The very real Tony Bennett, not the fictional Tony Soprano, is what being Italian American is all about

Why are fictional Italians who behave like violent Neanderthals considered more “authentic” than living legends like Bennett?

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Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards in 2015.

Sun-Times Media

On CBS’ “60 Minutes” last Sunday, reporter Anderson Cooper offered a profile of 95-year-old Tony Bennett, detailing the great crooner’s struggles with Alzheimer’s. For those of us lucky enough to catch Bennett’s annual performances at Ravinia over the past decades, it was bittersweet to watch.

Though slowed by the disease, Bennett’s performing spark lit immediately whenever he heard music or was in front of a crowd. Bravo, Antonio!

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I found it telling, though, that on that same weekend “The Many Saints of Newark” — a prequel to the “Sopranos” TV series — opened in theaters and via HBO. Critics and fans constantly comment on the “Italian” background of the film’s characters, all of whom (it’s rather embarrassing to have to point this out) are completely fictional. They do not exist. 

On “60 Minutes,” Cooper never once mentioned that both Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, his frequent partner for duets, are Italian Americans. Bennett was born Benedetto, Gaga was born Germanotta. Was Cooper obligated to do so? Of course not. Bennett and Gaga are, first and foremost, Americans. Their talents belong to us all. 

But this does raise the question: Why are fictional Italians presented as violent Neanderthals considered more “authentic” than living legends like Bennett and Gaga?

Talk about “illusion” vs. “reality!” 

The novelist Luigi Pirandello, who specialized in that literary theme, would have been disturbed by this. So should we all. 

Bill Dal Cerro, Norwood Park

Pass ‘Freedom to Vote Act’

Given how dysfunctional Congress has become, it’s clear that bipartisan negotiations for voting rights and democracy reform are impossible. Democrats in the Senate should change the rules of the filibuster, end Republican obstructionism, and pass the “Freedom to Vote Act.” Senators controlled by special interests should not be allowed to block legislation that a majority of Americans support.

In June, more than 100 leading scholars across the political spectrum, right to left, issued a “Statement of Concern” that our democracy is in peril. The Freedom to Vote Act would set national redistricting standards, close the revolving door between government and corporate interests, block dark money from influencing our political system, reduce the influence of big money in politics and protect voters against discrimination.

While our two senators from Illinois, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, have voted consistently for pro-voter democracy reform, it’s time to pressure their colleagues in the Senate to amend the filibuster rule that stands in the way of progress. We the people deserve a responsive, accountable government, one that gives us all a stronger voice and puts our needs ahead of those of the special interests.

The Senate this year has already filibustered four bills that would improve our democratic system. I urge our senators to do everything in their power to amend the rules of the filibuster and pass this smart compromise bill — the Freedom to Vote Act.

Donna Limper, Bloomingdale

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