Early Thanksgiving morning, Tony Bennett woke up in a strange bed on the wrong side of Central Park.
For years, he has lived with his third wife in a Trump building on Central Park South, but the couple spent the night in a Madison Avenue hotel to avoid the security gridlock surrounding the staging areas of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which, like Mr. Bennett, turned 90 this year.
Video: Tony Bennett – Fly me to the moon
This day, roughly 70 years into a career that began as a singing waiter in Astoria, Queens, Mr. Bennett would be riding on the penultimate parade float — taking second billing only to Santa and his sleigh — and singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with Miss Piggy. While his live performance with a Muppet would not be a career highlight, a stumble as the float lurched back into motion and a steadying hug from the famous pig would go viral, and punctuate a year when it already seemed like All Tony, All the Time.
Mr. Bennett began 2016 by winning his 19th Grammy. The Empire State Building was lit in his honor, the switch thrown by his seemingly unlikely buddy and recording partner Lady Gaga. HarperCollins released a new book of his reminiscences of important people in his life. And on Tuesday, Dec. 20, NBC will broadcast a two-hour prime-time special commemorating his birthday.
“I can’t believe that all this is happening,” Mr. Bennett said. “I’m 90.”
Since NBC broadcast the last Bob Hope special in 1996, when the comedian was 93, prime-time network television has hardly been welcoming country for old men. Doug Vaughan, the executive vice president for special programs and late night at NBC, said, “Not that every 90-year-old doesn’t deserve marking that milestone, but Tony is such an icon and such a beloved American legend” that giving him a big block of prime time wasn’t a difficult decision. (It didn’t hurt that his last NBC special, for his 80th birthday, won seven Emmy Awards.)
Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come” is built around a September concert at Radio City Music Hall that featured singers such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé, Leslie Odom Jr. and Lady Gaga saluting him. Taped performances came in from Billie Joel, Elton John and Bob Dylan. There are interview segments with Mr. Bennett scattered in, and a show-within-a-show comedy sketch starring Alec Baldwin, who reprises his “Saturday Night Live” impersonation of a blithely clueless and hyper-ebullient Tony Bennett.