Mayor London Breed, along with SFMTA’s Board Chair, Amanda Eaken, and its Director of Transportation, Jeff Tumlin, will lead a Valentine’s Day celebration of the late, great Tony Bennett by dedicating a California Street Cable Car in his honor. The celebration will take place “high on a hall” – Nob Hill – outside the Fairmont Hotel at 10:45 a.m. on February 14. Here are the details.
The specific date was requested by Bennett’s widow, Susan Benedetto, because the Fairmont Hotel, where he performed “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for the very first time on New Year’s Eve 1961, hosted a major celebration of his life about a decade ago, and memorialized him several years ago with a larger-than-life bronze statue on the hotel’s front lawn. It’s certainly a fitting date for San Franciscans to show their hearts to a man who left at least part of his in our City.
The idea of dedicating a cable car to Tony Bennett first came from Market Street Railway, the day after he passed away last June at the age of 96. Mayor Breed embraced the idea and advocated it at the big celebration of the 150th anniversary of cable cars last August 2. Market Street Railway organized that celebration and others during the 150th anniversary year. It has joined with the Fairmont to organize the tribute to Tony Bennett. The Fairmont asked Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher to emcee the celebration.
The cable car selected to honor Mr. Bennett, Car 53, was refurbished just a couple of years ago at the cable car barn, and will feature unique decorations as a tribute. It will also carry dedication plaques that read, in part, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” became both his signature and the city’s anthem, and has drawn untold people from around the world to ride the ‘little cable cars’ that ‘climb halfway to the stars’. In the 1980s, he helped promote the rebuilding of the cable car system.
Cable Car 53 will carry an additional plaque paying tribute to George Cory & Douglass Cross, reading as follows: “In 1953, a Brooklyn couple who had moved from San Francisco were nostalgic for their former town. They wrote ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, a song that got little attention until another New Yorker, Tony Bennett, made it world famous in the next decade. The words and music of Cross and Cory and Bennett’s Grammy-winning performance took millions of listeners ‘halfway to the stars.’
The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony. Car 53 will enter regular service on the California Street cable line the following day.