My friend, my dear friend, Tony is gone.
I was running around doing things and I got a text from my friend Karen that told me what you now know is true. I was flabbergasted and began to cry. We all knew it was coming but that doesn't make that news any easier.
These last couple of years have been hard but let's go back in time.
I first met Tony, I first interviewed him, at The Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center. It was for CBS This Morning. Remember I was a former rock and roll DJ but I sure knew who he was. He was kind, he was decent, he was smart, and I don't have to tell you he was talented. Later on, I found out how talented Tony really was.
Keep in mind although he was Tony Bennett he wasn't yet THE Tony Bennett that was his second act. We have his son Danny to thank for that as he managed his Dad and took him to Mount Everest, the Grammy for album of the year, and more without changing what made Tony famous in the first place.
And those songs.
He had Tony touring colleges and a new audience found out what the old audience knew. He was special.
But let's go back to my early days with Tony and what an influence he was on my life. I had him on my show a number of times and one time he said I reminded him of Ed Sullivan. He said that on national tv and I don't have to tell you that went a long way.
That was Tony.
Okay, Live By Request on A&E.
I hosted that show and Tony got that for me. You've heard the story but if you haven't it went like this. He did that show on the radio. People would call in, tell him what a certain song meant to them and Tony would sing it. They decided to bring it to television and the show was scheduled for Valentine's Day. They wanted a female host to go along with Tony and he said no. He wanted Mark McEwen. They said, "Who?" He said, "Mark McEwen."
Three times he said my name and three times they demurred until he put his foot down and they got me as the host.
That show won an Emmy and it ran for seven years. Tony got me that job.
Over the years our friendship grew. Remember I mentioned his talents? Plural? One time I was interviewing him at his old dwelling and saw him painting, doodling actually, a plant and I said, "You paint?" He said, "Yes." And then Tony said, "I should paint you." I hemmed and hawed and by the time I was in the hall I thought, "What did I just do?"
A year went by before I saw him again and I said,"Remember when you said you'd paint me?" Tony smiled broadly and said, "Sure." Well, another year went by and on Live By Request he presented me with his painting.
It hangs in a place of honor in my home.