"Tony Bennett and San Francisco are inseparable," writes Willie Brown. "A statue of a great American performing artist usually happens in the birthplace of the artist. Throughout the world, people associate San Francisco as being Tony Bennett's home for one reason and one reason only his signature song 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.' This eight-foot-tall statue on the greens of Fairmont San Francisco says to the world: Tony Bennett is home." Yes, New York-born Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens, was only ever a visitor to San Francisco, but thanks to the 1962 Grammy-winning hit song that became his signature, Bennett is always thought to be one of ours.
And so, to mark the great singer's 90th birthday, several lavish events are planned here in SF, starting at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill where Bennett first sang the song for an audience, in the Venetian Room, in December 1961 before an audience that included then mayor George Christopher and future mayor Joseph L. Alioto. A dedication of the new statue of Bennett will take place outside the hotel at noon on August 19, as Broadway World tells us, which will be followed by "Tony Bennett Night" at AT&T Park, as the SF Giants take on the New York Mets before which, I'm guessing, Bennett may be called upon to sing the national anthem? They may think twice about having him do "God Bless America" again, though.
Then, there's a benefit dinner and concert back at the Fairmont's Venetian Room on Saturday, August 20, at which Bennett will no doubt sing his famous song again something he returned to do in that very room frequently between the 1960's and 1980's, as Wikipedia tells us. For details and tickets for that event, call 415-554-5257.
It really is all about the song, though, since despite his singing "when I come home to San Francisco," he never did live here. The song was actually written by two songwriters a decade earlier for the musical theater and opera singer Claramae Turner, who actually did get her start in San Francisco before later appearing in the film version of Carousel. Turner, who performed the song live as an encore of the years, never actually recorded it.
Below, Bennett performing "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" on MTV's Unplugged in 1994.