Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Rosemary Clooney, 1928-2002

Rosemary Clooney died in the late afternoon of June 29, at her Beverly Hills home, surrounded by her husband, five children and other family members. She had been suffering from lung cancer and in discomfort for six months, following surgery in December, but had apparently lost little of her acerbic wit. A few days before the end, when a friend helped to reposition her in her bed, she let out a howl of pain, instantly followed by four bars of “Mean to Me” and the observation, “That’s still the hardest fucking song to sing.” It’s the still that’s pure Rosemary.

In 1992, when I embarked on a biography of Bing Crosby, my first problem was: How do I penetrate Hollywood-a world in which I had no contacts or professional cachet? One day I placed a dozen calls to representatives of movie people, and reached answering machines, supercilious assistants and an erstwhile glamour queen who claimed to be her own secretary before hanging up. I received one callback that evening. Before I could untie my tongue long enough to thank Miss Clooney for her prompt and unforeseen attention (I expected to hear only from managers), she proclaimed, in that unmistakably throaty alto, “You are the only person who can write this book.” My guess is she did a bit of research (“Who is this guy?”) and surmised, in typical Mama Rose fashion, that I desperately needed encouragement.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published