FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ROSEMARY CLOONEY PASSES AWAY
Legendary Singer, Actress Surrounded by Family at Home
BEVERLY HILLS, California, June 29, 2002-- Rosemary Clooney, America's most beloved "girl singer" whose career spanned seven decades, passed away tonight (Saturday) from complications related to lung cancer. Ms. Clooney, 74, was at her home in Beverly Hills, surrounded by her family, including her five children, grandchildren and her husband.
Ms. Clooney began her professional career singing duets with her sister Betty at Cincinnati's WLW Radio in 1945. Two years later, they joined the Tony Pastor Band as "The Clooney Sisters," making their debut at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. In 1949, Rosemary signed a solo recording contract with Columbia Records.
Her first single record was "Come On-a-My House" in 1951. It was a big hit, and the beginning of her career as a star and headliner. Three years later, in 1954, she co-starred in the classic movie, "White Christmas."
"GQ Magazine" noted in 1994: "When she landed on the cover of TIME in 1953, it was as if the entire era had been stamped for approval -- and she was the ideal creation for the time, fabricated from whole blonde cloth."
In 1956-57, she had her own television series, "The Rosemary Clooney Show," on CBS, followed by a syndicated variety show. At the height of her career, she was also married to Academy Award-winning actor Jose Ferrer; and the couple had five children - Miguel, Maria, Gabriel, Monsita and Rafael - all born between February, 1955, and March, 1960.
Much of her time during the next three decades was spent as parent, performer and unofficial reviewer of pop music and rock and roll. Rosemary realized that the fans of her hit songs (many of the songs are now staples in films, television shows and in television commercials) were not buying as many records. She occasionally recorded and performed, but felt her successful career was behind her. That was not the case.
In 1997, she resumed her recording career, signing with Concord Records. The debut album with her new label was "Everything's Coming Up Rosie," and she recorded more than 20 albums for Concord since then. In 1982, she was the subject of a CBS-TV movie, "Rosie, The Rosemary Clooney Story," based on her autobiography, "This For Remembrance."
In 1990, Rosemary appeared at the legendary Rainbow & Stars in New York for the first time, and then returned for SRO engagements annually through 1996. Her inaugural Carnegie Hall performance ("In Concert: Rosemary Clooney and the Arrangers") was in 1991. She returned to Carnegie Hall in 1993 for a tribute to long-time friend Bing Crosby, and made later appearances to pay tribute to Nelson Riddle and for a jazz festival.
In 1995, she celebrated her 50th year singing professionally. The celebration included TV's "Rosemary Clooney's Demi-Centennial: A Girl Singer's Golden Anniversary Celebration," a 90-minute mix of live performance and tributes which had its world premiere on A&E, and the Concord CD, "Demi-Centennial," which contained many of her biggest hits.
She received her first-ever Grammy and Emmy nominations in the 1990s, as well. In 1995, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series" for her role on NBC's "ER" (co-starring with her nephew, George Clooney). Her 1992 CD, "Girl Singer," earned her a first-ever Grammy nomination (in the "Traditional Pop Vocal Performance" category). That was followed by Grammy nominations for "Do You Miss New York" in 1993; "Demi-Centennial" in 1995, and "Rosemary Clooney: Sentimental Journey, The Girl Singer and her New Big Band" for 2001.
At the end of 1996, more than fifty years since her professional singing debut, Rosemary Clooney ended the year with three of the "Top Ten Indie Jazz" albums of the year ("Rosemary Clooney's White Christmas"; "Dedicated to Nelson," and "Demi-Centennial.")
The year 1998 began with three CDs on 1997 year-end lists (including 1997's "Mothers and Daughters" which she dedicated to her children and grandchildren) and with a new CD, "Rosemary Clooney 70," to celebrate her 70th birthday.
In 1999, she opened Feinstein's at the Regency for long-time friend Michael Feinstein, heralding a triumphant return to the New York nightclub scene. Later that year, she starred in a PBS special, "Swing It." At the end of 1999, Rosemary's second autobiography, "Girl Singer" and the companion CD, "Songs from the Girl Singer" were released. That was soon followed by the release of another CD, "Brazil," paying tribute to some of her favorite singers. Her latest Concord CD is "Rosemary Clooney: Sentinmental Journey." Each of the CDs made their debut on "Billboard's" charts.
In February, 2002, she was awarded a Lifetime Grammy. She was still hospitalized (following lung cancer surgery a month earlier), and was unable to accept the award in person.
Rosemary Clooney made people smile. When complemented for the passion with which she sang every song, she would say: "I'm making a living, and I'm singing well. And I know it. I'm working. That's what I do." Each time she sang a song -- whether a nostalgic favorite like Come On-A-My House (which she thought was "dumb") or another or her hits ("White Christmas," "Hey There," "You're Just In Love," "Mambo Italiano," "Sophisticated Lady," "Tenderly," "This Old House"), or a standard audiences clamored to hear her sing ("Our Love Is Here To Stay," "From this Moment On," "Old Man River," "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" or "Thanks for the Memories") - she felt a responsibility to the audience and was very conscious of the fact that she was trusted with the their special memories. It was her job to sing the song in a special way every time for anyone in hearing range whose life the song had ever impacted.
