December 14, 1981
"Clooney: Her Life is Back in Tune"
Eileen Keerdoja with Gerald C. Lubenow in San Francisco and Kim Foltz in New York
She still has honey-blond hair, sparkling eyes and an impish grin. But she's heavier these days, and her voice has a throaty quality that wasn't there when she first invited audiences to "Come On-a My House." Rosemary Clooney, one of the top pop singers of the 1950s, is making a comeback after a nervous breakdown brought on in part by an addiction to barbiturates and tranquilizers. "It was slow, plodding work trying to get started again," she says. "I had to behave perfectly to show people it wasn't going to be like the years I was on drugs."
Clooney, who began gulping pills after she and actor Jose Ferrer divorced for the second time in 1966, fell apart completely after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a friend and a politician she deeply admired. She went on spending sprees, tore up hotel rooms and insulted her audiences. It took a short stay ina hospital psychiatric ward and eight years of therapy to restore her emotional footing and get to the heart of her problem--a need to overachieve. "I was always too busy pretending to be the strong one: superwife and supersinger," she says. "I don't have to do that anymore."
Jukebox: Clooney, 53, is more relaxed about her career now. "I don't have to have another hit to prove that I can sing," she explains. "Now I just do the best I can and try to make it interesting for myself." Branching out a bit, she has recorded albums of country music and jazz, and this month will perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She's not against a little nostalgia, however. Clooney has been touring the country with three other old-timers--Helen O'Connell, Margaret Whiting and Martha Raye--in a musical revue called "4 Girls 4." Besides singing her standards, such as "Botch-a-Me" and "Tenderly," Clooney also does a few contemporary numbers so "I don't sound like a 1950s jukebox."
Clooney says that her life "has fallen into a comfortable place. I feel as though I kind of have it together. Sure, I still get frantic occasionally, and that's when I check out and go to my room and tell everyone not to bother me unless there's a fire. When I can't handle it anymore, I don't feel driven to put up a front."