Alec Baldwin Skipped The Emmys To Host Tony Bennett’s 85th Birthday
We felt like vagabonds in the presence of kings (yes, that is an Elton John joke) on Sunday night, when we were invite to celebrate legendary singer Tony Bennett‘s birthday and new album with an evening at Lincoln Center. So Styleite joined Alec Baldwin, Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton and their ilk for an evening of singing, toasting and Mama Benedetto’s lasagna.
The concert and gala dinner, which we were in on thanks to the good people at Tiffany & Co. (Bennett and his wife Susan participated in the jewelry brand’s What Makes Love True campaign, and the company donates to Bennett’s Exploring The Arts foundation — more on that later) started with a concert of Bennett’s greatest hits and favorite standards at The Metropolitan Opera House, where we saw Richard Gere chatting it up with Katie Couric before the lights went down. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sat down at the end of our row just before Bennett came onstage, prompting a member of the audience to whisper loudly, “I want to tell her to get back to work!”
President Bill Clinton got to work introducing Bennett, saying that “in every way, this remarkable man has lived his life with perfect pitch.” Bennett hugged the former commander-in-chief and got to work with “Isn’t It Romantic?”, which he followed with a set list of over 20 of his best songs. Aretha Franklin joined him to sing “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”, Alejandro Sanz pitched in on “Yesterday I Heard The Rain”, and Sir Elton came onstage for “Rags To Riches”, which the two first recorded for Bennett’s first album of duets in 2006.
True to his word, Bennett did not sing “Body and Soul”, which he recorded with the late Amy Winehouse shortly before her death in July. And to the disappointment of many, Lady Gaga did not show up for a surprise performance of “The Lady Is A Tramp”, which is also on the new album of duets. Nevertheless, every other song got a standing ovation — a few of them even got two. We were particularly moved by Bennett’s performances of The Best Is Yet To Come and Smile, which is one of our all time favorite songs.
But the night didn’t end when the lights in the theater came back on — afterward, Alec Baldwin hosted a gala dinner for Bennett’s foundation, Exploring the Arts, in a nearby tent. If we didn’t know any better, we’d guess that the tent was leftover from New York Fashion Week. When everyone had finished their antipasto salads, Baldwin emceed, making fun of his inability to dance and encouraging everyone to donate to the charity, which replaces lost funding for arts education in public high schools. It also helps fund the Frank Sinatra High School, which Bennett founded with his wife Susan in 2001. Between everyone in the room, Exploring the Arts managed to raise close to $2.5 million.
After dinner (a huge portion of Bennett’s mother’s lasagna recipe), Sir Elton got up and sang a slew of his best-known songs. After Your Song, we swore we could hear the audience sniffling, and after Rocket Man, we thought the applause would tear the tent’s ceiling off.
But it didn’t. Baldwin and Sir Elton led everyone in singing Happy Birthday to Bennett, and we all went home, tent intact. Check out the revelry below.