled outside the Fairmont Hotel, where he first sang I Left My Heart in San Francisco in 1961.

"I can't get over what just happened," said Bennett, who turned 90 earlier this month. "That's the most beautiful statue I have ever seen. It will live in my heart forever. Thank you for being so wonderful to me. I'll never forget this day."

Bennett looked sharp in a blue suit but said only a few words and did not sing. That was fine with the crowd, they were just happy to see him.

"He's San Francisco," said Marty Jewett, standing in the front row with her friend, also a huge Bennett fan. "I think he keeps all the generations within his repertoire. I love his voice and his longevity."

Jewett and friend Margaret Baker arrived early Friday to get a front row position in the crowd.

"I think Tony Bennett represents the best in Italian-American entertainment going back for generations," Baker said.

For as long as anyone can remember, the New Yorker has been giving to San Francisco. Now, the city has paid him back, with mayor Ed Lee declaring August 19 Tony Bennett Day.

"Tony Bennett, you've helped us share the magic of San Francisco around the world," Lee said.

The theme of the day was how Bennett has always been there for the city by the Bay.

"When the cable cars broke down and were closed down for two years and we brought them back, he came," said Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, the chief of protocol for San Francisco and the state of California.

"When we had the earthquake and we put the Bay Bridge back together, he came. He's always here for us so we thought, 'What can we do for him?' And we thought of the statue."

In addition to the fanfare Friday and a gala dinner Saturday, Bennett is getting his own ice cream flavour. Created by the city's Humphry Slocombe ice cream shop, the flavour Duet will feature vanilla ice cream swirled with limoncello sorbet and fennel biscotti to honour Bennett's Italian heritage.


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