A LEGEND AND A LADY
VENERABLE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MAY BE MORE POPULAR THAN EVER
Denver Rocky Mountain News - 2-25-99
The words to that famous song about New York do not lie: If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. Rosemary Clooney certainly discovered that back in 1951, soon after the release of her first hit single.
``That year, I was working at the Olympia in Miami, and I'd heard that Come On-a My House was selling,'' the beloved singer recalled. ``Well, when I got back to New York, I was walking along Broadway and passed by a record store. And the song was blaring out of the speakers outside the store!''
A long-running life in show business was launched - and it shows no signs of evaporating all these years later. ``My satisfaction as a singer comes from the work, not the achievement,'' says the 70-year-old singer, who appears with the Colorado Symphony tonight and Saturday in Boettcher Hall.
In the autumn of her career, she remains modest and down-to-earth, despite the glow of success from a slew of best-selling records and movies, plus her popular shows and guest appearances on TV (a one-shot collaboration with nephew George Clooney on an episode of ER earned her an Emmy nomination in 1995).
She may be one of the hottest acts in the country - routinely selling out her club dates in New York and elsewhere - but Clooney has not forgotten her humble beginnings in Maysville, Ky.
A born singer, by her own admission, she made her public debut at 3. ``My grandfather was in politics, and I started off singing on street corners for him when he ran for mayor. Later on, he got wiped out in the big flood of 1937.
``You know what? I was satisfied working in Kentucky. And when I got a job in high school in Cincinnati, earning $20 a week, I was happy with that. Just as I was when (she and her sister Betty) joined the Pastor Band for $150 a week. Really, it was my sister who was ambitious - though I was not resistant.''
Her life has not always been easy. In recent years, there were bouts with prescription drugs and alcohol - but Clooney survived the bad times. In fact, she may be more popular now than ever. Concerts and club dates attract legions of old and new fans. (One of her teen-age admirers has produced a Web page in Clooney's honor, declaring that the singer ``is and will always be my idol.'') She continues to make recordings, the latest being a collection with the Count Basie Orchestra on her longtime label, Concord.
``Truthfully, I never felt I had to work for the love of an audience,'' Clooney noted. But then, she grew up with a large, built-in audience. ``I come from a very big family,'' she said in a phone conversation from her Beverly Hills home, where she lived next door to Ira Gershwin for 35 years. ``I was always staying with a grandmother or an aunt or whoever. And there were lots of kids around, once we were grown. I have five, my sister had four and (brother) Nicky has only one - but one is enough when that one is George.
``When I was really young, there was always music around. My father had his tastes. He didn't like (bandleader Stan) Kenton - but, of course, he was wrong. When my sister and I went on the road, Uncle George was our guardian.''
Fame seemed to change her not a drop, as the decades came and went. The reason, she said, lies in her strong ties to the Clooney clan. ``I've had my ups and downs - there were periods when I wasn't singing as well, because I lost interest in it. But my family and friends were always there for support. So, I was not aware of being changed much by circumstances.''
Despite her numerous film appearances (highlighted by White Christmas in 1954), Clooney remains ambivalent about the nonsinging side of her show business career. ``Do more acting? I don't think so. The work is too hard.''
What about her heralded guest spot on ER? ``George got me the part, and I did have fun with it. That's all.'' She learned enough about the hazards of that profession by watching her nephew struggle to build a career. (``Oh, George was doing everything and anything in the early days,'' she recalled.) Now, Clooney is the mother of an aspiring thespian, Miguel. ``He's a wonderful actor - but he does have to struggle,'' she lamented.
Her struggling days behind her, Clooney can now take on work at her own pace. She'll arrive in Denver early, to adjust to the altitude, ``and to watch my energy level.'' Rest may be difficult in Denver, however, because of family - not hers, but her husband's.
Longtime companion and husband of one year, Dante DiPaolo, hails from Frederick, just west of Fort Lupton. ``We met 40 years ago, and we lived together for 25 years. We were buddies. Then we decided to get married. He's a wonderful dancer. But his relatives are driving me crazy. They all want to go (to Boettcher Hall) on the same night, and they all want to sit in the first row.''
Conjures up memories of singing in the living room back in Maysville, all those years ago.
Where: Boettcher Hall
When: 7:30 tonight and Saturday.
Of note: The veteran pop singer teams with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Information: (303) 830-8497.
Copyright © 1999, Denver Publishing Co.