Sunday Gold: Rosemary Clooney, CBS
(CBS News Sunday Morning)


OSGOOD: You shouldn`t really be too surprised to learn whose voice we`re hearing right now. We`ve already met some extraordinary singers during our month of "Sunday Gold," but we decided the honor of singing the series out should go to a performer who`s been on stage longer than any of the others; a triumphant survivor of an older generation with a lot to say to the newest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLOONEY (singing): Thanks for the memory of candlelight and wine, castles on the Rhine.

OSGOOD (voice-over): For more than 50 years she has been known simply as Rosie, Rosemary Clooney: recording star, night club entertainer, actress. And now at 71 years of age, still calling herself just another girl singer.

CLOONEY (singing): I want to spend all my time with music and musicians.

When I started singing, I sang with a band. That`s what we did. We sat on the stage right next to the piano and smiled. And then when it was our turn to sing, we would get up and sing at the microphone and then go back and sit. And they would say, "Whose your girl singer, " you know, "this time around?"

(singing): Hey there, you with the
stars in your eyes

OSGOOD: "Girl Singer" is the title of her autobiography, a story of the fast life in New York and Hollywood in the 1950`s, drug addiction and collapse in the 1960`s, and an ongoing rebirth ever since.

CLOONEY: I started singing in Maysville, Kentucky.

OSGOOD: Rosemary Clooney was born in northern Kentucky and moved to Cincinnati when she was 13. She and her younger sister, Betty, sang on a local radio station and caught the ear of Tony Pastor and his band.

(SINGING) OSGOOD: It was the 1940`s. They would tour the country by bus for three years.

CLOONEY (singing): Sooner or later you`re going to be coming around I`ll bet you.

OSGOOD: But the big time beckoned. At 19, Columbia Records offered her a solo record contract in New York City. She admired Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, but her love of lyrics, the words, came from Frank Sinatra.

FRANK SINATRA (singing): I feel like a new millionaire.

CLOONEY: If you listen to even his early records, he finishes ever word, the consonants at the end, everything. Every word is spoken and enunciated. He really did that, and he gave me that.

OSGOOD: The legendary Mitch Miller was her boss at Columbia Records. He wanted Clooney to record a song called "Come on a My House." It was, in her own words, "a quasi-Armenian, pseudo folk song." (on camera):Which I understood you didn`t want to do.

CLOONEY: No, well it was the dumbest song, you know. Because, you know, you could just forget all the words, and just say "Come on a my house, come on a my house -- I`m going to give you" -- say whatever you want.

OSGOOD: Was this a showdown with Miller about whether or not you`d do this song?

CLOONEY: Not a showdown at all. He had one sentence. He just said, "I tell you what. Then, if you don`t want to do this, then you`re fired."

(singing): Come on a my house, my house. I`m going to give you candy. Come on a my house, I`m going to give you apple, a plum and everything...

OSGOOD: (voice-over): "Come on a My House" made her a star. Hollywood soon took notice.

(SINGING) OSGOOD: When the film "White Christmas" was being cast, Bing Crosby wrote a note to a producer at Paramount pictures saying asking, "How about a dame called Rosemary Clooney -- sings a good song and is purportedly personable."

CLOONEY (singing): If you are worried and you can`t sleep, just...

We could sing together so easily because we had exactly the same range.

(SINGING) CLOONEY: He was one of the nicest men I`ve ever known.

(singing): My heart still so heavy with the love I have not told.

OSGOOD: Rosemary Clooney says Jose Ferrer (ph) was the most sophisticated man she ever knew. Sixteen years older, he was an established actor, star of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Moulin Rouge"; educated at Princeton, and twice married. They married in 1953 and become a celebrity couple.

CLOONEY: The big moment came with the arrival of Jose Ferrer, the beautiful blond is his wife, singing star Rosemary Clooney.

OSGOOD: She would have five children in five years...

(SINGING) OSGOOD: ... host her own television show, appear in Las Vegas, but her life would begin to unravel. She abused sleeping pills. Her marriage to Jose Ferrer fell apart.

CLOONEY: It was difficult. Joe really -- he was honest about it. He just really had difficulty being with just one person with one woman.

OSGOOD (on camera): And that was difficult for you to deal with.

