Streams

Rosemary Clooney's House

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rosemary Clooney lived in George Gershwin's house, next to Ira Gershwin's house, on North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. I spent a good deal of time in that house, playing George's piano, eating pasta with Rosie, drinking whiskey with Rosie, and talking with her until late at night.

Of all the singers I've known she was one of the smartest, one of the most introspective, and easily one of the finest laughers of the lot. She enjoyed the pleasure of it, especially at her own expense; anything that broke through the irrevocable melancholy that had built up on her heart like plaque through years of loving an unavailable man, a married father of six children. Rosie grew very heavy - Christie heavy - but still she worked in clubs around the country, and made albums of the best songs she knew. Two of the albums are arranged by the father of the six children, who spoke lovingly with me a few times about Rosie.

They had fallen to silence, Rosie and Nelson Riddle, and, in fact, late in the night of his death, she phoned me, a voice a whisper of despair, to ask if I knew anything. I told her that he had been ill. I conveyed Linda Ronstadt's sorry tale of searching for Nelson after a break in a recording session. "We were making our third album together," she told me, "and nobody could find Nelson. I had a hunch, and went out to the parking lot to his car. There he was in the back seat, asleep." Rosie didn't respond, even with her whisper.

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Things I remember: Rosie's two big dogs running through the backyard with me to the swimming pool. One of them sat at the edge. The other, white, furry, and ready to go, followed me as I dove. I realized as I came up for air that he wanted a race to the far end of the pool. Off I went, as competitive as I'd ever been, even in high school. We held tied for most of the swim, until he pulled away and won by perhaps a yard. Oh the proud barking! His companion dog, brown and smooth, raced to where the champion was, and joined in the barking.

It was 7:30 in the morning.

Rosie's home was menchy and cozy. There were very few photos of Rosie with famous people (unlike Dinah Shore's home only a few blocks southeast.) JFK, yes. Sinatra, yes, but that was about it. And those two in a corner of  a small room, out of the way, somehow.
      
In a two room kitchen there were two large refrigerators, loaded with ready to eat everything. One late night with the house quiet, I smashed a chocolate cupcake into my mouth while I stood at the larger refrigerator's open door, a brisk cold draft a pleasing refreshment that summer evening.

And Dante. A slim gray-haired former dancer who lived in the house and looked after Rosie. He traveled with her, and stood in the  shadows as she sang. Dante was always there, waiting. Dante waited. Near the very end of her life, Rosemary Clooney married Dante. I remember reading about it in a short paragraph in the Hollywood Reporter.

Dante's wife passed away quite soon afterwards.

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Comments [13]

Kathy

Rosemary's other home in Augusta, Kentucky, is open to the public and houses the largest collection of "White Christmas" memorabilia in the world as well as many personal items from her life there. Her bedroom is as it was when she and Dante lived there. It's a great place for fans to visit and enjoy this special place that was such a sanctuary and place of peace for her away from the busy of Beverly Hills or live on the road. Look up The Rosemary Clooney House!!

Jan. 26 2014 05:43 PM
Ken from Chapel Hill

The older I get (I'm 57), the more I appreciate Rosie.

Jan. 23 2014 04:06 PM
Eric Dias from Melbourne, Australia

Wonderful story Jonathan of the endearing and enduring Rosie. Apart from Nancy LaMott, no one got closer to the truth in a lyric because everything she sang came from her heart.

Jan. 23 2014 06:17 AM
Pamela Brown from New York

I heard Rosie say that she was very grateful to Bing Crosby. When she came out of the mental hospital after
her nervous breakdown, she said that Bing was the first person to call and to offer her a job.

He, apparently, had done that with Judy Garland, too. In the 40's, Judy had tried to slit her wrists, or so it was reported, and Bing was the first one to call her and have her on his radio show..

Jan. 22 2014 08:31 PM
Joanne from NYC

My Mother told a story as I was growing up as to how she custom designed a dress (while designing for Lily Dache I believe) for Rosemary Clooney as it was her very first tv appearance and quite important to look glorious...I would think this was 1950? Any ideas as to what tv show this could have been?
Mom spoke of her in glowing terms, how nice she was, easy to work with, absolutely beautiful...then she custom signed a photo i.e. "To Jo, a most talented designer."
Sorry to hear she had a broken heat due to Nelson Riddle. But she had a full, fabulous life, I hope her children gave her great happiness. Such a talent.

Jan. 22 2014 01:38 PM
Patricia

That was a wonderful story... That snippet about Rosie, very tender... Sweet. Thanks and hey, Happy New Year.

Jan. 22 2014 12:15 PM
Roberta R. Marcus from River Edge, NJ

My late husband and I saw Rosemary Clooney at the Rainbow Room and it was one of the most delightful evenings of our lives. Whatever she sang and spoke about that night, was so fabulous. Your writing about her brought so many wonderful memories back to me. The fact that she lived in George Gershwin's house made her dearer to me because I truly loved George Gershwin and his musicality and his talent. Thank you for the lovely remembrance you wrote about that very talented woman and thank you too for the fantastic music you bring to your audience. Be Well!

Jan. 21 2014 10:38 PM
Tanya Knoll from Staten Island

Thank you so much for that marvelous story about Rosemary Clooney.I was a very big fan of her great style and of course her voice!Thank You for continuing to bringing these wonderful stories,and the music.

Jan. 21 2014 10:02 PM
Gail L. Gans from Brooklyn

Thank you for the stories about the musicians who have always written, played and sung the music of my life. I started listening to you when I came to NYC over 50 years ago. I love the music that you choose, because it is always the music I want to hear. I love the information you share with your audience. I love the people you talk to and interview because they are such intelligent and sensitive music makers.

I will be forever grateful for what you share with all of us. I am also grateful for the fact that I learned about -- what might have been the last concert that Frank Sinatra performed -- he was at Radio City the first date I chose happened at the time of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s death and the concert was canceled. However, it was rescheduled and I was able to attend. I also saw what may have been Rosemary Clooney's last NYC concert. It was at Carnegie Hall. My only regret was that I had not attended one of their concerts earlier in their respective careers.

Thank you for all you do to keep this special music alive.

Jan. 21 2014 07:02 PM
Magee from NYC

Tremendous, real, heartfelt, evocative

Jan. 21 2014 06:48 PM
sheila samalin from az

Oh my. What a remarkable woman, how valiant she was despite the pain of loving an inappropriate man. We can't help who we love, can we? Thanks, Jonathan, for this personal glimpse, as only you can tell it.

Jan. 21 2014 06:41 PM
Ellynn Short

Spent several memorable birthdays at Rainbow and Stars with her. I could have gone anywhere but she represented the best of everything despite her travails. I miss her. Thank you for the remembrance.

Jan. 21 2014 06:21 PM
Audrey C. Parker

Touching story..thanks Jonathan

Jan. 21 2014 05:58 PM

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