May 23, 1928 – June 29, 2002
Rosemary Clooney was a terrific singer, and had a great sense of humor, from what I’ve been able to gather. She also had a friendship with Bing Crosby that I won’t ever be able to figure out. We don’t have to go into the career thing, that’s pretty well documented elsewhere.
Rosemary and two of her children were witnesses to Bobby Kennedy‘s assassination in the soon to be demolished Ambassador Hotel.
She claimed that witnessing it sparked a descent into emotional hell complete with mental breakdown and drug addiction. She also gained a LOT of weight.
A January 2001 reported that her weight was up to 414 pounds. In January 2002, Rosie had surgery to remove a portion of her left lung because cancer had been found. Three days later, it was announced that she was in “serious” condition and moved to the intensive care unit at the Mayo Clinic (where Agnes Moorehead died). In June of that same year, the lung cancer returned. She was hospitalized briefly but sent home. My thought is, she was told there was no hope. There was no public statement about prognosis.
At 5:50 p.m. on the 29th of June 2002, Rosie died in the bedroom of her Beverly Hills home.
She was 74 years old.
Her family was with her. No doubt the ambulance picked her up in this driveway.
There was a memorial service for her at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, that Brian Wilson, Rosemarie and Frank Sinatra Jr. attended.
Afterward, Rosie was shipped back east to Kentucky for a funeral in her hometown of Maysville. People were lined up as early as 6 a.m. for the funeral mass at St. Patricks Church in downtown Maysville. 700 people packed the church including Debby Boone who is married to one of Rosemary’s sons, Al Pacino and Beverly D’Angelo, Catherine Crosby and nephew George Clooney.
After the service, the casket (She had to have 10 pallbearers) was taken to St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
Apparently it was so hot, an ambulance followed the procession in case anyone passed out. Afterwards there was a reception where Michael Fienstein and George Clooney chatted like a couple of magpies.
The fine folks of Celebrity Collectables made available Rosie’s Last Will and Testament to us, which is a fine document. One quote, “I direct that I be buried near my Father in my Mother’s family plot and that the tombstone marking my grave be in the same approximate size, style and prominence as my parents’ tombstones, without reference to my career or fame.” Just weird that someone actually had to type those words.
Her gifts were a fascinating read: Rosie bequeathed a painting in her death bedroom to Michael Feinstein, Debby Boone got all of her musical arrangements, her son Gabriel got her Bing Crosby watch, and someone got a heart-shaped ring given to her by Nelson Riddle. The claims against the estate were kind of interesting to read as well.
In April of 2003, her house of over 50 years sold for 7.75 million to some guy in the fashion district. There were plans to demolish the house, but a year later, the house went back on the market reportedly for 9 million. It’s on the market now, and sometimes on Sunday you can go in, when they have an open house. I went by a few weeks back, and was able to tour around the property and snap away at leisure. It was great to get a perspective on the place, after passing the front of it for so many years. The house is a standard staple on the Stars Homes Tours.
I crashed the place about a year ago with my buddy Steve (with obligatory brick),
then more recently my old pal Susie from Chicago. Here is the front door, where Sinatra and Crosby no doubt entered many times.
The names that traveled in and out of this doorway.
The gates have the initials C and S in them, and I assume the C is Clooney, but don’t know what the S is for.
While peeking in the front windows, you can see the very used kitchen, with the questionable wallpaper.
The window below Rosemary’s bedroom was the living room where you can spot the snazzy hi-fi speakers that were mounted in the walls.
Out back, there was the patio
where you could peek in and see the bar,
and further back was the very unused swimming pool
and tennis court
and the corpse of a playground.
There was a box of pool supplies that had a musician’s name on it, which I did a little search for.
Trivia: George Gershwin lived in the same house, long before Rosemary moved in, as my buddy E.J. Fleming clarifies: George and Ira lived in the house together for a number of years, and in June, 1937 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and collapsed on the front lawn. He was discovered there by a passer-by; it is unknown how long he lay there. He was conscious, but obviously had a pretty bad headache. After he was hospitalized and it was apparent that he would not live, he was removed from the hospital, but not back to the 1019 Roxbury House. His brother Ira borrowed a house from fellow songwriter Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen at 901 Rexford Drive, where he put George because it was quieter. The house, which has since been demolished, was a huge and secluded mansion on a large lot that was originally owned by Lawrence Tibbetts (it was later rented by Bugsy Siegel when he first came to L.A. in the scene re-created in the movie). George died at the Rexford house on July 11th. Ira wouldn’t stay in the 1019 house after his brother died so he moved next door to 1021 Roxbury, where he lived for many years. Also, Harburg wrote much of the music for The Wizard of Oz at the Rexford house, except for “Over the Rainbow,” which he wrote while sitting in his car outside of Schwab’s Drug Store after getting the inspiration while picking up a prescription.
My friend Harry sends this: This bit from Seeing Stars:
Back in Hollywood, the modest family home on Tamarind Avenue was no longer suitable for Russ Columbo’s status as a film, radio, and recording personality. Columbo explored what was called the “B” circuit: Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Bel-Air. He first leased a large, Spanish-style home at 1019 North Roxbury Drive, as far away in feeling from the Tamarind bungalow as one could get. This house has had an amazing musical pedigree. After Columbo, later tenants included composers George and Ira Gershwin and songstress Ginny Simms. In 1953 actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney, newly married, bought the home, and after their divorce, Clooney retained the property where she lives today.
Big thanks to Betty Effimoff who supplied the funeral details, Mike Steen for the Death Certificate and Ted from Celebrity Collectables.
Now. The nephew. George Clooney. George used to work for his aunt Rosie as an assistant/chauffeur. I remember him telling a story on some talk show about Martha Raye, and found this story online somewhere: When his aunt was touring as a singer in the New Four Girls Four with Martha Raye, Kay Starr and Helen O’Connell, he recalls Raye making him stop so she could, as Clooney says, “just stick out her leg to take a leak on the side of the road,” Clooney laughs, then adds, “Aunt Rosemary would say, ‘Don’t turn around, George, or you’ll learn too much about the aging process.'”
Humor me for a moment.
George often brags that he will never marry and does not like kids. George went out with Kelly Preston. Kelly is now married to John Travolta (okaaay…?), then he grew a beard. George has been called a “confirmed bachelor.” During the Northridge earthquake he was worried about how it would look, standing nude outside his “bachelor pad” that he shared with college “buddy” and a pig named Max. George has been very seriously involved romantically with some foreign model that no one has ever heard of or cares about. Leonardo DiCaprio has the same issue. Hm, do you think? I know he’s not afraid to explore his feminine side.
Rosie’s house is now dead, July 29, 2005