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Tony Bennett, an Electronic Proposal, and the Google Doodle: Valentine’s Day Bay Area Style

| February 14, 2012
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Only in the Bay Area would a guy propose marriage on Valentine’s Day via an infographic on Mashable. I mean, people are so electronically immersed, how would anyone even remember they’re supposed to buy chocolates and flowers if the Google Doodle didn’t remind them?

That’s Tony Bennett singing “Cold, Cold Heart,” by the way. Probably not the one he left in San Francisco, which you can hear all about at noon. Bay City News explains:

Tony Bennett, who famously sang about leaving his heart in San Francisco, is being honored by the city at a ceremony in City Hall on Valentine’s Day.

Bennett recorded the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1962 and is returning to the city 50 years later to be honored in the Tuesday ceremony by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Ed Lee and various other current and former city leaders.

The 85-year-old Bennett first sang the song in December 1961 at the Fairmont Hotel’s Venetian Room in the city’s Nob Hill neighborhood and is returning there later Tuesday night for a sold-out benefit concert to raise money for heart research at University of California at San Francisco.

Several local choirs will sing their own versions of Bennett’s famous song at Tuesday’s noontime City Hall ceremony, which will conclude with a sing-along of the tune.

Every radio station in the city has also been asked to play “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at or near noon, and the song will be played over the public address system at both Union Square and Hallidie Plaza.

“The song reminds us of why we love our city so much and when we are away, it calls us home,” Lee said in a statement. “Mr. Bennett’s signature voice is celebrated around the world, and when he comes back to San Francisco, our hearts will surely be lifted.”

The L.A. Times, for some reason, goes further into this by providing a lot of detail about certain San Franciscans’ disdain for that song.

At least two people, however, are all but guaranteed to spurn the noontime chorus: the men who together dethroned the onetime official song of San Francisco, who stopped those little cable cars from climbing halfway to the stars, more than a quarter-century ago.

That’s when then-Supervisor Quentin Kopp — who described “I Left My Heart” as “a schmaltzy jingle,” the fault of the “hippie-love movement” and unworthy of the city it aimed to honor — introduced a resolution to instead make the theme from the 1936 earthquake movie “San Francisco” the official song of Baghdad by the Bay.

Now that, Kopp said in a recent interview, was a song. Belted out by Jeanette MacDonald just moments before the killer quake struck on the big screen, “it’s a bracing, vigorous, strong song” about risk-taking and adventure, optimism and welcome.

But Kopp’s distaste for Bennett’s ballad was nothing compared to then-San Francisco Chronicle columnist Warren Hinckle’s vitriol. During a monthlong imbroglio — played out in the newspapers and at City Hall as the Democratic Party prepared for its 1984 convention here — Hinckle called the lyrics “infantile drool.” The song, he said, was “barely suited for elevator music” and was “as much San Francisco as bathtub chablis.”

There’s a lot more to the story, but why go into it? I suspect a SoCal plot to make us look silly. As if we needed help from down there. At noon, I’ll be following the lead of our mayor and — using my inside voice — give the song a whirl. Or maybe a hum will do. Here’s one version of the ballad, from 1963, that’s particularly nice. Tony belts it out solo before being joined on-stage by Judy Garland, and, as they sing, he wraps his arms around her. Overt affection? Or is he trying to steady her? Either way, he seems kind…

Here are the lyrics. Practice up…

The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome is of another day
I’ve been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
I’m going home to my city by the Bay

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me

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