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Spotlight hasn’t dimmed for legendary Paul Anka

Aug 20, 2002 9:10 AM

THEY SAY YOU CAN’T GO HOME!

Not so with Paul Anka. The man who writes the songs and sings them, too, recently played his hometown in Ottawa, Canada. It was the first time in 20 years and Paul was in his element.

The concert was called "A Night to Remember." It was indeed. He was applauded with every number. By the time he offered "Diana" and "Puppy Love" he had them out of their seats. And, the hometown boy wore a smile from ear-to-ear as he did it his way for old friends and neighbors.

His army of fans along the East Coast will be happy to know that Paul has just signed a three-year contract with the Borgata in Atlantic City. It includes exclusive engagements and parties with high rollers. He and Borgata’s Bob Boughner huddled behind closed doors.

"He’s one helluva a guy and he’s got a great product. I believe it will be a big success," Anka said.

In his return to his hometown Anka had all he needed: fans, a big band and spotlights.

Professionally, I’m not supposed to tell you that I have been a friend of Paul and his father for years. The know-it-alls say it biases readers. So what! I dig the man and his music and have no problem letting people know it. I was also a fan of Sinatra and Perry Como. It was a pity that Anka’s many talents had to get sandwiched between two giants. But, let me say, he held his own.

Nearly 20 years ago I befriended the late Andy Anka. We often had lunch at the Jockey Club and enjoyed each other’s company. Needless to say, the father was very proud of his son. I told him stories from the old racetrack. He loved them. He told me stories about Paul. And, I loved them.

When performing, Anka has a trademark. He loves to stroll through the audience, sing to the beautiful ladies and shake the hands of their beaus.

When he’s not singing he’s a great storyteller. He sets the scene then takes you by the hand and walks you through it.

Paul loves visiting Las Vegas. His favorite place to relax is the pool of his private villa at The Mirage.

When Johnny Carson took over "The Tonight Show" in 1962 he invited Anka to write the late-night show’s theme song. Paul was so anxious to do it he offered Carson half of the song’s potential royalties. "Everything: written and published." Of course, they didn’t turn it down.

"I don’t know if I hadn’t given up part of the copyright to him that it would have even been on the air," Anka mused.

When rock bands raised their ugly heads and began dominating the charts, Anka followed in the footsteps of his heros ”” Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. ”” by honing his nightclub act in the 1960s. While playing the Fountainebleau in Miami, he spent some time with Sinatra who was making a movie. Sinatra told Anka that he was considering retirement. Anka took it upon himself to craft lyrics that summed up his friend’s journey. "I don’t know where it came from," says Anka of "My Way," which is now considered Ole Blue Eyes’ signature song.

Speaking of Sinatra, he said he was a "pussycat" when you got to know him says Anka.

Well, Paul, you’re a cat too ”” one who meows pretty for the people.