Saturday, July 3, 2004

$15,000 'dinner' just a handshake

Gary Pusateri may ask to read the fine print next time he bids on dinner with a celebrity.

Billed as "Dinner with Tony Bennett," Pusateri paid $15,000 - the highest bid - for what he thought was to be an evening meal with the 77-year-old singer at a downtown Baltimore Italian restaurant.

Instead, Pusateri and more than 100 others got to shake Bennett's hand. And when it came time to eat, the retired computer analyst ate on the second floor, while Bennett dined with his guests on the first floor.

"It was a big disappointment," Pusateri said. "I really wanted to be with him. That's why I bid extra."

Pusateri, 52, placed the bid at a charity auction held moments before Bennett took the stage at a concert to raise money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease) research at Johns Hopkins.

When Pusateri arrived at the restaurant, he and his guests were ushered to a table, completely out of sight of Bennett.

"I never actually saw him except when he left the limo," he said. The auctioneer deflected criticism, saying his script read the winning bidder and three friends would eat with Bennett.

Bennett is demanding that the organizers refund Pusateri's money, Bennett's manager said Wednesday.

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