Rosemary Clooney died on June 29, 2002. She was best known for her deep, smooth singing voice, but she as she became a singing icon she branched out into award winning acting roles.
Clooney was born May 23, 1928 in Maysville, Kentucky. She was the oldest of three children that lived in poverty. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother travelled for work: the children were shuffled between parents and other relatives. When Clooney was 13 her mother remarried and left Clooney and her sister with her father, but Clooney’s brother went with his mother.
Clooney’s father attempted to take care of her and her sister, but one night he left with all of his money and never returned. The two girls scrambled for money to make ends meet until they won a singing audition at a radio station in Cincinnati. The two girls were dubbed “The Clooney Sisters” and were given a late night spot on the radio earning $20 each per week.
Their radio spot got the attention of bandleader Tony Paster. He invited the sisters to join his orchestra. The sisters toured with his group for three years until Clooney’s sister decided to return to Cincinnati and her radio career. At 21, Clooney decided to expand her career as a solo singer and she headed for New York.
Clooney signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and was convinced by Mitch Miller to record a song called “Come On- A My House”. Clooney didn’t feel comfortable with the song, but recorded it anyway. The song rapidly rose to the top of the charts and became a gold record making Clooney a star. She was then offered a weekly radio show with Bing Crosby as well as many film roles.
In 1953 Clooney surprised everyone by eloping with actor Jose Ferrer who was 16 years older than her. They moved into a prestigious home in Beverly Hills and started a family. By 1960 they had five children together.
In 1956 Clooney had her own tv show called “The Rosemary Clooney Show”. It ran until 1957, but the children, her career and her marriage were putting a strain on her. She became addicted to tranquillizers and her marriage suffered. Clooney and Ferrer divorced in 1961, reconciled for a few years, and then divorced again.
When Clooney’s close friend Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, Clooney was close by. This tragedy coupled with her addiction sent her into a psychological collapse. Shortly after, she cursed out an audience while on stage.
Later, she called a press conference to announce her retirement and started crying uncontrollably. A physician was summoned, but she fled the scene. She was found driving recklessly. Clooney admitted herself into a psychiatric center and she remained in therapy for many years. According to her autobiography she suffered from bipolar disorder.
She returned to the spotlight in 1976 when Bing Crosby asked her to join his 50th anniversary tour. She signed a contract with Concord Jazz and produced more than a dozen successful recordings including “Everything’s coming up Rosie”.
In 1995 Clooney guest starred in the NBC television show “ER”, starring her nephew George Clooney and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Clooney married Dante DiPaolo in November 1997. He was a former Hollywood dancer and they had a 24 year romance before getting married.
In 2002 Clooney had surgery for lung cancer. She died on June 29, 2002. Clooney was buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Maysville, Kentucky.