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Anka is the surprise star at Fontainebleau VIP opening

Updated December 13, 2023 - 10:50 pm

His current friend’s birthday was Wednesday. His late friend’s birthday was Tuesday.

Paul Anka knows how to celebrate both. “My Way,” was the way.

The 82-year-old entertainment legend was the first entertainer at Fontainebleau Las Vegas’ BleauLive Theater. Entirely appropriate for the star who has graced Vegas sages, and all stages, since the early 1960s. Justin Timberlake’s arena-fashioned show, a version of his upcoming tour production, followed.

In a remarkable case of planning, after a nearly 20-year saga of multiple owners, the resort’s gala opening fell on owner Jeffrey Soffer’s 55th birthday. Tuesday was the 108th birthday of the man for whom Anka wrote “My Way,” Frank Sinatra.

Anka had written the lyrics to the song he sang at the blue-hued hotel specifically for Old Blue Eyes.

“I was hanging with the Rat Pack, here in Las Vegas and also Fontainebleau in Miami. On one of those occasions, Sinatra was in town, he was doing a movie. We had dinner, and he explained he was going through some soul-searching and was retiring from show business,” Anka said in a phone chat, prior to singing ahead of Timberlake’s performance at the invite-only event. “He was going through this rough patch with (his then-wife) Mia Farrow, he wasn’t the guy that we knew.”

Sinatra was famously preparing to retire from showbiz.

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“He was talking about quitting and resting, and I couldn’t believe it,” Anka said. “He was going one more album, and I’d never written a song for him.” Anka went back to his room at the Fontainebleau and started work on the tune that would become Sinatra’s standard, performed legendarily by Elvis and even (to the chagrin of purists) Sid Vicious.”

“It all started out of the blue,” Anka said. “I went back to New York, I finished it, and I called him here in Vegas and brought it out to him. It all started because of the Fontainebleau.”

Anka had planned a customized lyric for the song, dedicated to Soffer’s birthday. He also sang “For Once In My Life” before J.T. took over.

Anka is busy across multiple entertainment mediums. His podcast, “Our Way,” premieres in February on iHeart Radio. Bill Burr, Michael Buble, reality-TV pioneer Mark Burnett and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Anka also has a documentary film in development, and a tour that starts in January that takes him through June. Expect him back at Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center.

Tuesday, he cranked the siren at T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights-Calgary Flames game. He was issued a No. 1 gold VGK jersey. He says he played as a kid until he switched to music as a teenager. He’s proven a better singer and composer than goalie.

And on New Year’s Eve, Anka is representing Fontaineblue in the Times Square celebration. He’s planning to sing “Imagine,” and another famous song.

“I think I’m going to write and do a ‘My Way’ kind of end of the year,” Anka said. “It’ll all be for Fontainebleau. I’ve become an ambassador, a spokesman for them.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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