Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Tony Bennett: Legalize Drugs, Save a Rock Star's Life
Did Tony Bennett leave his head in San Francisco or is there a follicle of truth to be found lurking beneath his toupee?
While performing at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party Saturday night, Bennett told the crowd at the Beverly Hilton, "First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now the magnificent Whitney Houston. Let's legalize drugs, like Amsterdam, it's a very sane city now. No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor."
This is shocking on so many levels, the first being what the senior spokesperson for the MTV generation has to say is bang-on target. Legalize everything! You don't find gang members shooting each other (and innocent passersby) over NyQuil or model airplane glue. The legalization of drugs would take a bigger bite out of crime than a rescue pound filled with McGruffs ever could.
What's even more surprising is Bennett's willingness to mention drug abuse in public, fearing that some schmuck with a long memory (and daily blog to fill) would connect the dots. Timing is everything. The day before Bennett made the statement, I watched Phil Spector whine about his unfavorable positioning in the glare of the media spotlight. How can the same reporters who refuse to overlook even the slightest blemish on Spector's spattered past turn a blind-eye to the silver-haired singer's former addiction to cocaine?
Drug addiction comes up briefly in his 1998 memoir, The Good Life. Bennett recalls moving to Los Angeles in the late-'70's, a time when "Cocaine flowed as freely as champagne" and he soon began "joining in the festivities." He almost met the same fate as Whitney Houston. After spending the evening partaking in an unspecified substance, Bennett's wife found him passed out in the bathtub. Fortunately she was able to revive him.
Tony would sooner discuss his dalliances with drugs than his flirtation with Hollywood. While he'd gladly field questions about the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile or the Oscar ceremony, don't ask him about The Oscar, a 1966 big screen floperoo that houses his one and only "dramatic" performance. Once you see it, you'll quickly understand why the only other times he agreed to appear on film or television was as "Himself."
Man, what a scene. Forget it!
A pox on the DVD Gods for not releasing a special BluRay edition of The Oscar, or as Tony calls it, "The Os-cuh" complete with a bonus disc and audio commentary by Bennett, Elke Sommer, Ernie Borgnine, Nancy Sinatra, and the ghost of Hal Pereira (he's in art direction). Until that glorious day, please take a minute or two and enjoy the following thrombo.
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