"Clooney: An Appreciation"

By Joe Delaney, LAS VEGAS SUN, July 05, 2002

My first meeting with the Clooney family was at the behest of a Newport, Ky., disc jockey named Dick Pike. The time was the late 1940s or early 1950s. I was with Decca Records, now MCA, based in New York City, visiting our Cincinnati distributor.

Pike asked if I could meet with him and a family whose two daughters had an opportunity to join the Tony Pastor Orchestra on the road. Pastor had been an important cog in the Artie Shaw orchestra before going out on his own. Pastor and I were good friends, so I assured the Clooney family that Pastor would be like a surrogate father to Rosemary and Betty, the Clooney Sisters.

After a couple of years with Pastor, Betty decided the road was not for her and retired, married, and lived in Las Vegas until her death in the 1980s. Rosemary continued as a single and signed with Columbia, where her record producer and mentor was the head of the artists and repertoire department, Mitch Miller.

Under Miller's aegis, the hit records came in rapid succession, ballads as well as novelty tunes. "White Christmas," a film with Bing Crosby, was a highlight in that aspect of her career. In later years, on the Concord label, she received her proper due as a jazz vocalist. She appeared here most recently last year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Artemus Ham Hall.

Another memory: Mime genius Marcel Marceau made his American debut at a theater on Manhattan's lower East Side. I was there with Rosemary and her husband at that time, Jose Ferrer, winner of an Academy Award for his performance as Cyrano de Bergerac.

Marceau concluded the first act with his performance of the cycle of life, starting and ending with man in the fetal position. Most impressive. Standing in the alley way at intermission, Ferrer remarked that what Marceau did was quite ordinary and proceeded to duplicate the 90-second sequence. Rosemary, angered by his public display of ego, decked him.

Theirs was a stormy marriage that resulted in a number of children, none of whom have achieved the prominence of her nephew, television and film star George Clooney.

I remember Rosemary Clooney best as a warm, talented, courageous, sometimes feisty lady who lived her life fully. The type of person who, when they're gone, you wish you could have spent more time with.