Brushing with Celebrity

Tom’s post about Tony Bennett and the Kennedy Center Honors reminded me that Mr. Bennett is my only bona-fide brush with celebrity in DC. Well, that’s not entirely true – I’ve also in my time bumped into Bob Dole as he entered the Four Seasons, spotted Clinton as he exited the church on 16th street, saw both Tony Williams and Eleanor Holmes Norton at Eastern Market, oh, and then there was the time I watched Marion Barry hold court at the YMCA. But none of these were remotely exciting, really. They’re all political sightings, which any number of us can have on any given day of the week in DC. Ho-hum. But Mr. Tony Bennett, now that’s something.

I was having lunch in a little cafe near the Kennedy Center back in ’96. My back was to the room, so I could do my usual daydream drill of staring out the window thinking “some day I’m going…” whatever it was that day. I began to be aware of an electric charge in the room, the way people were talking was changing, and I heard someone begin the dance of deference. “Hmmm.. someone important is here,” I thought, “who cares?”

I was just drifting back into my lunchtime reverie when a strong, craggy yet impossibly smooth voice made itself known. It was like hearing a beloved uncle, unexpectedly, laden down with presents just for you. I sat straight up. That voice! It was, no, could it be? “Fly me to the moon…”

Of course once I figured out it was him, sitting down having his lunch and being schmoozed by the cafe owner, I had to force myself not to turn around and morph into a giggling schoolgirl. The man is a god, definitely, but he should have his privacy. So I only snuck a glance when I was done and busing my tray to the counter. He was holding court with aplomb, in a tweedy jacket, collar open, silver-haired, those eyebrows, just as you’d imagine him and ready it seemed to start crooning any minute. I dashed out and called my dad to tell him I had just seen, “Tony! Bennett! The! Tony! Bennett!”

That’s it. My best brush with celebrity (while living in DC, that is. The best one in my life was the divine Alan Rickman, but that’s a non sequitur here. Besides, you might start accusing me of being a crazed celebrity hound. No!)

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