Breakfast with a not-so-famous Tony Bennett

Click on Chewbacca Mom photo to see Youtube video.

It’s easier than it’s ever been to become famous. When a cellphone video goes viral, an individual can gain instant popularity. Last May, 37-year-old Candace Payne became an overnight sensation when she filmed herself laughing hysterically, while wearing a Chewbacca mask. The video became so popular, that Payne ended up being featured on Good Morning America and The Late Late Show with James Corden, among countless other appearances. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even invited the Texas mom to visit the social media website’s headquarters.

In my formative years before the advent of the Internet, overnight success was almost non-existent. Still, back then a lot of little boys grew up wanting to become a well-known president, and girls dreamed of being a famous movie star or the wife of someone important. When feminism hit in the seventies, a lot of young women also decided they wanted to be president. I’ll bet not too many young people today would desire the notoriety of the oval office, but that’s a whole other column.

Celebrity has never been a huge draw for me. Of course, it would be great to win a Pulitzer Prize like poet Sylvia Plath, or a Nobel Peace Prize like civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet like many renowned people, fame exacted a tremendous cost. The brilliant Plath took her own life, and the inspirational Dr. King was senselessly slain for his convictions.

Anyway, dependent on the size of your pond, there will always be a more famous fish. More importantly, if you climb to the top of the ladder, there’s a good chance you will have to experience the long climb down more than once.tony-bennett-2

For example, famed singer Tony Bennett was definitely not at the top of his game, when I served him breakfast in the late 1970s. I first saw the musical legend early in the morning, as he sat waiting for a server at the former Cascade Holiday Inn in Akron, Ohio. He was alone, reading his newspaper for what seemed like an eternity, while the small group of waitresses where I worked, argued about who should wait on him.

My co-workers seemed awed by his celebrity, so nobody wanted to take his table. I assumed the poor man was hungry, and even though he wasn’t in my section, I volunteered. Mr. Bennett needed breakfast, and I was a struggling college student in need of a good tip. Honestly, I had almost no idea who he was. By then, his career was in a downward spiral, and he was on the fast track to becoming a has-been. Two of his mid-seventies albums had failed to gain popular success, and he had parted ways with his record label. I had heard of his 1962 hit, “I left my heart in San Francisco,” but was too young to be impressed.

tony-bennett-billSadly, I took the singer’s order for Eggs Benedict and served him without even acknowledging that I knew who he was. The talented performer was very polite, and I should have at least complimented him on his incredible voice. Thankfully, Bennett didn’t need my affirmation, because the test of time has proven his enduring talent. By 1986, with a new album and his son as manager, the Italian crooner was back on the map, and more Grammys would eventually follow. The vivacious senior turned 90 last August. Decades since that fated breakfast, he remains an icon among celebrities. For instance, his 2014 CD with Lady Gaga titled, “Cheek to Cheek” won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

For me, meeting this amazing performer was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve always regretted my omission of not recognizing the importance of his musical contribution. Especially, when he was at the bottom of his game. So, Tony Bennett, if you somehow get a chance to read this, I would like to publicly apologize for being an ignorant kid, who didn’t realize how much joy your music would give to our world. I think you are the greatest. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me, and would you please autograph a “Holiday Inn” breakfast napkin and send it my way?

christina-driving-copyChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com, especially if you happen to know Tony Bennett, and you can pass along my sincere apology to him. 

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

Keep Calm and Carry OnFor some reason, many Americans admire all things British. For instance, we are often impressed by the accent of those hailing from across the ocean. When an individual from Great Britain says something, they sound a great deal more intelligent than those of us born in farmland USA. Even though we fought for freedom from our Mother country over two hundred years ago, we are still tied to her apron strings by our fascination with England’s royalty, culture, and celebrities. Can I get an “Amen” from a few Beatles or Downton Abbey fans?

That’s why it’s no surprise that an historic five word phrase originated by the Brits has caused an ongoing marketing stir stateside. “Keep Calm and Carry On,” can be found on coffee cups, T-shirts, infant attire, phone cases, decals, tote bags, aprons, wall plaques, and you name it. In 1939, it all began with a few World War II posters designed by the Ministry of Information, the public relations branch of the British government created to encourage the country’s citizens during the war. According to the www.keepcalmandcarryon.com website, “With a bold coloured background, the posters were required to be similar in style and feature the symbolic crown of King George VI along with a simple yet effective font. The first two posters, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ were produced by His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO).”Keep Calm and Carry On 2

Both of these positive propaganda posters were displayed all over England on buses, store windows, and in public places. While the third poster with the words, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was not to be issued until Britain experienced a crisis or invasion. Multiple sources estimate that approximately 2.5 million copies were printed, but never released. It is speculated that following World War II most of the posters were destroyed. Fast forward over 50 years when a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster with a red background was discovered in Barter Books, a used bookstore in northeast England. In 2000, the bookseller’s owner found the copy among some old books he purchased from an auction. The poster was then framed and hung in the book shop. Copies were eventually made and sold, as customers embraced the motivational message.

The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On produced in a short video by Barter Books channel on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHkKXFRbCI reports that, “Since that time, the poster has been reproduced, parodied, trivialized, and has become a truly iconic image of the 21st century.” A parody in www.dictionary.com is by definition “a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.” Parodies of the famous slogan include: “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake,” “Keep Calm and Buy Shoes,” “Keep Calm and Read a Romance,” “Keep Calm and Tweet On,” “Now Panic and Freak Out,” and “Keep Calm…Oh Who Are We Kidding,” along with countless more. Like the last two parodies portray, it’s not easy to remain tranquil in a world filled with ongoing chaos. Still, the British are known for their stiff upper lip of  exercising great restraint in the midst of calamity. The poster’s popularity is also benefiting Americans seeking the virtue of self-control, because its timeless wisdom appears universal.

But how do we “Keep Calm?” Citing the stressful situations life produces, New York Times Best-selling author Joyce Meyer offers some advice in her article, “How to Calm Down and Cheer Up,” on her website, www.joycemeyer.org. “We need to have a change of attitude,” writes Meyer. “The right attitude and approach can completely turn a situation around. Instead of stressing out and tensing up, calm down, take a deep breathe and try to get some perspective on the situation.”Joyce Meyer

The evangelistic lady speaker admits, “You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control how you respond to it.” Meyer sounds like an NFL coach in the locker room before a challenging game when she advises, “Take an offensive approach and decide beforehand what your attitude will be.” To “Keep Calm and Carry On” appears to be a faith-filled choice that one can make in the midst of daunting circumstances. However, not only carrying on, but becoming hopeful about the future as well.

Personally, the verses from Matthew 6:25-27 NLT resonate with me, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” I freely admit that I am a “One Day at a Time” person due to an ongoing struggle with anxiety. That’s why remembering that God’s always got my back, makes me rest a lot easier. How about you? What do you do to deal with the pressures of life? The bottom line is that with God at our side, we don’t ever have to worry about anything again.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker.
Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV program.