Tony Bennett left a little of his heart in Hollywood after an emotional 80th birthday bash thrown by movie and music stars spanning three generations — from Paul Newman to Kelly Clarkson.
Other luminaries at the Thursday-night party at the Kodak Theatre included Quincy Jones, Bruce Willis, Stevie Wonder, George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Billy Crystal and Marc Anthony. The bash came a little late; Bennett’s birthday was August 3.
The big names walked an appropriately elegant black carpet before entering the packed Hollywood Boulevard auditorium, home of the annual Academy Awards ceremony.
“Unforgettable, I’ll never forget this night as long as I live,” Bennett told AP Television.
Bennett’s nearly six decades of performing are filled with hits and standards, such as “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Rags to Riches.” And the crooner is still going strong — his current release, “Duets,” recently reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.
Bennett said there is no secret to his sustained success.
“I just kept performing and I’ve been sold out for 45 years around the world. I get commissioned to sing everywhere around the world,” he explained. “I think the public has been so wonderful to me right through the years that it just kind of makes me feel so gratified and I just want to give them all that love back.”
Clooney walked the arrivals line with longtime friend Bruce Willis — both big-time Bennett friends and fans.
“Everything else keeps changing and moving around,” observed Clooney, “and (Bennett) continues to do the same stuff, which is the classic jazz, classic music that we all grew up loving.”
“He’s like the last beatnik,” Willis added. “He’s the coolest person that I know, he’s just swinging and he’s always so calm and easy about things.”
Thursday night’s celebration was a fund raiser for Newman’s Hole in the Wall camps for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
“It’s a good cause and a good reason to come out and hang and get dressed up,” Willis said. “Look, we are normally covered in blood ... .”
Newman introduced the event, thanking supporters of his charity, dubbing them “the real coalition of the willing.”
Crystal served as show host, paying hilarious homage to the honoree with a rendition of the Bennett standard “Put on a Happy Face,” as performed by Bob Dylan, Sammy Davis Jr., Yul Brynner and others.
Anthony, Clarkson and others sang Bennett songs, and Jones conducted the orchestra with Bennett performing “Sing You Sinners.” Of course Bennett gave the audience what it really came for, closing his solo set with his “San Francisco” signature.