A story from guest, Julie B., about a special anniversary celebration and Tony Bennett
A recent question to Maggiano’s Facebook fans, “What’s your favorite occasion to celebrate with us?” caused me to reflect back on one of the most amazing stories of chance that occurred at the Tyson’s Corner Maggiano’s, one which I have long wanted to share with your management and staff.
In 2001, my parents June and Jim, prepared to mark their 50th Wedding Anniversary. To celebrate the incredible milestone my family and I planned a surprise anniversary celebration at the Maggiano’s in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was a favorite of our family, and a venue we knew could accommodate a large party.
In the months leading up to the anniversary, I used my background as a video editor to create a “this is your life” styled video to commemorate my mother and father’s undying love and commitment to their relationship and their family. I planned to show the video at the party to allow my parents, and their loved ones, to relive their wonderful journey. I knew as I started creating the video, that a video about their love story wouldn’t be complete without a special message from the man, who in 1951 voiced ‘their’ song “Because of You”, the first number one hit for the great Tony Bennett.
For six months I tried everything I could to gain access to record Mr. Bennett wishing my parents a Happy 50th Anniversary. It started with letters and calls to his management team. I was informed that Mr. Bennett received many requests similar to mine, and that since he couldn’t accommodate them all their policy was to regretfully decline. The disappointment was great, but I felt I just couldn’t finish the video without Mr. Bennett…
As the days went on, I felt like I had to give it just one more shot. There just had to be a way to get that 10-second clip of Mr. Bennett saying “Happy Anniversary Jim and June”. I looked at Mr. Bennett’s concert schedule and was elated to learn that he was scheduled to perform…in the Washington DC area just a couple of weeks before the big anniversary…
As we set out for the show, my niece and I, who had traveled with me to Atlantic City, decided to stop by Maggiano’s to drop off our final payment for the anniversary dinner and banquet room. As we made our way down the stairs from the catering office with me leading the way, we faced a very crowed weekend bar. As I tried to weave my way through the crowd, looking for open creases to slip through, I lifted my head up just at the moment that the man himself crossed my path.
I couldn’t breathe! I was in complete shock. As I turned around to my niece to tell her, I fought with my inability to even mouth the words, “it’s him!”
“Who?!” my niece quickly answered back.
“It’s Tony Bennett!” I thought I was going to explode…after six months of calls, emails, letters, a trip to Atlantic City, we pass each other in Maggiano’s?!! With only seconds to compose ourselves, we trained our eyes with laser precision on Mr. Bennett and his group as they were seated at a booth on the opposite side of the restaurant.
Thankfully, he had just arrived for dinner so we had time to pull ourselves together. Leaving my niece in the bar with the instruction, “do not take your eyes off of him.” I ran out to my car to grab my video camera. I thought to myself, if this had happened any other night, I wouldn’t have had my camera with me.
After about an hour and with our plan in place, Mr. Bennett started to make his exit. I left my niece at the hostess stand, ready to ask him for his comments as I waited outside the entrance with camera ready to record. But with years of experience slipping out of venues and restaurants, Mr. Bennett and his entourage made a quick left detour through Corner Bakery.
All I remember is the vision of my niece frantically waiving to me through the crowd and window and mouthing the words “he’s going out that way!” In a second, I was there within feet of the man who my parents danced their first dance to some 50 years prior. I’m not sure how I did it, but thankfully I was able to fumble my way through asking for his anniversary wish, which he graciously and with his trademark style and charisma provided. The moment lasted but a few seconds, but its impact carries on today.
As he walked away and departed for the concert venue, my niece and I just wept with joy and astonishment. We were the luckiest people in the world at that moment. There had to have been some kind of divine intervention. There were so many factors that could have altered that split second moment when I looked up and saw him pass. It was just meant to be…
Our party was on September 16, 2001 – just days after our nation and our city had been attacked. We had considered canceling the party in the days prior, but realized it was actually what we all needed at that moment. To be together celebrating the greatest virtues in life…family, love, strength and commitment.
To this day, every time I visit Maggiano’s, I relive not only the moment we met Tony Bennett, but, more importantly the time we shared with our family and friends. Sometimes I even hear “Because of You” playing in the background. Italian restaurants have long been tied to the tradition of family and great food and for us that tradition was lived on. I will never forget how Maggiano’s helped to make a dream come true…I thank Maggiano’s for being a part of my parent’s journey and story.
So there you have my answer to “What’s your favorite occasion to celebrate with us?” Thank you for the incredible memories and of course, all of the wonderful food.
Here is the video that I captured that day: Tony Bennett sings for Jim and June
All the best,