'4 Girls 4' Brings Song And Nostalgia to L.I.
by John S. Wilson, New York Times, May 18, 1979

Four seasoned women singers -- Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting, Rose Marie and Helen O'Connell -- have been touring the country during the last year in a concert presentation called "4 Girls 4." Which somewhat to the surprise of everyone involved, has been breaking house records from coast to coast in auditoriums, theaters in the round, tents and hotels. This weekend they are at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island, where they are playing tonight, twice tomorrow evening and on Sunday afternoon and evening.

They set their first house record in May 1978 at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, where they played their first engagement after a couple of break-in performances the preceding year. Since then, they have broken records at two other Fairmont Hotels (in San Francisco and Dallas), at tents in Beverly, Mass., and Hyannisport, Mass., at the Mill Run Theater, a theater in the round outside Chicago, at the Registry Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., and at the Music Hall, a Detroit auditorium ("Thank God, we broke the record in my home town," says Miss Whiting).

The reason for this success is a little difficult to pin down. Miss Clooney thinks it's a question of timing, of older women who have recently come into the work force identifying with them. Rose Marie sees it as a matter of professionalism.

"Somebody told me that the wonderful feeling about the show is that you could just sit down and relax," she said, "because you know that everybody knows what to do on stage--how to walk on stage, how to talk, how to sing and how to take care of an audience."


Miss Whiting takes a basic view. "We were booked by God," she says.

However, it was not the Deity that brought them together but ill Loeb, who had once been Miss Whiting's agent, had once been Rose Marie's manager and who is now Miss Clooney's manager. In August 1977, he asked all three of his quondam clients--Miss Clooney, who had first come to fame singing with Tony Pastor's orchestra, Rose Marie who had been a child star on radio as Baby Rose Marie and who went on to television fame on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Hollywood Squares," and Miss WHiting, who started her singing career in the 40's with a million-selling record of "My Ideal," written by her father, Richard Whiting -- to join with Barbara McNair for a week at the Doheny Plaza Theater in Beverly Hills.

"He told me, 'You only have to do half an hour and then you can go home,'" Miss Whiting recalled. "I said, 'What do you mean, go home?' Then I called Rose Marie and told her, 'We can't do 30 minutes and disappear. We have to have a finish. That's show biz.'"

"So we got Johnny Meyer to write a parody on 'Side by Side' as a finish. Then when we got to the theater, I found that one of my songs, 'A Song For You,' was also Clooney's closing song. 'Well,' we said, 'there's the end of '4 Girls 4.' But then Rose Marie took charge. 'Do you have another ballad?' she asked me. I said I did. 'Do it!' she ordered."


The week was such a success that they decided to do it again. When they got together two months later in Huntington Hartford Theater in Los Angeles, Miss McNair was not available. She was replaced by Helen O'Connell, who like Miss Clooney, had started in the 40's as a bnad singer (with Jimmy Dorsey).

During the next six months each of the singers had individual commitments so it was not until May 1978, that they could get together again. Since then, they have toured periodically for several weeks at a time, fitting their joint appearances between their personal engagements. Miss O'Connell, who was the hostess on the "Miss U.S.A." and "Miss Universe" show on television, had to be in Biloxi, Miss., last month for "Miss U.S.A." show and will be in Perth, Australia, in July, for "Miss Universe." Miss Whiting and Miss Clooney have singing engagements and Rose Marie is a regular on "Hollywood Squares."


The programs are a mixture of songs that are associated with each performer -- songs audiences expect them to sing -- plus contemporary material.

"It's a contemporary look at nostalgia," says Miss WHiting, whose program includes a Billy Joel song.

Miss Clooney, who says she doesn't "want to sound like a 1950's jukebox," has just added a song that her future daughter-in-law, Debby Boone, has aksed her to sing at ther wedding (she will be married to Miss Clooney's song, Gabriel Ferrer).

"It's a gorgeous love song called 'The Promise,'" said Miss Clooney, "and I told the girls that I didn't know how I was going to do it at the wedding with out crying. I don't want to do that. I'd look sort of stupid -- the mother of the groom is allowed to cry, but not when she's singing. So the girls suggested that I put it in the show. Then, at least, I can get past the song part of it and just deal with the event."