Dec 17, 2011

Tony Bennett has done an extraordinary job of connecting with young listeners and performers — his effervescent duet with Lady Gaga on his new album, “Duets II,” being a judicious case in point.

But who knew he could out-Gaga Gaga?

Monday, the 85-year-old crooner, also an accomplished painter, released a portrait of the shape-shifting singer posing nude — albeit tastefully — for him (and Vanity Fair) after they recorded “The Lady Is a Tramp.” It’s all over the Internet, and the original charcoal drawing is being auctioned as a benefit for Gaga’s anti-bullying foundation, Born This Way, and Bennett’s Exploring the Arts, dedicated to fostering arts education. (As of Thursday, the top bid was $9,100; the auction closes Monday.)

The venerable belter of bel canto has been using the machinery of modern publicity to promote his old-school class act for some time now, ever since his 1994 appearance on “MTV Unplugged.” But he always seems to pull others up to his level, rather than the other way around.

That has certainly been the case with the duets project, which has involved everyone from k.d. lang and John Mayer to Gaga and Queen Latifah.
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