If you haven’t guessed yet, Rosemary Clooney is related to the actor George Clooney, but will get to that in a moment on with today’s story.
Rosemary Clooney was born in Maysville Kentucky, on May 23rd 1928 and she was one of five children, when Rosemary turned fifteen years old, her mother, and her brother Nick moved to California.
While Rosemary remained with her father in Kentucky she was raised by her sister Betty. Rosemary and Betty became entertainers, as a duo sister act. While her brother Nick became a newsman and television broadcaster.
After a slew of variety shows with her sister people started to take notice of Rosemary as a serious performer and went on with her career without her sister Betty.
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, and then it became final in 1967.
Some of her children including Miguel Ferrer and Rafael Ferrer, and her nephew, George Clooney, also became respected actors and entertainers.
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 television commercials.
One of my favorite Rosemary Clooney movies was when she starred along Bing Crosby in the movie called “White Christmas.”
Today’s YouTube clips share by user named (Fifties Fatimah), in a song called, “Sisters,” where Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen play two sisters in the movie, which is how her career started with her own sister Betty.
Rosemary 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.
Even after Rosemary Clooney retired, she was still able to mesmerize audiences with her warmth, depth of feeling, honesty, and unsurpassed talent, with everything she endured in her life.
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.
Rosemary recorded 25 albums for Concord Jazz and maintained a busy touring schedule up until her cancer surgery in January 2002. In the year preceding her death, she had toured in England, Dublin, Honolulu, New York City, and many cities in between.
In lieu of Rosemary Clooney’s birthday, she had a lot ups and downs in her life, which is something we’ve all experienced as well, in dealing with the unexpected, but what we needs to be expected today is remembering what wonderful memories Rosemary Clooney left us in her songs and movies.
The best way of celebrating a birthday, is by sharing something about that person to everyone you know, as we remember Rosemary Clooney today.
Written and Designed by JD Mitchell