The other night, I was dining with my three teenage sons in Madeo, my favourite Beverly Hills restaurant, when I spied the music legend Paul Anka sitting in the corner. ‘That guy wrote My Way for Frank Sinatra,’ I said. The boys exhibited lukewarm interest. ‘ That song gets played on the radio every second of the day, 365 days a year,’ I continued. Now they were intrigued all right.
‘Does he get paid every time?’ came the instant response. ‘Oh yes. Every single time.’ ‘Wow!’
Today, I interviewed him for my CNN show, and he revealed the full amazing story behind how he came to pen the smash hit for Ol’ Blue Eyes. ‘Frank called me The Kid, and kept asking me to write him a song,’ he explained. ‘But I couldn’t — I was scared to death! I was writing all this teenage stuff, and if I’d given him Puppy Love he would have thrown me out of the steam room.
‘Then I heard this melody while I was away in France, and I brought it back with me to America. Frank asked me for dinner in Miami one night, and suddenly announced during the meal, “I’m getting out of the business, I’m retiring; the Rat Pack’s waning and I’ve had enough. But I’m doing one more album — and you still haven’t written me a song!”
‘I went back to New York, sat in my apartment at 1am and just couldn’t get my head around the fact that Frank Sinatra was quitting. I started typing, creating this song as if Frank were writing it… “And now… the end is near… the final curtain.” I wrote until 5am, and flew straight to Las Vegas, where he was performing at Caesars Palace, and played it to him. I knew he liked it. Two months later, my phone rings and Sinatra says, “Kid, have a listen to this.” He took the phone, put it up to the speaker, and I heard him singing My Way for the first time. And I started crying.’
I asked Anka, now 71, how much money he’d made from My Way since then. ‘I’ve never counted it all up,’ he smiled. ‘But it’s a big ka- ching?’ I said. ‘It’s a big ka-ching!’ he laughed. The West Wing, starring Martin Sheen as the President most Americans wish they’d had — Jed Bartlet — is my alltime No. 1 television show. I finally got to meet Sheen, and admit my fandom. ‘Great characters, and it taught me so much about America,’ I gushed. ‘You know what I’m obsessed with right now?’ he replied. ‘ Downton Abbey. Great characters, and it teaches me so much about Britain!’ When Robin van Persie defected from Arsenal to Manchester United last summer, it felt like discovering my wife was having an affair with Ian Hislop — inexplicably horrific. Tonight, as United celebrated another victory on their way to inevitable Premier League glory, Rio Ferdinand tweeted me a photo of him and a beaming Van Persie in a restaurant, sporting bibs and forking two huge T-bones. He wrote, ‘ Piersy, we ordered two massive steaks and thought of you, my man! Everything okay, fella?’ Short of the Hislop video emerging, it just doesn’t get any worse. Woke to a cheery email from Katherine Jenkins pol itely asking me to tweet about her London Marathon charity run. ‘It’s in memory of my father, and in aid of Macmillan,’ she wrote, before admitting, ‘I need your massive Twitter power.’ It’s quite distressing to realise this is now my most attractive asset to members of the opposite sex. But I always do what I can to help marathon runners. It’s an amazing ordeal