The world - including the press - were captivated by this survivor who shared her appreciation for each day and each performance with everyone she touched. Excerpts during the past decade include:
"Rosemary Clooney has achieved the kind of comfort level as a performer where her nightclub appearances have the feel of family affairs&ldots;she presides like a&ldots;grandmother blending songs and anecdotes into rich personal history that keeps you handing on every word."
--NEW YORK TIMES, March 2001
"Something inexplicable, inimitable, that sets her apart from so many good but earthbound singers you'll find in other venues."
--NEW YORK POST, March 2001
"Clooney is singing with the warmth, wisdom and confidence that has long been her trademark."
--VARIETY, March 2001
"Clooney's voice has been one of the natural wonders - too often under appreciated - since her pop star days in the '50s. And her turn toward jazz in recent decades has simply been a matter of bringing to the surface rhythmic qualities that were always a subtext in her singing."
--LOS ANGELES TIMES, July, 2000
"When she sings, with perfect enunciation, a casually swinging authority and a sound that still conveys a flavor of spring flowers, you're less aware of technique and interpretation than of a life poured directly into song."
--NEW YORK TIMES, October, 1999
"Clooney has few peers when it comes to interpretive skills and phrasing. Her seemingly relaxed, unforced style plumbs the depth of every lyric."
--HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, October, 1999
"She is honest, direct and knowing. And at any tempo, subtly and effortlessly, she swings." "with that particular combination of tenderness, warmth and rue that is uniquely hers - all seemed right with the world again."
--NEW YORK POST, October,1999
"She's back, delivering the goods deftly as ever and still without peer - the best of her breed."
--HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, May, 1998
"Clooney's instrument is a wonder: the throaty, sensuous, unmistakably plangent timbre conveys rueful intimacy and great intelligence&ldots;"
Gary Giddins--THE VILLAGE VOICE, May, 1998
"Those gorgeous blue eyes still radiate an undeniable star power&ldots;. This is one mature girl singer who has earned the right to sing the blues."
--HARPER'S BAZAAR, May, 1998
"&ldots;the Sinatra of the ladies."
Erich Kunzel, Conductor/Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, June, 1998
"She came through hell so she could sing us the great songs the way they were meant to be sung.... She is the standard-bearer now, not only for the music but for the time, for an era in America when our pop music was classic, written by masters, when even our blues were tempered by the blind optimism of a land too young to know the depth of its flaws."
--GENTLEMEN'S QUARTERLY, 1994
"...has emerged over the last decade as an icon of classical pop and jazz, is a hip earth mother, intuitive, intelligent, without pretense, coloring her visions of the pop repertory with a husky-smooth introspective warmth."
--NEW YORK TIMES, 1993
"Mellow as mature wine...she brings a naturalness, solidity and unpretentious personal honesty to whatever she sings."
--NEW YORK TIMES, 1992
"A pop icon and spoken of in the same breath as Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald."
-- WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1994
"She has been inducted into that special club that not only sings standards but also sets them: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald.... What remains is a warmth, a depth of understanding, an honesty that surpasses craft."
--WASHINGTON POST, 1993 (Marking the presentation of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for her "significant contribution to the American arts.")
"She never sang a word she didn't mean or feel and she made us feel it, too."
--BOSTON GLOBE, 1993 Quoting composer/conductor John Williams
It was always noted that there were rough times for Clooney, and how each experience made its way into her performances.
Born in Maysville, Kentucky, she and her sister, Betty, moved to Cincinnati when she was 13. From early on, she admired the talents of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and credited soon-to-be-pal Frank Sinatra for her love of the lyrics. Clooney's friendships lasted a lifetime. She met longtime friend Bing Crosby prior to "White Christmas." It was the legendary singer and actor who wrote to Paramount when the film was being cast suggesting, "How about a dame called Rosemary Clooney - sings a good song and is purportedly personable?"
She and Ferrer (whom she called "the most sophisticated man I ever met") married in 1953, and had five children by 1960. They were divorced in the 1960s. In June, 1968, she was at the celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles with two of her children the night her friend and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was killed. One of her kids summed it up at the time by saying, "Mamma went nuts." Her life and career began to fall apart.
Rosemary spoke openly about her subsequent nervous breakdown, hospitalization, drug use and diagnosis of a drug-induced psychosis. She reflected, "The whole country was having a nervous breakdown in the late 1960s. I just had mine in public."
She, obviously, came back. She sang at Holiday Inns, and friends like Crosby, Tony Bennett and Bob Hope invited her to perform with them. Audiences knew her voice because of those Coronet commercials ("Extra value is what you get when you buy Coronet.")
And, then there was Dante DiPaolo, whom she married in 1996. A Hollywood dancer she dated before she met Jose Ferrer, they had lost touch over the years. They "re-discovered" each other driving near Rosemary's house in the 1980s, and the friendship rekindled. They have been inseparable since that time.
In addition to her husband and five children, Rosemary Clooney is survived by ten grandchildren Jordan Ferrer, Dustin Ferrer, Gabrielle Ferrer, Tessa Rose Ferrer, Nathaniel Botwick, Theo Botwick, Harry Botwick, Lukas Ferrer, Rafael Ferrer, Isabella Ferrer; her brother, Nick Clooney; sister Gail Clooney Darley; nephew George Clooney, nieces Cathi Campo and Ada Clooney.
The family asks that any donations be made to the Rosemary Clooney Fund for Support of Pulmonary Research, c/o Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.
Services will be held in Beverly Hills and Kentucky and are pending.
Publicist: Linda Dozoretz