TAMPA – Several years ago, I was very lucky to have one of my children’s books turned into an animated film. It is called “Henry And Me.” It’s the story of the incredible spirits of Yankees past, like Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Munson, Murcer, and how they helped a little boy battle cancer.
It’s the story of how the human element can defeat fear. I always hear about how selfish many celebrities can be, but I have been lucky because so many of my celebrity friends always seem to be there for me whenever I am out in the street helping people.
People like Richard Gere, Danny Aiello, Frankie Valli, Chazz Palminteri, Joey Gian and Lucy Arnez, I mean the list goes on and not to mention all the athletes like Reggie, Yogi, Hank Steinbrenner, Willie Randolph. I need a phone book to let you know all the people that were there for this incredible project.
I was sitting with the Grammy Award winning singer Paul Anka in Clearwater, Florida. I told him about this wonderful project and the fact that it involved a sick child based on a true story. Paul could not have been more giving.
I couldn’t wait to get back to the studio in New York to tell our head producer that the musical genius, who Paul Anka is, not only wanted to help but actually wrote music for the film.
One day, I was driving home from Yankee Stadium and I put on CBS-FM, the oldies station, and ironically a song came on by Paul Anka called “I Believe There Is Nothing Stronger Than Our Love.” It was such a happy, pretty, loving song that I really could envision it being the closing credit jingle.
I called Mr. Anka and asked if I could use the song for the closing credits and he told me, “Sure kid…use it. It will fit perfect.” Mr. Anka was not going to charge me a fee, etc. because of the charity element to it. Again, I was excited to be able to deliver this message to our lead producer.
Paul Anka went as far as to write us some great mood music. And for whatever the reason, which to this day I don’t know, none of it was used in the film. We didn’t even use the closing credit song at the end. As beautiful as the film is, it just lacked in what Paul Anka could have given us.
When I asked my producer why wouldn’t you use such great stuff, he said it was a matter of opinion. Just because you like it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I said, “Do you understand the magnitude of the Paul Anka name and what it brings?” But for whatever reason this guy would not budge and it broke my heart because Paul Anka is one of the last and great showmen of today.
He wrote some of the greatest songs ever, including “My Way” for Frank Sinatra. He wrote the greatest television jingle, the theme for the “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson.
And yet to my producer, Paul Anka was not good enough for “Henry And Me”….I didn’t get it! This put me in a very embarrassing situation because someday I would have to confront Anka and explain what happened.
Last week, my friend Bobby Rossi, who brings all the talent to Ruth Eckard Hall, called me. Rossi told me that Anka was going to be performing and did I want to see him? The one thing in my life that I truly did learn from George Steinbrenner was always confront situations so it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass.
I told Rossi that I would like to attend and see Mr. Anka after the show. As always, Anka put on a spectacular show. He works an audience better than any man does. He is 74 years old but you would think he is 25 and everyone went home happy because that is what he does for an audience.
After the show, I was escorted with my friend Aris to the green room. Aris thought it would be best for us to wait until he did his meet and greet with everyone and we could speak to him afterwards. After he finished with everyone he came over, we shook hands and he asked me how I have been after such a long time?
I handed Anka a set of my children’s books because he has a 12 year-old son. He could not have been nicer or classier and I, in turn, was happy because I did confront him. But at the end, I was very sad because of what could have been.
As you noticed, I never mentioned the name of the producer, because positive or negative he does not deserve to be acknowledged. But as Al Jolson once said, “That’s Entertainment.”
“Henry And Me,” is and always will be one of the best animated films ever. It’s so feel good that I just don’t understand why it did not have the success that it should have had. But, then again, when you read the story, maybe you then will know the reason why. I just want to live this life without all the haters!
If you have never seen this film and you have kids do yourself a favor and get a copy. Remember that all the profits go to charity. As Sammy Davis Jr. once said, “Live life through love, peace and togetherness.”
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