In her book, Clooney wrote that Whiting was driven to put a high gloss on the act and to make sure the four women dressed in sequined evening gowns that complimented each other.
From Girl Singer: "Margaret had the grandest visions for us she wrestled us into coordinating costumes, pushed for publicity, talked of television and even Broadway."
Rose Marie, Clooney wrote, "encouraged the rest of us to liven up our acts."
"Thats right," Rose Marie said when told of Rosemarys published comments. "I taught them how to talk in the show, I taught them how to bow. I taught them quite a few things. The finale was the most important thing to me. I was the one who would find a lot of the material."
She also found a clothing establishment that would sell the "girls" beautiful beaded and sequined gowns at wholesale prices. Margaret, Rose Marie and Clooney were thrilled and each bought a number of glittering dresses. For a long time, however, OConnell resisted purchasing on-stage attire, which was expensive even at a deep discount.
"Margaret was wonderful. Shed always say, Lets do it. She was Miss Show Business," Rose Marie said. "And Clooney would go along with everything. But Helen was a drag. She really was. Most of us were beaded and in sequins, and Helen would appear in a plain dress.
"She would underplay it, until John Kenley, of the Kenley Theater Circuit, in Ohio, went over to her and said, You look like youre wearing pajamas next to the other girls. She said she was wearing a designer dress, and he said, I dont care. You look like youre wearing pajamas. Theyre all sequined and beaded and theatrical and you look like you just came out of the bathroom. She didnt care for that too much."
Before long Helen, too, discarded the casual wear for a more theatrical look onstage.
The format of the show was fairly simple and straightforward once a few wrinkles were ironed out. Whiting would appear first, singing a mixture of her old hits and a contemporary song or two. OConnell, who also performed a mixture of her signature songs and more modern selections, followed her. After a brief intermission, a snippet of film showing "Baby Rose Marie" would appear on an on-stage movie screen, and Rose Marie would appear in a sequined dress and floor-length fur coat and belt out a whiskey-voiced rendition of "Im Glad Im Not Young Anymore," with new lyrics written by Sammy Cahn. Clooney, considered by many as the anchor of the group, performed last, and like Whiting and OConnell, mixed her old hits like "Come On-a My House" with more contemporary numbers like "A Song for You" and "Come In From the Rain."
At the close of the show, all four women would appear on stage for ten minutes, doing funny patter and singing a parody version of "Together" from the Broadway show "Gypsy."
"As we toured we finally got a song, The Four Girls Four Song, to sing at the finale," Whiting said. "It was fun. It kept us on our toes. Every night I opened that show, I did it with a great love for those girls. And god, werent we lucky to do that? It turned out to be a sensational act."
The Four Girls Four Song was co-written by the songwriter John Meyer, who had worked with Whiting for years, writing special material for her.
"I joined that tour along the way when I was writing for Margaret," Meyer said as part of a telephone interview in February. "The title song originated from a guy from the West coast, Tom Hatten. He was not primarily a lyricist but he did write a lyric, The Four Girls Four lyric. Margaret came to me and said, John, we have a lyric for a number that the four of us could do together, but theres no tune. I usually write music and lyrics, but she asked me if I would consider setting Toms lyric to music. I said okay, and did and it turned out very nicely."
Key to the song was a series of lyrics that provided quick character sketches of the four ladies, and allowed the audience a perceived glimpse into their life on the road.
Take, for example, a snippet of "The Four Girls Four Song" as sung by Rose Marie, in which she describes Whiting:
One reason the song went over so well with the audience and the performers was that it had an element of truth to it: "We would all go on adventures, either shopping adventures or dining adventures," Sviridoff said. "Margaret was the one that always found stores and restaurants. She was almost like the tour guide."
Or this bit of lyric, sung by Whiting about OConnell:
"We would have a press conference set up and Helen wouldnt show up," Rose Marie said. "Youd say to her, Why didnt you show up? And shed say, Nobody told me about it. Well, shed be standing right there at the time the plans were made! So we used to get into arguments over things like that."
Or this bit, as sung by Clooney about Rose Marie:
Indeed, Rose Maries signature black bow got her a great deal of attention when shed be out in public with Clooney and Whiting: "It got very embarrassing," she said. "People would ask me for an autograph and they wouldnt ask Clooney or Margaret. But what the hell, thats part of the game."
And finally, it was Helens turn to sing the lyrics pertaining to Clooney:
When the "At least thats what we all assume" line was sung, Rosemary typically winked at the audience and gave them a conspiratorial "OK" sign, as if to teasingly suggest that "sleeping" was not what was going on behind the doors of her hotel room. That lyric was a gentle reference to Rosemarys long term relationship with the charming DiPaolo, whom the women almost universally adored.
"They treated me like their little brother," DiPaolo said. "They bought me presents and things. I was so spoiled."
Though eventually The 4 Girls 4 Song was discarded, for the first few years of the tour it was among the most popular numbers in the show. Indeed, if there was one consistent criticism of the act, it was that there wasnt more time spent with all four women performing together.
"The funny part is that Margaret brought this new tune in to the girls very proudly because she had basically engineered its conception," Meyer said. "She sang it to them, and they all just turned away and made no remark at all. When they heard the song for the first time, that was their reaction, and I think it was because they felt it would be formidably difficult to learn. I think they didnt want to have to be bothered to learn a piece of new material. But they did and they sang it for maybe the first leg of the tour until somebody was replaced."
Meyers memory of the "girls" initial reaction to the song is confirmed by an account of the incident in Whitings autobiography.
"To say I was crushed was to tell the truth," she wrote of the womens response to the Four Girls Four Song. "I found myself standing onstage crying terrible tears of frustration. I was mad and I was tired. And I had worked so hard. And to get this kind of dismissal?"
Songwriter Meyer briefly followed the tour during its early days, and saw the four women coalesce into what Whiting described as a "circus family," despite their occasional differences.
"They had a wonderful camaraderie. Margaret has a great sense of humor, and so had Rosemary. And Rose Marie, of course, is a comic. Helen had a very dry wit. And so it was fun. I cant remember any particular exchange that happened, but they certainly had a lovely dynamic going in terms of the ease with which they negotiated with each other. They got to be very friendly."
In May of 1979, 4 Girls 4 performed at Westbury Music Fair on Long Island, New York. John Wilson of the New York Times caught the act. He described it as follows: