Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — For as long as anyone can remember, Tony Bennett has been giving to the city where he first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the Fairmont Hotel in 1961.
And now, the city is set to pay him back.
In recognition of the internationally renowned singer, painter and civic treasure, the city will honor him with several tributes celebrating his 90th birthday. The festivities will begin with a free, public dedication and unveiling of the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of Bennett atop Nob Hill on the lawn of Fairmont San Francisco on Friday.
The celebration will continue Friday evening at AT&T Park when the San Francisco Giants will honor Bennett in a pre-game ceremony and throughout the game. Bennett will also perform “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for the fans.
“When the cable cars broke down and were closed down for two years and we brought them back, he came. When we had the earthquake and we put the Bay Bridge back together, he came. He’s always here for us so we thought, ‘What can we do for him?’
And we thought of the statue,” said Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, the chief of protocol for San Francisco and the State of California.
In addition to the fanfare Friday and a gala dinner on Saturday night, Bennett is getting his own ice cream flavor. Created by the city’s Humphry Slocombe ice cream shop, the flavor “Duet” will feature vanilla ice cream swirled with limoncello sorbet and fennel biscotti to honor Bennett’s Italian heritage.
But the centerpiece of the celebration will be the statue, which San Francisco Bay Area sculptor Bruce Leslie Wolfe began creating a few months ago after Bennett sat for him for three days. During that time, Wolfe said they laughed, played music and Bennett sketched his likeness, giving him a new appreciation for the crooner.
“Tony Bennett is probably the best vocal singer that I’ve ever heard. He can do anything with words,” Wolfe said. “He’s just like a poet, he’s just good.”
Paul Tormey, the regional vice president and general manager of the Fairmont San Francisco agrees.
“He’s the godfather of the city. He has always been there in times of need and always been there as a good friend. He’s been absolutely wonderful to the city.”