"On Being Mrs. Jose Ferrer
Good Housekeeping - May, 1956
by Rosemary Clooney as told to Margaret Lee Runbeck
I have no illusions about my voice,
and I guess the best you can say for me
is that I'm wholesome-looking.
I don't know what my husband sees in me,
but there's plenty that I see in him.
I suppose there's seldom a marriage about which somebody didn't say, "What on earth do they see in each other?" Or maybe, if the speaker is a friend of the husband, he says, "What do you suppose he sees in her?" Or vice versa.
But my marriage is different. People don't ask that question behind my back. They blurt it out to my face. Sometimes, barely introduced to me, a person will say, "Rosemary Clooney, there's something I'd like to ask you. What does an artist like Jose Ferrer see in you?"
And what do you suppose I answer? If I like him at all, I say, "Come on-a my house." (In case you've forgotten, that's the title of one of my records, which sold over two million copies.) I ask the questioner to dinner because, as the Chinese proverb says, "One picture is worth ten thousand words." I've found that the sight of Joe and me together is the best possible answer I could give.
People who are more tactful ask the question this way: "How do two such--well, such different--people get along as you do?"
I know why we are so happy, and the secret is based on a very definite fact. Maybe before I finish this, I'll decide to tell exactly what that secret is. It might help other wives, no matter what kind of men they are married to.
All the tihngs on the surface on the surface of Joe and me--the things that "show"--would make anyone wonder what we see in each other. After all, Jose Ferrer is one of the world's more serious actors, a top director, a good writer, an accomplished musician. Jose Ferrer, some people say, has done much for the American theatre. I could say frankly that he is one of the great exponents of the arts, a fact I know is true; there's no use my trying to sound modest about it. After all, I had nothing to do with making him important. And me? Wel, I'm just a gal who loves to sing popular songs and who's had the breaks along the way.
I haven't any illusions about my voice. It's nothing wonderful musically speaking. The people who like me a lot--like Mitch Miller, who picks out the songs I do on records, and Marlene Dietrich, who's become one of my best friends--say my way of singing has warmth and heart, so that people don't feel so lonely after they've listened to a record of mine. I know children like my voice. And maybe, to go along with the cliche, dogs to too. But who says children are judges of art?
I've no illusions about my beauty either. I just look like anybody's kid sister. The best you can say for me is that I'm wholesome-looking, but I'm not sure that is very fashionable right now. My hair is the kind of blond that has to be washed every three or four days. The bend in it is its own, and if I let somebody persuade me to have a real wave put in, I look like a high-school freshman ready for my first date. I'm pretty tall, tall enough so that Joe and I can see eye to eye actually. And that's exactly what we do. On plenty of subjects.
I finished high school, and Joe had a lot of education, graduating from Princeton in 1933. Joe's still being educated, and heaven knows I am. (I better had be. I guess that does give us something in common right there.) Joe gets up at the crack of dawn, when most everybody else in Beverly Hills is sound asleep except the actors who are on a shooting schedule at the moment. He gets up early because he's taking tennis lessons, and singing lessons, and fencing lessons, and there just isn't time enough in the day to learn all that he is determined to do well.
I could concede indefinitely things that on the surface might make it seem we have nothing in common. Joe loves sports, and I can't even swim--though in the three years we've been married I haven't had the heart to confess that to him. Behind our house we have a big elegant swimming pool, and on warm afternoons our friend come over and swim. Joe loves that, and says, "Come on in, Rosey." And I say, "Can't. I'm the hostess. I've got to see everybody's comfortable." Especially, I've got to see that I'm comfortable, because floundering around, half drowning, would be anything but comfortable--for me or the spectators. Not being able to swim is really the only thing I've ever tried to deceive Joe about. But as of now he'll find out that I'm afraid of water more than knee-deep. And you know what he'll do? He'll hire a coach to give me swimming lessons. Joe hates chronic ignorance. He says anybody can learn anything. When somebody disagrees with that, he says, "Okay. Would you like to prove it? What'll we both learn to do right now?"
Joe loves to read, and I expected to save my reading until I was an old lady.
Joe's idea of a fine evening is sitting at home with our four dogs underfoot and some good intimate friends on hand. A big evening for me used to be games and noise and festivity.
Joe and I do have one pretty important thing in common. That's Bombo our son. I wear a charm bracelet, and the best charm on it is a double-picture locket. On one side it has Joe's picture, on the other Bombo's picture taken when he was ten days old. Joe and Bombo look just alike, and that I love, because my son is just some more of Joe to me.
All the time I was expecting Bombo, I prayed that he'd be a boy, so he could carry on his father's name. I had him all named--Miguel Jose Ferrer. But Joe took one look at him and called him Bombo.
Most of the things Joe and I have in common, the real facts about us, don't show to the casual observer. They are the things we "see" in each other.
That's rather a wonderful expression when you take it literally. What we "see" in each other. Not what's there, but what we see. Each human being is really a whole crowd of people--heroes and villains, noblemen and tramps. Everyone has had the experience, I suppose of becoming someone quite unfamiliar to himself every time he runs into a certain personality. We often say, "That woman brings out the worst in me." Well, that is what she sees, so out if comes. In the same way, the person we love the most often brings out someone completely new in us--someone cleverer than we usually are, someone more lovable, more helpful, the self we hoped we could be, only more so. Joe says the psychologists have a word for it: they say that we tend to project the image we have of someone upon him, so that he acts the way we expect him to act. We unconsciously write the part he's going to play when he's on ourlittle private stage, and he speaks the lines--although afterward he may wonder what on earth came over him. We usually see just about what we are looking for. No matter what we encounter outside, it's our interpretation that makes our world--and the people in it.
