It's a novel way to lure Latin American tourists: Team up with singer Tony Bennett on his new duets album with Latin American stars and host them to record some songs and videos in Broward County.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale tourism bureau this month scored the 85-year-old crooner for recording sessions in Davie with Argentina's Vicentico, Brazil's Maria Gadu and other Latin stars for an album due out this fall and aimed at the growing Latin American market of more than 500 million people.
The bureau is partnering with the Sony record label to promote the album. Greater Fort Lauderdale will be highlighted in press conferences, will offer contests and travel giveaways, and will be featured in videos -- publicity worth more than the nearly $500,000 the group is investing in the effort to lure Latin visitors, said Nicki Grossman, president of the area's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For Bennett, it's the first time recording and filming at Cutting Cane Studios in Davie. The native New Yorker said he's thrilled to share and create with Latin artists at a top-quality studio and to expand his reach to the huge audiences that speak Spanish and Portuguese worldwide.
"I love the music from South America, Mexico and Spain. It's so much more melodic" than what many big US music companies push on youth at giant stadiums, Bennett told the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He wore a classic, white Cuban-style guayabera shirt for the interview before a recording session.
For visiting artists Vicentico and Gadu, singing with Bennett was an unexpected honor. Growing up in Buenos Aires, 47-year-old Vicentico -- co-founder of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs -- said his family enjoyed Bennett's albums, and he still loves one of the crooner and pianist Bill Evans that's "pure heart." Gadu, 25, said she was nervous to sing with the American icon but found the experience "marvelous."
Among sites filmed for music videos to accompany the duets album: Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach Pier, the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the tree-filled Butterfly World in Coconut Creek -- which Gadu called "very pretty."
Grossman said the effort already is paying off. The bureau's vice president, Alfredo Gonzalez, has been giving interviews in Spanish and Portuguese to Latin American media on the Bennett recordings, boosting Broward's exposure overseas. And Sony is interested in coming back to film more productions in Broward, she said.
The business potential is huge. Latin American tourism to Florida is soaring. Last year, more than 625,000 visitors from Latin America stayed overnight in Broward, with the number from Brazil up 50 percent. Overseas travelers tend to stay longer, shop more and spend more than US tourists, the bureau said.
Film production also is growing, with recent shoots in Broward including the movie "Rock of Ages"with Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, A&E's TV drama "The Glades" and many telenovelas. Film projects spent about $148 million in Broward last year, according to the bureau's film and entertainment office.
The Bennett music videos alone spent about $200,000 this month, the bureau office estimated.
On his Latin Duets album, Bennett interprets classic tunes such as "Cold, Cold Heart" with Vicentico and "Blue Velvet" with Gadu. The World War II veteran said he aims to sing intelligent, quality songs that will stand the test of time -- reaching ever wider audiences. Among his mantras: "Never compromise."
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