It’s easier than it’s ever been to become famous. In my formative years before the advent of the Internet
overnight success was 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 blog post.
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.
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 with more than a few real problems in need of a good tip.
Honestly, I had almost no idea who he was. By then, his career was in a downward spiral. Two of his mid-70s 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.
Sadly, 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.
There were also celebrity duets for the famous tenor, probably the most notable was when he teamed up with Lady Gaga. His 2014 CD with her titled, “Cheek to Cheek” won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. A couple years later, came his dreadful diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Still, Lady G is reported to have remained friends with her unlikely duet partner to the very end.
Bennett was an artist extraordinaire in more ways than one, because he was also known for his paintings. With his wife, Susan Benedetto, the singer founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts where Susan once served as both a teacher and an assistant principal. The world lost this 96-year-old gentle giant of a man on July 21st, which is why I wanted to pay tribute to him one last time with this post.
After all, it’s been over four decades since that fated breakfast, and meeting the amazing performer was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve always regretted my omission of not expressing my gratitude to him for the importance of his musical contribution. Especially, when he was at the bottom of his game. The truth is, I was a troubled kid back then at the bottom of my game, too.
So, Tony Bennett, I would like to publicly apologize to you for not realizing that you and I were both only in a temporary slump. Your music would end up bringing more joy to our world than you could have imagined. I read online that your last words were the very ones I wish I would have had a chance to say, “Thank you.” It’s reported you said them to your son, Danny, but I want to take this final opportunity to say them to you, “Thank you, Tony Bennett. Rest in peace. You made the world a more beautiful place by being here!”
http://www.christinaryanclaypool.comChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and speaker. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Her inspirational novel, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife” is available on Amazon and all major online outlets. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.