Michael Feinstein praises Rosemary
By Mary Ellyn Hutton, Post music writer

Michael Feinstein was performing at Riverbend with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops on Saturday night when word of Rosemary Clooney's death became known.

''A call came while I was onstage. They waited to tell me until after my last number. I' m grateful that it happened that way, because I don't know that I would have been able to continue.''

'I knew her for over 20 years. I met her because I was working as an archivist for Ira Gers hwin and Ira lived next door to Rosemary. I lived at the Gershwin house for a short while. I got to know Rosemary becaus e of some kitty cats in the neighborhood - her cat coming over to the Gershwin house and I think it was stealing food or something like that. My first introduction to her was through the feline situation but I had grown up with her music and loved her for a long time. When I went to the door she said, 'Oh, I'm so glad to finally meet you. Come on i n.'''

'We worked together over 200 times. We even worked at Riverbend a few years ago. We toured and did several engage ments, runs in different theaters where we did eight shows a week for weeks on end. Goodness, we played all over the place.''

'Rosemary was a tremendous influence (on my career), not only teaching me the simplicity of interpreting a song. She always sang a song unadorned.

'She was a wonderful, sweet, extremely funny, feisty, larger than life person. She lived l ife to the fullest. She had such an insightful nature. She could size up the makeup of a person in a split second. You c ould not put anything past her. She was passionate about what she loved and equally passionate about what she didn't like. And she was honest. She lived honestly. There was no artifice with her. She was the same onstage and off. It was the same personality.''

And Ms. Clooney's place among 20th-century singers:

''For me, she's No. 1. At least the No. 1 girl singer as she called herself. Because I can't think of another female voice that was more connected or more brilliant. She was truly my favorite singer, and that's why I was always honored to sing with her.''