By Lola Rossi

Tony Bennett is a musician who touches your heart with the beautiful music he sings. His career spans over 60 years, and is still going strong.

His daughter, Antonia is a talented vocalist, who opened the show last Friday and later, she joined her dad on stage for a song that included a few dance steps that delighted the audience. Bennett and the musicians in the band were outstanding. Every note he sang was delivered flawlessly.

Here is a personal story: Bennett and I had a mutual friend, Zena Shervin. She worked for PBS television and followed his career ever since they met in New York City. She would tell me stories about him during the days they were hanging out. She said, “I would always tell Tony how much I loved his art. One night, I said to Tony, you’re such a great artist, but you never draw me anything.”

So he took out his sketch pad and drew her a charcoal sketch of her cat. He signed it ‘79 – Benedetto. She treasured that gift from him, very much and always saw Tony when he was in Concert.

I had an opportunity to meet Tony Bennett when he performed at Spotlight 29 Casino. We called his office in New York for tickets and were also given Back Stage passes. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him after the show, however, his touring manager called and arranged for us to meet them at 8 a.m. the following day at the hotel.

The thought of meeting such an Icon was very exciting, but Zena said to us, “Don’t you dare embarrass me by taking pictures.” But I took my camera, anyway, just in case.

We met with the Legendary Tony Bennett, and I thought to myself, “He is more handsome in person than in any photo I have ever seen.” He gave Zena a big hug and we all sat down and had some tea and a little bite to eat. The two talked about old times and the many friends they shared. We talked about his incredible performance, his family, the wife he adores, tennis and his beautiful Art.

Unfortunately the conversation had to come to an end. We were saying our goodbyes, and as Tony reached over to give me a hug, I whispered in his ear, “Zena won’t let me take any pictures.” Tony whispered back, “I’ll take care of it.” So as he was saying goodbye to Zena, he looked at me and said, “Lola, is that a camera? Zena, would you mind if we took some pictures?”

Tony suggested we step outside with the beautiful scenery, and we took several photos. As he left, I know Zena was happy I took photos, especially when I put the picture of her hugging Tony in the 2004 May issue of the LA Jazz Scene.

My cousin Terri and I attended the concert and went backstage. When it was our turn to speak with him, I took out a copy of the cat he drew with two photos. He looked at it with a big smile and said, “I remember doing this. Zena was a dear friend.” He was very happy I brought him a copy, but because he was on tour, I was told to mail it to his office. But Bennett insisted, “Oh no, I’ll take that now.” That put a smile on my face, because I know that touched his heart.

Bennett and his wife Susan established the charitable organization, Exploring The Arts, to support Arts Education in Public Schools. They founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in his hometown of Astoria, Queens; currently support 14 NYC public high schools and just expanded to support 3 Los Angeles high schools. www.ExploringTheArts.com.

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