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Monday, June 4, 2012

Tony Bennett's affair with Vegas mobster's gal pal ended with a phone book slam to his head

Lady Gaga says Tony Bennett “could sing the phone book and it would sound fantastic.” To which we’d like to add: as long as he doesn’t get hit in the head with it first.
According to Bennett biographer David Evanier, the legendary crooner had a close encounter of the painful kind with the Las Vegas Yellow Pages after he caused a jealous wiseguy to see red.
After reading our item Monday about late Bennett vocal coach Tony Tamburello impersonating a priest to get into Judy Garland’s 1969 funeral, Evanier contacted us to share a memorable story about the 85-year-old singer of “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
The former Paris Review senior editor told us the story didn’t make it into his 2011 unauthorized biography, “All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett,” because he learned about it after the book came out last summer.
Evanier says he heard about the incident from “a reliable associate” of Bennett’s. He adds that the incident most likely took place in 1979, when Bennett was performing with the late, great Lena Horne at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Vegas.
The author says Bennett was separated from second wife Sandra Grant, and in a dark period in his life in the late ’70s and early ’80s when he was “really drugged up and contemplating suicide.”
Perhaps that explains why Bennett inexplicably began seeing the girlfriend of goodfella Anthony Spilotro, who inspired Joe Pesci ’s vicious character Nicky Santoro in Martin Scorsese ’s 1995 movie “Casino.”
Evanier says the silken-voiced singer was “acting impulsively” when he picked Spilotro’s girl.
Spilotro did the same when he learned Bennett was stepping out with his squeeze.
According to Evanier, “Spilotro hammered Tony over the head with a phone book, laying him out on the floor.”
The force of the phone listings colliding with Bennett’s skull was “fierce” enough to knock him to the ground, he says.
Spilotro was a well-known mob associate in Sin City, where he helped skim profits from casinos. Former Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman represented Spilotro, helping him avoid conviction before he was whacked in 1986. (Legend has it he was buried alive.)
Not long after that, Evanier says, Bennett checked into rehab in the early ’80s and began turning around his sagging career.
In his book, Evanier writes that Bennett got money from the Al Capone family to help jump-start his career and maintained ties to organized crime for years. He also reports that the singer eventually turned his back on the Mob and visually expressed his disdain for La Cosa Nostra in a painting called “The Underground.”
A rep for Bennett did not respond to our requests for comment.


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