CLOONEY: Impossible. Impossible, eventually.

OSGOOD (voice-over): Rosemary Clooney began the 1960`s in a divorce court. It was a convulsive decade for the nation and for her personally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country...

OSGOOD: She got caught up in presidential politics. She was in the ambassador hotel in Los Angeles with two of her children the night her friend and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was killed. Not long after this, her children would say, "Mamma went nuts." (on camera): Did that sort of push you over the edge? You had a breakdown...

CLOONEY: I think that was a trigger probably, yeah. That happened in June, so I went to work in July, and I was completely disconnected then. And so I ended up in a hospital plane from Reno to Los Angeles. And then I was put in a locked ward in Mount Sinai.

OSGOOD (voice-over): The diagnosis: drug-induced psychosis.

CLOONEY (singing): What will I do when you are far away and...

OSGOOD: It was a long road back. First singing in local Holiday Inns, eventually back in Las Vegas. Television commercials also introduced her to a new generation.

CLOONEY (singing): Extra value is what you get what you buy Coronet.

OSGOOD: And there would be a young Clooney to share the family spotlight...

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Listen to me, we will rise up together.

OSGOOD: ... the son of her younger brother Nick, the actor George Clooney.

(on camera): That must be something for you. And I`m sure that when George was growing up he was defined as the, as the nephew of Rosemary Clooney.


OSGOOD: And now, I`m sure people think of you as the...

CLOONEY: Absolutely.

OSGOOD: ... aunt of George.

CLOONEY: As the aunt of -- yes, I am and very proud of it. But the most amazing thing is when very young girls, you know, young women, come up and say to me, "We really love your music." And I can`t resist it. I say, "Which one of my songs from the 50`s do you think you like best" because they have no idea.

(singing): A foggy day in London town had me low and had me down.

OSGOOD (voice-over): But there would be more ups and downs. In February of 1998 she was booked to play Carnegie Hall, instead she nearly died of meningitis. While she lay in a comma, she says she dreamed of Tony Bennett.

CLOONEY: I dreamed that Tony Bennett gave me a Grammy, but there were 15 Tony Bennetts and 15 Grammies. And since he`s beaten me almost eight times, since both of us have been nominated, I figured that I`m way ahead, you see.

OSGOOD: In the 50`s, Bennett and Clooney hung out at Patsy`s Restaurant in New York. This past week they were back together at the restaurant for Rosie`s book signing. Also along was Dante Dipaolo (ph), the Hollywood dancer she dated before Jose Ferrer came along. They married two years ago.

CLOONEY (singing): The more I travel across the gravel.

OSGOOD: And she also was back where she loves to be: in front of a band, leaning on a piano.

CLOONEY (singing): The more convinced I feel of the fact New York is the place for me.

OSGOOD: There aren`t many performers who can deliver a song like Rosemary Clooney.

CLOONEY (singing): When lovers hold two arms, will you still be mine?

I`m going to kill you for this tempo.

OSGOOD (on camera): Thinking of yourself as a singer then and as a singer now, is it very different. Do you sing differently today?

CLOONEY: Yes, I think so.

OSGOOD: Better in some ways?

CLOONEY: Oh, I think so much better just as far as being able to reach an audience and let them understand the way that I`m feeling about a particular song.

(singing): thanks for reminding me of rainy afternoons, swingy Harlem tunes, of motor trips and burning lips and burning toast and prunes.

OSGOOD: What do you think you learned about yourself?

CLOONEY: I think I`m a pretty good singer, damn good mother, not a bad wife. I argue a lot but I`m not bad. I cook and I`m funny. That`s not bad to be around.

OSGOOD: Those are all great things to be.

CLOONEY: I think so.

(singing): But thanks for the memory of midnight`s in Momarch (ph), galleries of art. We traveled with the smart set, so I guess that we were smart. I thank you so much (END VIDEOTAPE)

OSGOOD: Next week on SUNDAY MORNING, "Aida" as you`ve never heard it before, thanks to the incomparable Elton John.


Content and programming Copyright MCMXCVIII CBS Worldwide Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright MCMXCVIII Federal Document Clearting House, Inc., which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Content and programming Copyright 1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 1999 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc., which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription.