Rosemary, this one’s for you.
by Bob Powers - G21: The World's Magazine
July 1, 2002

Fans of Rosemary Clooney knew it could be coming, but they didn’t want to believe. The woman who spent nearly 60 years in show business died the evening of June 29 in her beloved home that once belonged to George Gershwin in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The news came after an announcement days earlier that lung cancer surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. early this year had returned. Rosemary was familiar with comebacks; her career was filled with them.

Death came with Rosemary where she would have chosen, in the familiar confines of her decades old home in a neighborhood filled with household names, not far from Los Angeles.

The only other place she might have chosen to die, had she been able to make that decision, was her home in Augusta, Kentucky on the banks of the Ohio River. Augusta sits a few miles from Rosemary’s birthplace, Maysville. (This writer learned a lot about journalism working two years at The Maysville Independent, back during the time when Rosemary had starred in “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Although Rosemary Clooney was 74 and had experienced a number of serious illnesses over the decades, most of her fans thought that she somehow would get through yet another crisis. Five months in the Mayo Clinic finally led to her release. She went back in Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills for rest and recuperation. The news coming the next few months carried strong assurances that she was making a recovery.

But it was not to be.

The admirers of this special lady are far flung and their enthusiasm holds few limits. She deserved every accolade, for when all’s said and done, the last song sung, and the end comes and the ballots are cast, just one name will say it all on the topic of Best Singer of Her Era. Of course, there’s simply one choice. You don’t have to guess, do you?

Rosemary had a life packed with highlights and honors, tragedies and disappointments. Leafing through the stories published the Sunday and Monday after her death, I found that writers generally agreed on her career. Packed with drama and huge successes, her life included moments of joy and crushing disappointments.

Stephen Holden, a perceptive music and film critic for The New York Times, wrote that “Her special strength is an ability to infuse everything she touches with warmth, intelligence and a subtly swinging energy that make her interpretations of standards models of balance and clarity.”

My wife and I first met Rosemary when she was traveling with “4 Girls 4.” When the show came to Columbus in 1980, I had just been named entertainment editor of The Dispatch, which made it easier to stop backstage at concerts and greet the stars. The “4 Girls 4” show played a full week in Ohio’s capital city. My wife Betty and I were so taken with Rosemary that we attended all of the performances.

Rosemary’s part of the show lasted less than 30 minutes and as the week progressed, she welcomed us into her dressing room. One night, a Columbus fan of Rosemary’s sent over enough food to feed everyone in the show. Rosemary invited us to join some of the crew for the dinner. Veteran comedian Rosemarie was there, as was Rosemary’s boyfriend, Dante DiPaolo (a lovely man who Rosemary married six years ago.)

The food that night satisfied, but the opportunity to chat with Rosemary Clooney was incomparable. Over the years, Betty and I crossed paths with Rosemary, her brilliant pianist John Oddo, and her always-hovering manager, Allen Sviridoff.

The last time I spoke to Rosemary was last summer. Her record company Concord asked me to write a brief “biography” which would go out to radio stations and the press. She was home in Beverly Hills and I was in my crowded office in Marietta, Ohio.

I had only 15 minutes to chat with Rosemary, who sounded wonderful and full of energy. The interview was complete after 12 minutes (I had been watching the clock). We had time for some chitchat, and my wife chatted for a minute or so.

I didn’t dream that those 15 minutes would be the last time we would speak.

Goodnight, Sweet Rosemary.