The story of "I Wanna Be Around," recorded by Tony Bennett for Columbia Records in 1963, begins in Youngstown, Ohio. A cosmetician named Sadie Vimmerstedt lamented about the lack of good songs on the radio. She sent a letter to the Tin Pan Alley songwriter Johnny Mercer in February 1957 and included a phrase that she thought might make a good song. "I want to be around to pick up the pieces when somebody's breaking your heart," Sadie wrote. She liked to think that this was how Nancy Sinatra felt about her husband, "Frankie boy," who left her for Ava Gardner. Not sure of the famous songwriter's address, she sent it to "Johnny Mercer, Songwriter, New York, N.Y." and hoped the letter made it to where it was supposed to go. It did.
Mercer received the letter, which was scratched out on two pieces of an old desk calendar, after someone at the post office looked up the address to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Mercer thought it was a terrific idea for a song, but it was two years before he answered her letter, apologizing for the delay. When months went by before she heard another word, Sadie assumed that Mercer had either changed his mind or forgotten about her. On the contrary, he had been working on lining up one of the best crooners of the day to record the song.
Simply having Tony Bennett record her song may have been enough reward for Sadie, but Mercer took it a step further. He wrote the music and lyrics, but gave Sadie credit as the co-author and arranged for her to receive 50 percent of the royalties. The song was a hit, selling 15,000 copies on the first day it was released. It made Sadie a nice sum of money, as well as made her a local celebrity in Youngstown. She said of Mercer, "He is the most unselfish man. To me, he was a person you could talk to."
When Mercer reflected on his career as a songwriter in a 1971 interview, he seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in giving Sadie a taste of the thrill of hearing your words on the radio. "She's the cutest thing," he said, pointing out that she wrote to him often to keep him updated. Sadie told Mercer of customers at Strouss's Department Store wanting her autograph and of going to Cleveland and Cincinnati for radio appearances. She was even on a game show in New York. As thrilled as she was to have song published, she was ready to have her old life back, though, and maybe got a new sense of appreciation for Mercer's life. She said in a letter to him that she was working every day and added, "I'm tired, I'm going to get out of show business!"
Chances are the song's lyricist Sadie Vimmerstedt heard Rose Marie perform "I Wanna Be Around" on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1963. She died in 1986, so she did not live to see it start to appear in movie soundtracks. It was in the 1990 Marlon Brando movie, The Freshman, and the 1994 baseball comedy, The Scout. Three years later it was included in the soundtrack for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is no surprise since the movie takes place in Johnny Mercer's hometown of Savannah, Georgia, and is loaded with Mercer tunes. In 2006, Bono teamed up with Bennett on a rendition of the song and the video of their duet is on Tony Bennett Duets – the Making of an American Classic.