Sleight of Hand Country-folk singer Todd Snider has been likened to Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and many others. But he's also a storyteller. Here's one about the time Tony Bennett stole $65 from him.
NPR logo

Sleight of Hand

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/356942135/356942397" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/356942135/356942397" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Now, there are many different types of sleight-of-hand. Country-folk singer-songwriter Todd Snider, he was robbed once, but not just by anyone. Todd, he got jacked - well, I'm going to let him tell it.

TODD SNIDER: Hello, everybody. My name is Todd Snider. And I'm going to tell you a story that my friends like me to tell about the time that Tony Bennett stole 65 bucks from me. And he knows it, too. My wife agreed to let me buy an old car. And I looked in the paper, and I found a 1964 convertible Rocket '88. The very first rock 'n roll song by Ike Turner was called "Rocket 88."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKET 88")

IKE TURNER: (Singing) V-8 motor and this modern design. Black convertible top and the gals don't mind. Sportin' with me, ridin' all around town for joy...

SNIDER: The car was in great shape. It's not now. These days, the top of the car won't go up. So I should say it's not actually a convertible. It doesn't convert. It's a - I don't even know what you call that. But one of my favorite things in the world to do is wash it.

So anyway, it was a beautiful day, and I was down at the car wash power-hosing the car, which I sincerely find relaxing. And right then in that the lovely moment, this guy comes walking toward me, either homeless or at least prone to, you know, sleeping outside. In a mildly intimidating manner, he said, hey, how about you give me a couple bucks, and I help you wash your car? So I like screwed up the little nerve I had, and I said, listen man, I really find it relaxing when I do this alone. How about if I give you a couple bucks, and you don't help me wash my car? And no [bleep], this guy says, no man, I think I'm going to help you wash your car.

I don't even know if that's legal. You can't just show up and tell someone that you're going to mow their lawn. That just can't be legal. But I didn't know what to do, and I was scared. So I screwed down all the nerve that I screwed up and said fine, you know. So he picked up the brush and said you squirt the soap water and I'll scrub. Yes. OK. You're the boss, man. And we pretty much did the whole car that way. And as we did, we started talking, like, you know, about places we'd been, troubles we'd had, girls we knew.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TINY BUBBLES")

DON HO: (Singing) Tiny bubbles...

SNIDER: And I got to tell you that by the time we finished, not only did, you know, I like him, but the car was clearly cleaner and better off for having been washed by two guys rather than just one. He said he'd keep an eye out for me, and then as he was about to walk off, I said, like, hey, man, one more thing. Honestly, when you came over here, were you going to rob me? And he laughed and said, yeah, man. So I laughed, too, but I was panicked and what I guess what I'd call fight or flight, I just reached out my hand and said what's your name, man, you know? Without even blinking, this guys says I'm Tony Bennett. And without blinking more than three or four times, I said, well, great. I'm Bing Crosby. Nice to meet you. His eyes got, like, wide and he started yelling, are you messing with me, man? I said, what do you mean? You started it. You told me that you were Tony Bennett. And he goes, what do you mean? I am Tony Bennett. And he pulls out this ID, and it had his photo on it. And it said Tony Bennett.

And I was like - oh - you got me. I'm wrong. You're right. And I'm not Bing Crosby at all. And then we hugged. And I'm pretty sure - and by pretty sure I mean a thousand percent sure - that it was during that hug that Tony Bennett stole 65 bucks out of my coat pocket. I always want to add when I get done with that story because my friends, you know, be like - oh, well, I thought you were going to tell us about that "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" Tony Bennett. And so sorry if there was confusion about that. I was talking about the Tony Bennett that hangs around the East National Car Wash.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A LITTLE STREET WHERE OLD FRIENDS MEET")

TONY BENNETT: (Singing) It's just a little street where old friends meet. And treat you in the same old way...

WASHINGTON: Thanks a lot, Todd Snider. This story comes from his book, "I Never Met A Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales." We'll have a link to Todd Snider's book on our website snapjudgment.org. A special shout-out to the folks over at Dinner Party Download for bringing us that story. The Dinner Party Download is a public radio show hosted by Brendan Francis Newnam and Rico Gagliano. It's about culture, food, conversation. They'll help you win your weekend dinner parties. Check them out at dinnerpartydownload.org. Much love to them. Now when SNAP JUDGMENT returns, how to win friends and influence enemies magically. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.