I was trying to tell you what Joe and I see in each other. I've given up the attempt to puzzle out what he sees in me, but I know plenty about what I see in him. I discover wonderful new sides to him all the time. And seeing new qualities in him makes me find new qualities in myself.
First of all, I love the way we laugh together. I've laughed more in the past three years than I did during my whole life before (and most of those previous twenty-three years were spent in what is called the entertainment world). Joe and I laugh together suddenly, sometimes in a crowd. Something amuses us, and we catch each other's eye and no words are necessary. We laugh with each other; but what is even more of a rest, we laugh at each other and never think of getting mad, because we've both discovered that if you love someone an awful lot you've got to laugh at that someone or you'd just burst with feeling. We laugh at each other, and I expect that is one of God's ways of keeping us from thinking we're pretty important. That's an occupational danger of our profession; things that might tempt a person to feel "important" happen even to somebody like me. For example, my home town, Maysville, Kentucky, now has a street called Rosemary Clooney Street!
I love the way Joe is so honest. For instance, he takes a real interest in my clothes. And the fact is, I take more interest in my clothes since I've been married to a man who knows the difference between the superlative and the mediocre. If I have on something new and Joe doesn't mention it, I sometimes make the mistake of asking how he likes it. Then I hear. He's so courteous by nature that he wouldn't bring up the subject unless I insisted. But once it's mentioned, he doesn't pull his punches; he tells me right out. Once in a while when I'm wearing something new and it's greeted with silence, I have sense enough not to question him. And the next morning somebody my size gets an unexpected present from Rosemary Clooney.
I love Joe's brain, and the way he won't accept any slipshod thinking from me. He has great respect for what he calls my womanly intuition, but he won't let stupidity pass for femininity. He sometimes quotes the proverb that he good is an enemy of the best. He says it should be the standard of everyone who wants to achieve.
I loves his calling me "Sweetie," because he doesn't suspect that it's an old-fashioned endearment that went out about the time I was born.
I like the way he always springs up to help with anything that is being done around the house. Even if I only go out to the kitchen to make a pot of his favorite tea in the afternoon, Joe follows me to see what he can do to help. That comes from a basic quality in him, an alertness to everyone else's needs.
I love his pride in being a Puerto Rican--and the pride that Puerto Rico has in him. They consider Joe their best ambassador of good will; he's practically a one-man cultural force on the island.
I love the way he plays with my little ten-year-old sister, Gail, who lives with us. When Gail needs another ten-year-old, there is Joe. Not acting, but really being. Last Christmas Joe made a drawing for our family Christmas card. It showed our big white house, and stretched out across the front of the lawn was us. All of us, including the four dogs--Cuddles, the great Dane who weighs 165 pounds; George, the affectionate basset hound who wants to kiss everybody; and the two little Pomeranians, who think they are as big as Cuddles. Gail was on the card, of course, and she was laughing into the cupped palm of her hand in the cute way she laughs. I didn't even know Joe had noticed that little mannerism of hers, but he had. Because Joe notices everything.
Then there is his humility, if you can forgive that pompous word. His humility, which makes strangers who don't recognize him--like the boy selling newspapers, the bus driver, or the barber--say, "There goes a real nice guy." And his empathy, which always sees the other fellow's viewpoint. For instance his name is pronounced Hosay Fer-air. But when people mispronounce it, as many do, he doesn't embarrass them by correcting their pronunciation. While we were in England, Joe called up a friend who was expecting his call. When he gave his name to the servant who answered the phone, there was a long silence. The servant obviously thought Joe was an impostor who was pretending to be the actor and didn't even know how to pronounce the name properly. So he said stiffly, "I'm sorry, sir. Mr. So-and-so is not at home." Joe knew his friend was at home, but rather than embarrass the servant he hung up, dressed, and went around to the friend's flat.
I love Joe's patience and his good disposition. He never gets irritable about details. When we took our first transatlantic airplane trip together, we had 22 pieces of luggage; a bassinet; a baby; Geroge, the basset hound (who cried all night); Harriet, the baby's nurse; and ourselves. Joe took care of everything. Both the baby and George kept on crying and finally decided that the only place they were comfortable was Joe's lap. Somehow he manged to hold them both, almost smothered in baby and dog.
Harriet said to me, "I wish some of those people who think he's just a big fine actor could see him now." For a minute that startled me. The fact was that I had completely forgotten he was a big fine actor; I thought he was just a big fine husband and father, and a hero worshiped by a dog. And that, I guess gives away the secret of the fine art of being Mrs. Jose Ferrer.
I first met Joe when I was singing with Tony Pastor's band. Jose Ferrer was trouping around doing personal appearances to promote Cyrano de Bergerac, because the producers were afraid the American public might consider it highbrow. I was so impressed by Jose Ferrer's reputation that I could only stutter and blush when he glanced at me. But during the year we kept running into each other in one palce and another, and finally the great actor faded away and the great man took his place. By the time we were ready to be married, I knew just Joe. I had forever lost my chance of seeing a close-up Jose Ferrer the actor.
That is the way I've kept itl. I am a stranger, just one more fan in the audience, when there's a new play opening. I admire that gifted artist on the stage, and I never once say to myself, "I'm married to that actor." Because the man I am married to is somebody entirely different. He's somebody no one else can ever know the way I know him. There's the many-sided artist who shows himself to other people, and then there's my own private Joe. He comes home from the theatre or studio and, like any other husband, closes the door on the world so he can be alone with his wife. That's what I think is the wonderfulness of marriage. The rest of a man's world--whether it's the corner grocery store, the teller's window in a bank, the schoolroom, the law office, or the machine shop--knows the man in a certain way. But the real person, the person inside, can be known only by his nearest and dearest. That person can't even be seen from the outside. And that's what Joe and I "see" in each other.