Copyright 2002 BPI Communication, Inc. - BPI Entertainment News Wire - July 2, 2002, Tuesday 09:38 AM Eastern Time

Adieu to the singer who made Manhattan rosier

By ROBERT OSBORNE, The Hollywood Reporter

There was no one quite like Rosemary Clooney. Every time she made one of her trips to Manhattan to sing, be it for a Carnegie Hall concert or her annual stop at Feinstein's at the Regency (and before that, her regular visits to the now-defunct Rainbow & Stars), the world was, indeed, rosier, the nightlife livelier and certainly the sound of music richer. No one sang better, at least for most of those years, and she had that rare capacity to remain, at all times, a star -- yet as comfortable and accessible to both audiences and friends as Old Dog Tray. To be in her presence was not unlike being perched in front of a fireplace on a cold December evening. Even in her darkest days, like one in 1992 when her ex-husband Jose Ferrer died during a time she was singing sentimental love songs here in Manhattan in one of her R&S engagements, she drew on her Kentucky strength and forged ahead. One always sensed she was never more alive or comfortable than when she was on a stage performing, no matter how big or small the venue, even when her weight gain made movement and stairs difficult to manage ("I've given up drugs and booze and so many other things," she once said to me, "I can't give up food, too, at least not yet."), even when she no longer relied on her memory for lyrics she'd sung hundreds of times before. She said, sure, she would have preferred staying home on Tropical Avenue in Beverly Hills, near her kids and grandkids, cooking and relaxing after a lifetime of traveling to big burgs and tank towns, staying in bad hotels and trying to find someplace to get a meal at midnight following a gig, but, she also explained, "Listen, I'm a singer and that's what comes with it. It's what I do." She was a darling woman, an Earth mother, a good friend and always a much better actress than she ever was given credit for being. No one put more honesty and meaning, but with less theatricality, into a lyric than Rosie Clooney. It's something she also did in the few times she was given a chance to perform sans song. (People did finally take notice of that acting ability when she did a guest appearance on a 1994 episode of "ER," which starred nephew George Clooney and brought Rosie an Emmy nomination; she was particularly delighted that she had been cast in the role before George even knew she was being considered for it.) She's one of those rare artists who's likely to be around as part of our culture, played and replayed on CDs as long as the music of Sinatra, Crosby, Garland, Piaf and Louis Armstrong survive. Deservedly so, too. No one ever put their arms around a song more effectively than Rosemary Clooney.