Bennett and Lewis among his fans
By SHIRLEY BROUN
JERRY Lewis led the standing ovation and Tony Bennett picked him out of the crowd at a London night club for his performance on Australia’s legendary television show `Bandstand’ – such was the talent of Melbourne-based vocalist and entertainer Tony Pantano.
Last week named Australia’s Top Male Vocalist (for the 12th time) at the prestigious Australian Entertainment MO Awards in Sydney, Tony has a long record of achievement to his credit. He has also won the supreme Peter Allen Performer of the Year award twice.
Speaking from his Melbourne home on a rare day off yesterday, Tony said he was thrilled with his latest award. “To be nominated among the cream of Australia’s variety performers is a huge honour, but to actually win it is just fantastic,” he said.
Tony won his first MO Award back in 1975. “Of course I was pretty young then,” Tony, 65, said. “I may have a few birthdays under my belt now but I don’t feel any older and I’m singing better than ever. Hard to believe I’m the proud father of six sons and grandfather to five.”
The ever-smiling performer was in Perth when he won his first-ever MO Award and history repeated itself this year. “I was able to accept my award via video and will be presented with the MO in Sydney next week,” he said.
With 14 MO Awards, Tony is fast running out of `display’ area at home. “They are all lined up and it’s interesting to see how they have changed over the years. They do have one thing in common and that is they are very heavy. I wish they were made of gold … it would be great for my retirement,” he laughed.
When it comes to performing, Tony has done it all … ranging from the iconic `Bandstand’, Don Lane Show, and Bert Newton shows to special performances with The Everly Brothers, guest vocalist in Las Vegas and just last year the opening at a major $1000 per head event in Melbourne at which movie and comededy legend Jerry Lewis was special guest.
“Jerry has a great respect for his fellow entertainers. I had just come on stage as he arrived so he stood, along with the 1200 other guests, for the entire performance and led the applause. It was amazing,” said Tony.
Perhaps one of his other most memorable showbiz meetings was with the legendary and much-loved and respected performer Tony Bennett.
On a night off from working at a London venue called Eve’s Club, Tony and popular entertainer Ricky May went to Talk of the Town to see Buddy Greco, and afterwards ended up at Ronny Scott’s Jazz place, renowned as a great big band jazz venue where entertainers used to hang out.
“We saw Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and then Tony Bennett walked in,” recalls Tony. “Ricky urged me to go and say hello and as I walked over he headed to the loo … so I followed him. Hesitantly I said `Mr Bennett’ and to my surprise he looked at me and said `Tony Pantano’. Knew who I was straight away – I was amazed,” said Tony.
“Apparently Tony Bennett had been in Sydney three months before and had seen me singing an Elvis song Rags to Riches which he had recorded many years before Elvis … and he remembered it. As we walked out into the niteclub he put his arm around me. Ricky wanted to know what I had said to him! That was the highlight of my London trip.”
It is not surprising that Tony had been remembered for his `Elvis’ song for he has long had a love affair with his music. Not only is it featured in his popular stage performances at venues throughout the country but Tony has also released many `Elvis-inspired’ albums.
In fact, he has just released his 17th CD called `Tony’s Web of Life’ which is a compilation of Elvis songs, many he refers to as Elvis’s `lost’ songs. “I have been a huge fan of his my whole life and have always included Elvis songs in my shows and I did a lot of research to put together an album of what I call `lost’ Elvis numbers plus, of course, a few everyone knows,” he said.
Among the selection are `It’s Your Baby, you Rock It’, `How the Web was Woven’, a spiritual song called `Life’, `Momma Liked the Roses’ and golden oldies like `Follow That Dream’ and `Moody Blues’. “I also have `Pledging My Love’ on the new album. The song was originally released in 1954 and then by Elvis in the 70s.”
Together with his lovely wife of five years Carmel, Tony has also established his own themed show and dinner nights in Melbourne. “We organise everything, I entertain and the families come … they are such great nights for everyone – fun, food and entertainment. I just love performing at these nights and seeing people really enjoy themselves,” said Tony, who is building up quite a following for the themed nights on Facebook.
Tony’s repertoire of Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Elvis, Sinatra and Dean Martin plus more ensures his audiences continue to enjoy his superb talent at every performance.
And, Tony assures us … there is still much more to come!Tweet