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NY Post
New York Post
22 Jul 2023

NextImg:Tony Bennett remembered by NYC celebrities, restaurant owners

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but he left a legacy of love in his native New York City.

The late Italian-American crooner really stood up for fellow New Yorker Tony Danza.

“He gave me my first stand up job,” Danza told The Post on Friday, following Bennett’s death just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

“The first time I ever got up to do stand up and a little tap dancing, was opening for him in Hawaii. I was so bad, and he was so nice to me.”

Bennett used to sing at the Copacabana on East 60th Street, where mobster Frank Costello was a partner.

“Godfather” actor Gianni Russo, who was Costello’s “personal errand boy,” recalled the first time he met Bennett at the famed nightclub in 1959.

“I was 16. I was there for all the band rehearsals. He was so nice to me,” said Russo, who lives on the Upper East Side.

Bennett died just two weeks shy of his 97th birthday.
Getty Images for Exploring the A

They reconnected when Russo’s and Bennett’s bands played at the Rainbow Room for General Electric’s holiday party — and their paychecks that evening were very different.

“They paid me $25,000 and I found out later they got $250,000,” he said. “I’m saying to myself, ‘I got the tax on it.'”

Bennett, who grew up in Astoria, Queens, lived at 100 Central Park South, and was a regular at the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th.

tony bennett, french toast

The crooner was such a regular at the Brooklyn Diner, that its French toast is named after him.
Fireman Hospitality Group

“He was the sweetest, nicest guy you’d ever want to socially spend a couple of hours with. There couldn’t be a nicer New York kind of a guy,” said the restaurant’s owner Shelly Fireman.

“It’s sad for America; it’s sad for New York and we’re going to miss him a lot.”

He was so respected at the eatery that they named a booth after him and a menu item of his choosing — Tony Bennett’s Famous Thick-Cut Cinnamon, Raisin & Pecan French Toast.

“I don’t want to take his name off the French toast,” Fireman said. “I want to honor him forever.”

Gerard Renny, who owned Lucky’s Bar and Grill on 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, where Bennett — who was also a gifted painter — was a frequent diner, recalled one of his kind gestures.

tony bennett

Gerard Renny bought Bennett’s painting of a Vegas cityscape.
Courtesy of Gerard Renny

When Renny’s wife was pregnant, he bought her one of Bennett’s paintings of a Las Vegas cityscape, since they got married there.

“When he found out I bought that, one day I show up and my manager hands me an envelope and it’s an autographed photo thanking me and wishing me all the best for the baby,” he said.

Renny, who now owns Ethyl’s Alcohol & Food on the Upper East Side, said Bennett would always visit the now shuttered Lucky’s in the morning for oatmeal.

The Tony Bennett booth at the Brooklyn Diner.

The Tony Bennett booth at the Brooklyn Diner, named after him since he was a regular.
Fireman Hospitality Group

Tony Bennett

Bennett gifted Renny this autographed photo.
Courtesy of Gerard Renny

“He thought oatmeal was good for his cholesterol. So he would come in a couple times a week,” he said. “I guess there was something to the oatmeal thing because he lived ’til 96.”

Former TV anchor Bill Boggs lived a block away from Bennett, and interviewed him four times in his career. His mother was a big fan of the singer, so he took her to his concert, where they met him backstage.

“Tony and my mother had a fulsome conversation,” Boggs recalled.

“And I would say, without question, every time I saw Tony Bennett for the next probably 15 years, before he started to lose his memory, probably 10 or 12 times, the first question he would ask me was, ‘How’s your mother?'”