Icon Tony Bennett turns 96 during a busy NYC summer


A busy summer in the city

HERE’s que pasa around town.

Tony Bennett turned 96. Robert De Niro texted, sent videos and told him “I love you.” Stevie Wonder sent birthday stuff and said his favorite song’s “If I Ruled the World.”

Former Sen. Al D’Amato had an 85th birthday at Long Island’s Oheka Castle where he had his last (temporary) wedding, which I know because my table was then alongside low-blow slow-go Joe Burden’s. For this birthday, Al showed his photos at stunning age 65, plus an American flag cake got served, plus a banner spelled out his name in case of camera shots.

Hotel Chelsea. Just reopened. For whoknowswhy they’re trying to keep the place like “if-you-know-it-you-know-it.” Julianne Moore knew it and in the room off the bar sipped a wee sip so bartenders knew it.

MSG hero Amanda Serrano, MMA fighter, pro boxer and featherweight world champ, loved sushi and the views at Peak in Hudson Yards. A tidbit being Jake Paul was due to box at MSG this month. Got canceled. His opponent couldn’t make the weight, which he could have if he’d eaten at Peak.

Tracy Morgan. At Qatar Airways Club in Barclays Center. Sipped water. Posed with fans. Sported a chain around his neck — thick like you’d find at San Quentin — but in gold.


Diving into adventure

Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and director Ron Howard just opened “Thirteen Lives,” the true story of that young Thai soccer team rescued from a flooding cave.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Teeradon "James" Supapunpinyo as Coach Ek, center, in a scene from "Thirteen Lives."
“Thirteen Lives” tells the true tale of the Thai soccer team who was rescued from a flooding cave in the summer of 2018.
Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP

Ron: “Besides those divers displaying their courage and heroism, it was thousands of people on a massive international effort. And today audiences can smell authenticity. They double-check things. Jump online. So all must ring true.

“Viggo and Colin trained with real-life divers then told me: ‘Look, we need to do the actual diving ourselves. That specific technique of tight places and dealing with danger is part of our characters. Listen, it’s more than just rescuing 13 young players.’

“Not only was that liberating for me as a director, it was mesmerizing.”

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows director Ron Howard on the set of "Thirteen Lives."
Director Ron Howard said the experience was “mesmerizing.”
Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP

Small-timers & Vegas big shots

NYC’s mumbling about gambling makes me recall an old Vegas junket. Chartered airliner. Pros, semipros, fun-loving amateurs, cranky wives.

Once airborne, decks of cards appeared. Some dealt on overturned handbags. Shuffled on a lap. Shouts of “You shoulda grabbed the ace” screamed over Duluth.

The guy in charge — Row 2 Seat A — ID’d newcomers on a written credit-rating form. Asked who recommended them brought answers like “Sol from Philly.” First-timers got warned: “When we arrive you better gamble. That’s why you’re along. Otherwise, next time it’s sayonara.”

Each put up a few thou on spec and got told: “We’re in the pit the whole time. We watch what first-timers do. We can only get stuck once. And within 10 days we collect 90% of the markers. It’s a business. We know our customers.”

Flying home, Seat 22A boomed: “Eight-to-five the lady in the loo stays in another four minutes.”

“You’re on,” came a voice.

“A C-note says it rains tomorrow,” piped up.

From behind me came the growl: “You’re covered.”

VEGAS. Where celebrating a blessed event is getting three sevens on the slot machine.

Only — maybe — shortly — soon to be in New York, kids, shortly only in New York.



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