Rosemary Clooney's House

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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.


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.