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Tony Bennett
by Barney Battles
As Tony Bennett crept across the French and German landscapes, exchanging fire with enemy soldiers, he could not have imagined the trajectory his life would soon take. He was born to poor Italian immigrants in New York City, just three years before the start of the Great Depression. Then, at the age of 18, he was drafted into the war. His sergeant in training camp didn’t like him, and made it a point to work him harder than the others. Long story short, success was never handed to Tony on a silver platter. Yet something in him remained fixed and determined as he navigated the challenges of his early life.

Born on 3rd August, 1926, Anthony Dominick Benedetto is a Leo in the Chinese year of the Fire Tiger. It doesn’t take a master astrologer to see what a potent combination this is! Leo, well-known for its steady hand and grace under pressure, is ruled by the Sun and personified by the Lion. It radiates energy in a fixed and determined way, never deviating from its path. Meanwhile, Tony’s Chinese sign intensifies many of these same traits. The Tiger is courageous, noble, and a natural-born leader. Given this combination, it’s probable that even before Tony took to the stage, he attracted attention. As a young man growing up in hard times, he would have been a bright spot for the people around him—a constant source of energy and warmth. But how did the universe conspire to bring his amazing talents and psychic energies into full expression?

It’s not entirely true to say that Tony had no help finding his way into show business. On top of growing up in New York City, which is an advantage in itself, his Uncle was a tap dancer who gave him a personal glimpse into the world of entertainers. By the time Tony was 10 years old, he was already performing—most notably at the opening of the Triborough Bridge, where the Mayor of New York City listened to him sing and ruffled his hair. As is often the case with Leos, Tony’s star was shining bright and early.

Singing wasn’t his only passion. He also showed talent in the visual arts, and began to study painting and music at the New York High School of Industrial Art. With moon in Gemini, Tony would have found it difficult to chase only one dream. As a sign of versatility, Gemini would have a definite role to play in his future. But before he could fully express his dual talents as a singer and painter, his fierce Leo and Tiger energies had to carry him through the war.
With the conflict over and Tony safely back in New York, the universe wasted no time in clearing the runway for his career. An early post-war gig in Greenwich Village found  entertainer Bob Hope in the audience, who immediately recognised Tony’s magnetism and invited him on tour. Four years and several hit records later, Tony was a bona fide star—so much so that when he married in 1952, two thousand female fans appeared outside a cathedral in New York, all dressed in black, to mourn the ‘loss’ of their favorite heartthrob.

Tony’s Leo and Tiger energies now had all the room in the world to shine. He made the most of his rise to fame, basking in the spotlight and performing on stages around the world. Leo is a lover of attention, often behaving (like the Sun) as if the world revolves around it. Taken too far, this can lead to extreme self-centeredness—yet Tony exuded a timeless charm and class that harkened back to an earlier age. His growing fan base, particularly ladies, found his aura to be both friendly and irresistible.

One of Leo’s weaknesses, however, soon caught up with Tony. As his fame and fortune grew, so did his appetites. Neither Leo nor Tiger are known for their talent in keeping budgets, and Tony’s reckless spending soon landed him in serious financial trouble. With the debts piling up and the government breathing over his shoulder, the artist sought escape in drugs and alcohol. His classic image was not as fashionable as it used to be, and it seemed that this time, Tony was fighting a war within himself.

It was another characteristic shared by Leo and Tiger—that of family loyalty—that pulled Tony back from the brink of self-destruction. As it turns out, his son Danny had all the talent in business that he himself lacked. Tony’s decision to put his career in Danny’s hands turned out to be one of the best he ever made. Within a handful of years his debts were cleared, his fortune on the rise, and his image revitalised. Tony was once again recognised as a timeless treasure, and modern artists—everyone from Sting to Lady Gaga—were lining up to work with him.

“If you study the masters,” Tony says, “Picasso, Jack Benny, Fred Astaire – right up to the day they died, they were performing. If you are creative, you get busier as you get older.”

Now past his 87th birthday, the records continue to fly off the shelves, and the paintings have earned him genuine respect in the art world. With a star that seems as irrepressible as the Sun, Tony is surely one of the great examples of Leo energy alive today.

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