Clooney, an American musical treasure
of the best friends a song ever had."
decades as one of America’s most beloved entertainers, Rosemary
Clooney garnered numerous awards and may best be recognized for her
starring role with Bing Crosby in White Christmas. The
Wall Street Journal called this Girl
“A pop icon and spoken in the same breath as Sinatra and Ella
Several of her Concord Records garnered her Grammy Nominations. She
didn't win, but was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award on
February 28, 2002. Throughout her long career she received numerous honors,
including an Emmy nomination for her guest appearance on
NBC’s top-rated “ER.”
Source of Rosie's Biographical Information can be found in her two
autobiographies and the various articles
in the Palladium's
This for Remembrance,
published in 1977 by Playboy Press
(out of print but can often be obtained at ebay, yahoo or amazon.
1999 by Doubleday (see the Palladium's
library for reviews
and excerpt. Now available in electronic format.
FROM A&E's BIOGRAPHY
of ROSEMARY CLOONEY - Singer. Born May 23, 1928, in Maysville,
Kentucky. The distinctively unpretentious, deep, rich, and smooth
voice of Rosemary Clooney earned her recognition as one of America's
premiere pop and jazz singers. According to Clooney's record company
press biography, Life magazine, in a tribute to America's "girl
singers" named her one of "six preeminent singers ... whose
performances are living displays of a precious national treasure ...
their recordings a preservation of jewels." First-class crooner
Frank Sinatra stated, as was also reprinted in Clooney's press
biography, "Rosemary Clooney has that great talent which exudes
warmth and feeling in every song she sings. She's a symbol of good
modern American music."
The singer noted
for her decades-long mastery of American popular song started life
amid the poverty of small-town Maysville. Her childhood was a
difficult one; Clooney and younger siblings Betty and Nick were
shuttled among their alcoholic father, Andy, their mother,
Frances—who traveled constantly for her work with a chain of
dress shops—and relatives, who would take turns raising the
children. When Clooney was 13 her mother married a sailor and moved to California, taking Nick with her but leaving the girls behind. Her
father tried to care for Rosemary and Betty, working steadily at a
defense plant, but he left one night to celebrate the end of World
War II—taking the household money with him—and never
returned. As Clooney described in her autobiography, This for
Remembrance, she and Betty were left to fend for themselves. They
collected soda bottles and bought meals at school with the refund
money. The phone had been disconnected, the utilities were about to
be turned off, and the rent was overdue when Rosemary and Betty won
an open singing audition at a Cincinnati radio station. The girls
were so impressive, in fact, that they were hired for a regular late-night
spot at $20 a week each. "The Clooney Sisters," as they
became known, began their singing career in 1945 on WLW in Cincinnati.
This work brought
them to the attention of bandleader Tony Pastor, who happened to be
passing through Ohio. The Clooney Sisters joined Pastor's
orchestra and toured with Pastor as featured singers for a couple of
years until Betty decided to return to Cincinnati and
Rosemary struck out on her own and
at 21 headed for New York City. Clooney's arrival in New York was perfectly
timed with the rage for orchestra-backed singers; she was immediately
signed to a recording contract with Columbia Records. By then
"girl singers," were emerging as recording stars.
It was at Columbia
that Clooney began an important association with Mitch Miller, one of
the company's A&R [Artists and Repertoire] representatives and
top entertainers. In 1951 Miller convinced Clooney to record an
oddball song, Come On-a My House, written by Ross
Bagdasarian with lyrics by William Saroyan. When Miller first
suggested the song, Clooney was highly skeptical, insisting the song
was not her kind of material. She felt it was silly and demeaning;
she believed the double-entendres were a cheap lyrical device and
felt uncomfortable putting on an Italian accent. But Miller was
persistent and finally persuaded Clooney to record it. He conceived a novel instrumental effect utilizing a
harpsichord to accompany Clooney. Much to her surprise, the song was
an immediate and enormous success, topping the charts to become a
gold record. Come On-a My House made Rosemary Clooney a
star. A household name, she became known simply as "Rosie."
In the early 1950s
radio made a strong bid to issue a challenge to the growing magnetism
of television. Star-studded variety programs were created, and week
after week Hollywood studios offered musical programs by big names.
Clooney was signed to co-host, with beloved vocalist Bing Crosby, a
songfest radio show, which aired every weekday morning on CBS radio.
Film roles abounded; Clooney's appearance in White Christmas was
generally credited with the film's enormous success, which made it
the top grosser of 1954. Costarring with hot properties Kaye and
Crosby and accompanied by the music of Irving Berlin, Clooney was
lauded for her performance, in which she sang the ballad Love,
You Didn't Do Right by Me.
As her popularity
swelled, Clooney began a romance with dancer Dante Di Paolo, her
co-star in the films Here Come the Girls and Red Garters.
Nonetheless, to her friends' and the public's amazement, Clooney
eloped in the summer of 1953 with Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer, 16
years her senior. "Rosie" and her whirlwind marriage became
a favorite topic of the tabloid journals. Clooney and Ferrer moved
into a glamorous Beverly Hills home once owned by composer George
Gershwin and entertained with lavish poolside parties attended by the
toast of Hollywood. Their first child was born in 1955 and by 1960,
they had five children.
