Sam Aamuelian* Remembers Rosie
I would like to share this story about my association with Rosie Clooney with all of you. The year was 1982 and Rosie was in town being interviewed by Trudy Haines of KYW. Trudy retired recently and you may remember that she did many of the entertainment special reports for the station for many years. Trudy discovered that Rosie was looking for footage from her great movie "White Christmas". You see back then the films were not released on videotape the way they are today. Rosie and her manager Allen Sviridoff could not find the footage of "Sisters" and the finale by the Xmas tree that they wanted to incorporate into their live Xmas show that toured all around the country. A year before that, Trudy had contacted Temple University when I worked there as head of the film library and we became friends and I helped her find many rare pieces of footage when she needed them. For instance, when Ethel Merman died, they sent a taxi that day to my home to pick up "There's No Business Like Show Business" and they used the title song that evening on the news.
Well, Trudy told Rosie that Sam Samuelian could probably get her that footage. The film was tied up by the Bing Crosby estate with legalities and no one could secure the rights to it. You would think a star like Rosie could get what she wanted with celebrity contacts, etc, but it remained for little old ME to find her the film. I had a large collection of 16MM movies and musicals were my specialty. I had a gorgeous Technicolor print of "White Christmas" in my collection and soon located one for her that they could cut and edit. She and her manager were so grateful that they not only paid the price of the film but gave me hundreds as a bonus and tickets for as many people as I wanted to see her show in Atlantic City.
This started a relationship that lasted for the next 20 years. Although I have not been able to catch her live for about five years, all I had to do was call her manager and he would reserve seats up front for any performance and we would always go backstage and hug and catch up. The most unique part of our friendship, though, was looking forward every Xmas to receiving a specially recorded song that she would send to her friends. During the middle of the song, she would record a personal message to each person. Some years ago this list grew to gargantuan proportions and she stopped the practice. I think I have about four of these cassettes with signed photo on the cover.
I invited her to our wedding when Anna and I married in 1990...but as luck would have it she was on tour with still another show. However, when she finally met Anna in 1992 (with my Uncle Bill, a talented keyboard artist who passed away the next year at 83) she greeted Anna warmly. She was a real family person and she knew how long I had waited to meet the right person and start my own family and she showed her happiness for us. Warmth could always be expected when you met Rosie. She was friendly, down to earth, and liked traveling with her husband to be Dante and any family that would care to accompany her. We met her son Gabriel and also his talented wife Debby Boone at still another show and came THAT close to meeting Bob and Dolores Hope, who she shared billing with one year.
When we published our book on motion lamps, we sent Rosie a copy and I even had the nerve to send her some of my recorded songs (but never asked her what she thought...coward that I am!). Of course when I compare those songs (crudely recorded at home) to what I am doing today....I am happy I never asked for any review from her!
When I heard the recent reports of her cancer coming back, I planned to write her a nice letter of encouragement...but alas I never got the chance as she died so shortly after the news reports. My entire family, many friends who met her, and Anna and I will always carry with us the fond memories of so many moments shared together. I am in the process of learning some of her songs that I can incorporate into our restaurant and assisted living center performances as a tribute.
Oh...I forgot to tell you how I really first "met" Rosie. My grandmother had a heavy old phonograph and the first song she ever played for me (and sang with!) was "Beautiful Brown Eyes", one of Rosie's early hits. This started my interest in collecting records, phonographs, and music in general. Thanks Rosie....you started me on a musical road that has been the guiding light of my life.
*Sam is a member of Sinatra Voicers