COLUMNS

Bennett’s Capitol birthday bash

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • April 06, 2006

by Karen Feld

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“When Tony does a song, he comes in and lifts his leg on the territory,” Johnny Mandel, the composer and arranger, said before singing a Tony Bennett favorite that he wrote, “The Shadow of Your Smile.”TREASURE THE MUSIC … AND TONY

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the world’s largest performing rights organization, saluted Bennett in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room on Tuesday evening in honor of his upcoming (in August) 80th birthday. Members of Congress lined up for autographs and photos with the crooner. The evening was a gentle reminder for the legislators, as ASCAP’s president, lyricist Marilyn Bergman, put it: “Music is to be protected and to be treasured.” Bennett surprised the 300 guests and performers — including Ben E. King, Hal David, Jimmy Webb, Brian Stokes Mitchell, John Pizzarelli Jr., Dianne Reeves, Keely Smith and Sandy Stewart; Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; and Reps. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. — when he sang, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” with Michael Feinstein accompanying him on the piano.

“What a night. All sang sensibly and musically,” Bennett told me. This was a surprise of sorts for him, since there’s a big party planned at the New York Public Library on his actual birthday. Feinstein popped an “Airborne” as soon as he walked into the crowded dinner and immediately told the guest of honor, “you’re my inspiration.”

Lyricist Paul Williams, diminutive in size but not in talent, stood next to the 5-foot, 10-inch Ann Hampton Callaway, pointed to himself and said: “This IS the value of the dollar this year.” And looking at Callaway, he said “This WAS the value of the dollar,” to which the singer/songwriter retorted: “Paul, you’re certainly worth the stoop.”

PATTI’S ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ FROM TONY

Singer Patti Austin called producer Quincy Jones her “godfather.” She recalled that when she was growing up, “it was celebrity central in his foyer — Jack Jones, Marlon Brando.” When she turned 16, Bennett came to the house and sang “Happy Birthday.” “It was enough for all the rest of my birthdays,” Austin said.

The evening brought back memories for others, too. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said that in an earlier life, when he was a DJ, he played all these guys’ records on late-night shows, and pointing to Jack Jones, said, “He was my hero.”

Politics were put aside for much of the evening, but as she was leaving, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “It’s time everyone can see that they had a criminal operation going on here for a long time,” when the House Democrat leader was asked about Tom DeLay’s resignation. “It’s a culture of corruption.” Some insiders suspect a deal was made for DeLay not to run for reelection. But Pelosi said, “I haven’t thought about that.”

TAKING GETTYSBURG TO NEW LEVELS?

Bob Monahan, the local developer and GOP supporter, is giving back in a big way — albeit a controversial one — to his hometown, Gettysburg, Pa. He wants to create jobs for residents and show the world that the area is more than a battlefield, though certainly an important one.

To attract visitors to the area dear to him, with the backing of the Auger (Blackie’s House of Beef) family, he’s developing Gateway Gettysburg, which includes hotels, movie theaters and restaurants. Last night, he announced the project at an A-list reception at the National Archives Building where he screened his new film, “Fields of Freedom,” narrated by President Bush 41 with music performed by the London Symphony. Monahan’s wife, Laurie, has talked to the first lady about scheduling a White House screening. They’re trying to find a date when the former President Bush will be in town. Monahan, who recalls playing on the battlefield as a youngster, said, “I didn’t have a sense of what happened.” His dream is to make Gateway Gettysburg “a destination within a destination.”

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