Clooney became the
star of her own television series in 1956. The Rosemary Clooney Show,
which ran through 1957, was syndicated to more than one hundred
television stations. But by that time, Clooney had begun to feel the
strain of stardom and her relentlessly hectic schedule. The pressure
of raising five children while pursuing careers as a television,
movie, radio, and recording star, coupled with the deteriorating
state of her marriage, soon took its toll. Clooney developed an
addiction to tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Although her life
appeared idyllic to the public, the singer's addiction to drugs
worsened. Clooney and Ferrer filed for divorce in 1961, reconciled for a few
years, then it became final in 1967. Recalling in her autobiography
how she fell prey to "the '50s myth of family and career,"
the singer confessed, "I just did it all because I thought that
I could, it certainly wasn't easy."
For Clooney, the
world came crashing down in 1968. She was standing only yards away
when her close friend Bobby Kennedy, then campaigning for the
Democratic presidential nomination, was assassinated in Los Angeles
at the Ambassador Hotel. The tragedy, compounded with her drug
addiction, triggered a public mental collapse; at a Reno engagement
she cursed at her audience and stalked off the stage. She later
called a press conference to announce her retirement at which she
sobbed incoherently. When a doctor was summoned, Clooney fled and was
eventually found driving on the wrong side of a dangerous mountain
road. Soon thereafter she admitted herself to the psychiatric ward of
Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Clooney remained in therapy for
many years. She worked when she could—at Holiday Inns and small
hotels like the Ventura and the Hawthorne and selling Coronet paper towels in
In 1976 Clooney's
old friend Bing Crosby asked her to join him on his 50th anniversary
tour. It would be Crosby's final tour and Clooney's comeback event.
The highlight of the show came when Clooney joined Crosby in a duet
of On a Slow Boat to China. The next year, Clooney signed
a recording contract with Concord Jazz, taking the next step on her
comeback trail—one that would produce a string of more than a
dozen successful recordings, inaugurated with Everything's Coming Up
Rosie. "I'll keep working as long as I live," Clooney vowed
in an interview with Lear's magazine, "because singing has taken
on the feeling of joy that I had when I started, when my only
responsibility was to sing well. It's even better now ... I can even
pick the songs. The arranger says to me, 'How do you want it? How do
you see it?' Nobody ever asked me that before."
Along with her
renewed recording efforts, Clooney created a living memorial to her
sister Betty, who died in 1976 from a brain aneurysm: the Betty
Clooney Center in Long Beach, California, a facility for
brain-injured young adults. The first of its kind in the U.S., the
center is supported by grants and donations. After receiving the
James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in 1992 in recognition of her
contribution to American music, Clooney told the Washington Post,
"It's for showing up day after day, for small increments of time
and achievement." Claiming that singing has become her
salvation, Clooney added, "I'm the only instrument that's got
the words, so I've got to be able to get that across." As her
top-selling jazz albums indicated, Clooney was still able to
mesmerize audiences with her warmth, depth of feeling, honesty, and
© 2001 Gale Group
UPDATES - After
years of doing it all, and on her own, Rosemary is now married to her
longtime companion Dante DiPaolo, a graceful hollywood dancer. They
married in November of 1997. The nuptials, which took place in
Clooney's hometown of Maysville, Ky., capped off a relationship that
began when Dwight Eisenhower was president. According to DiPaolo, a
former Hollywood dancer, the two met on the set of the film Here
Come the Girls (where, he said, he "fell in love"
with Clooney), and continued their acquaintance during taping of the
1954 film classic White Christmas. But DiPaolo ultimately
quit that picture to perform in another Fifties movie musical,
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And that ended the
relationship -- or so it seemed. In 1973, fate intervened. As DiPaolo
explains it, he was sitting in his 1956 Thunderbird at a Beverly
Hills stop light when Clooney pulled up next to him in her Corvette.
They honked at each other, and Clooney yelled her phone number to
DiPaolo, who wrote the number in the dust on his car's dashboard. A
lasting romance ensued, and after 24 years as a couple, they finally
made it legal. "We went to Rome last April," says Clooney,
"and we had an audience with the pope. We were both brought up
Catholic, but neither of us were ever married in the church." In
an article in Harper's Bazaar (5-1-98) , Rosemary said that the
grandchildren are part of the reason that they finally married
"there were times when the grandchildren would say, 'Where did
you get married?' And I'd have to say, 'We're not married.' They'd
want to know, 'How come you stay in the same room?' I'd say, 'We're
roommates.'" Dante is charged with being the grandchild
wrangler, as Rosemary says, "I can't chase them the way that I
used to," Clooney confesses. "But Dante can. I couldn't
have more help than Dante. So you see, you can't do everything alone."
recieved numerous awards and honors. See the links
page for more details.
Rosemary saw her
mission in life to simply be singing. She said, "I just would
like to keep singing. As soon as I'm not singing well, I hope that I
know it, so that I can get off the stage and leave what I have done.
I hope I'll know, and if I don't, I hope somebody tells me."
Rosemary's last performance was December 15, 2001 at the Count Basie
Theatre in Redbank, NJ and she was still singing well.
In January of
2002, Rosemary underwent lung cancer surgery. She remained
hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic until early May, at which time she
was able to go home to Beverly Hills and share Mother's Day and her
birthday with her family, which includes, five children, ten
grandchildren, brother and sister-in-law Nick and Nina Clooney,
sister Gail Stone Darley and their and Betty's children. She died on
June 29, 2002.
25 albums for Concord Jazz and maintained a busy touring schedule up
until her cancer surgery in January 2002. In the year preceeding her
death, she had toured in England, Dublin, Honolulu, New York City,
and many cities in between.