“Tony Bennett’s Battle With Alzheimer’s” – AARP

“For four years, the legendary singer and his family have kept his secret. Now, they’re breaking their silence”

tony bennett(Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

by John Colapinto

“Part One: “It’s Just Another Gift”

“On an afternoon in early November, I arrived at Tony Bennett’s home on the 15th floor of a high-rise on the southern edge of New York City’s Central Park. The sprawling three-bedroom apartment’s wall of windows opens on a heart-stopping view of the park and floods the rooms with a steady north light — “a painter’s dream,” as Bennett once said — which matters, because as well as being one of the world’s greatest singers, he is also a serious visual artist. Over the last quarter century, he has spent untold hours in this sanctuary, a converted bedroom turned art studio where I was brought to meet him by his wife, Susan. This was clearly the space of a working artist: the walls papered with sketches, a messy table heaped with brushes and curled paint tubes, an easel by the window holding a work in progress — a black-and-white drawing of the park, the distant buildings expertly evoked with impressionistic flicks of charcoal.

“Bennett himself was seated at a desk along one wall, his chair turned toward the windows as he paged slowly through a coffee-table book open on his lap. Nattily dressed in a blue blazer over an open-collared shirt, dark slacks and white running shoes, he was, at 94, startlingly youthful in appearance and instantly recognizable: the blue, heavy-lidded eyes, the iconic Roman nose, the coiffed salt-and-pepper hair. Missing, however, was the easy, ever-present smile that helped brand him the nice-guy singing idol of his generation — more approachable than the volatile Sinatra, or the jokily “drunken” Dean Martin. Instead, his expression had a masklike impassivity that changed only slightly to dim awareness when Susan, a slim, fine-featured 54-year-old, placed a hand on his shoulder, leaned over and said: “This is John, Tone. He’s come to talk to us about the new album.” She spoke into his ear, a little loudly perhaps, in a prompting, emphatic register, as if trying to reach her husband through a barrier that had fallen between him and the rest of the world.

“Indeed she was. He looked expressionlessly into my eyes before returning wordlessly to his book.

“Tony Bennett has Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of age-related dementia.”

“Alzheimer’s is a disease that has impacted soooooo many families and this unvarnished look at the way the legendary singer and his family are confronting the disease is refreshingly revealing. The Bennett family and AARP want to help people who might be struggling with the day-to-day challenges of the disease — and part of that help comes from encouraging people to talk about their shared experiences.

“Carve out some time in your day to read this long piece from start to finish. You’ll be glad you did.” (SOURCE: While You Were Working Smart Brief)

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