Ex-Mayor Willie Brown jokes to crowd before unveiling of Tony Bennett statue on Nob Hill: "It better not be Trump!" pic.twitter.com/uNnvgb4FmW— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) August 19, 2016
A statue honoring singer Tony Bennett, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, was unveiled Friday at a noon ceremony on the lawn of the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill the very place where Bennett, legendarily, first sang the song that would become his signature, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."
The statue remained hidden behind a blue curtain as the event began, and former mayor Willie Brown exclaimed, "It better not be Trump!" to many laughs. Also in attendance were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Mayor Ed Lee.
According to the Associated Press, Bennett arrived to a standing ovation and a crowd of hundreds, "looking sharp in a blue suit," and one fan noted on Twitter that he strode "up to the podium like a teenager." After the unveiling, Bennett said, "Thank you for being so wonderful to me. I'll never forget this day."
The eight-foot-tall bronze statue, for which Bennett sat for Piedmont-based sculptor Bruce Wolfe over three days, depicts Bennett with his arms outstretched to his sides, with a "Mona Lisa smile." As Wolfe tells ABC 7 of the pose, "That's the way he starts and ends every song, you know. He's got his mic in his hand. He's got his chest out. The sun is hitting him. That's kind of nice."
The ceremony is part of a weekend of events celebrating Bennett, which also will include Tony Bennett Night at AT&T Park tonight as the Giants take on the New York Mets and maybe they'll let Tony try singing "God Bless America" again so he gets a chance to prove he knows the words?
As discussed earlier, Bennett first performed "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" for the public at the Fairmont's Venetian Room in December 1961, and reportedly Mayor George Christopher and future mayor Joseph Alioto were both in the audience. And despite his singing "when I come home to San Francisco," Bennet never lived here the song was actually written for the musical theater and opera singer Claramae Turner, who actually did get her start in San Francisco and who was known to perform the song live as an encore, but she never actually recorded it.
While the song is unquestionably now Bennett's and his alone, it has a touching history via its two songwriters, writing partners who were also partners in life, George Cory and Douglass Cross. SF Weekly shared their story recently, and they, indeed, left their hearts here in SF after moving to New York to be closer to the music industry. Both returned here, though, thanks to the residuals from their one big hit, with Cross once saying that New York "was a hard, ruthless city." Cross would end up dying in a Petaluma convalescent home in 1975, at the age of 54, and Cory followed him, possibly by suicide, in a Nob Hill apartment in 1978 not far from the Fairmont.
Tomorrow evening, Bennett returns to the Venetian Room for a benefit dinner, with proceeds going to support The Tony Bennett Fund for Emergency Pediatric Care at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Special Events Committee.
Wow. Tony Bennett is 90 & striding up to the podium like a teenager.— Fruitvale Local (@fruitvalelocal) August 19, 2016
The Tony Bennett statue at the Fairmont Hotel is unveiled. pic.twitter.com/rDfpKnBzNc— Elizabeth Weise (@eweise) August 19, 2016