PART 1: The tribute opens with a showing of Rosemary being introduced by Bing Crosby on an episode of the Hollywood Palace, 1966. She's dressed in a beautiful, tight-fitting, yellow gown and is singing "I came here to sing a torch song.....do you hear me, I came here to sing a torchy, torch song, and I ain't about to leave until I do. No sir. I ain't about to leave until I do." She segues into a medley that includes "I Got A Right to Sing the Blues," "You Don't Know About Misery," and "Mood Indigo," and works her way back to singing, "Now I've sung my little torch song. I've had my sad and sentimental spree, but I'll be back, to sing another torchy torch song, 'til I lose those blues my baby gave me. That's right, 'til I lose those blues my baby gave to me. That's right, the blues!!" When the video stops rolling, the audience clammer, "MORE! MORE!"
While the video was playing on this gigantic screen, one couldn't help but notice Rosemary's son Gabri being totally captivated by this vision of his very young and very beautiful mother swingin' up a storm. Early on in the video, in a very close up shot, you see his mother's fingers in their typical nervous motion. Gabri notices and mimicking the motion, points it out to Debra Grace Weiner who is sitting beside him. They both smile and nod in recognition of this typical Rosemary behavior.
The director of the conference begins the introduction of the panel by saying that they couldn't have had the BING! conference without including a tribute to Rosemary. Mr. Errol Dante, a comedian/singer served as the moderator of the discussion. He began by introducing the panel, which included, Joe Bushkin, Margaret Whiting, Gabri Ferrer, Debra Grace Weiner, John Oddo, Ken Barnes, Gary Giddins and Joe and Rose Scognamillo.
Mr. Dante asked Margaret Whiting, "what are your memories of Rosemary Clooney?"
She responds, "Oh, we'd be here a week!"
Margaret recounts that she traveled with Rosemary for 12 years as part of 4 Girls 4, but that she first met Rosemary when Ed Sullivan's daughter Betty was going to get married. Margaret's sister was going to be a bride's maid and Rosemary was going to be the maid of honor. She met Rosemary as THE up-and-coming singer of the 50's. She said, "we singers of the 40's said, 'hi there, you are really wonderful and I love your record, and your are just going to be great.'"
Margaret said they got to know each other very well during the wedding and then suddenly she found herself in Dallas, Texas, rehearsing a play called "Girl Crazy" with Jack Carson. At the same time, Jose Ferrer was in Dallas doing "Kiss Me Kate." Jose and Margaret were talking backstage after a rehearsal and at one point Jose whispers to her "Gotta keep this quiet. You know I'm going with Clooney."
Margaret whispers back, "Yes, and everybody knows it!"
He says, "But they don't know this. She's coming down this weekend and we're gonna get married."
Margaret responded, "I'll keep it a secret, but why?"
He said, "I want you to come to the wedding." So Margaret went to the wedding. As she recounts this, she looks to Gabri, who is sitting beside her, and says, "So I was in your beginning!"
Margaret said that she saw Rosemary a lot. They'd play in Beverly Hills together, and then after she moved to New York, Rosemary would come and visit and they'd play there too, going out to lunch, shopping, etc.
In remembering the days of 4 Girls 4, Margaret said it was an agent who got them together. He called her up and asked her what she was doing that particular fall. She said nothing. He said he had an idea to put a show together that would include Clooney, RoseMarie and another girl singer, and Margaret if she'd join. They'd start in September. Margaret decided to go out to California and join them, but before she did she was going to be smart. She said, "I knew there would be another girl singer on this act, and RoseMarie...I'm not going to worry about her, cause, well she's funny and doesn't sing ballads too much, so I don't know who the other girl is, but I do know I have to get at least one song in before Clooney does. So I called the agent, and said, 'here's my list of songs.' We were each going to do twenty-five minutes each. Two girls, intermission and then two girls. So I go to rehearsal that first day, and there Clooney is singing my song and I looked at the agent and said 'how dare you?' And RoseMarie came up and said, 'do you have another ballad?'
Margaret said yes, and Rosemarie said, "well then sing it!!!"
Margaret went on to say, "we got together and were together for about 12 years and we were together on buses, airplanes, cars." Speaking of transportation, reminds Margaret of an interesting anecdote. She says, "one thing I forgot, 'til I remembered and read about it in the paper recently. There was this kid (and she turns around to look at Gabri) that was around your family, you had SO MANY KIDS, he was a part of your family. This kid was driving Rosemary and myself. And last year I pick up the paper and I read about George Clooney, and there he's saying that he was driving Margaret Whiting and his Aunt Rosemary Clooney and that's how he started in show business." Everyone laughs.
"Well, we had sad times. We had glad times. We had so much fun. Rosemary had one of the great sense of humors that I've ever heard in my life. She and I were laughing from the moment we met. We had our own rooms on tour, but she'd call me and say, 'what are you doing?' and I'd say, 'I'm just getting up.' She'd say, 'Well get some coffee and for God's sake let's go shopping.'"
Margaret changes gears a bit and begins to say, "but what I do remember ALWAYS about this woman" and she has to pause as her emotions take over, and then she continues, looking directly at Gabri, "she was such a great mother to the five of you. Oh my God, she was having a cold, feeling bad this one time, and she was in the Santa Monica hospital and she said for me to come over and visit. So I went over and there the five kids are on the bed with Mama and it was the greatest scene I'd ever seen. You really got love! (Gabri nods in agreement.) You had a great father. Great mother! She would tell me about what each one of them was doing. One was going to be a painter, one was going to be an actor. You weren't with us," looking again to Gabri, "but I was down in Puerto Rico with your two brothers. I have a picture of Miguel and Rafi. Jose said it was alright for them to come and see Tante Margaret at 9 AM after I'd done a second show and was up half the night. And they say, 'WE'RE HERE!' They wanted to fly airplanes off my balcony."
Margaret lovingly shares that Rosemary called her "Tante" because she said that Margaret reminded her of her sister Betty.
She goes on to say that "I don't think we ever...well, maybe we had one bad word...who knows...I mean four girl singers together at the same time, getting ready to go on. I remember Rosemary had some problems, I think after the Bing Crosby tour and then it was our show. She went away to Honolulu for a month and when she came back...I used to go on first, and then Helen O'Connell came along and she went on second. The comedy went third, Rosemarie. Rosemary went fourth and when she was on, I'd come around the back because I then walked out with her and we started the last thing we did together all of us. But I would just stand there and listen to her sing and I'd cry...because...I don't know how to describe her voice...it was so warm...she kind of wrapped you up in it. And she's say, 'what are you doing?' And I'd say I'm watching you, and I tell you that Honolulu did you much good, 'cause you're singing again like the angel that you are!"
Margaret told a story about one night when they were in San Francisco with "the girls." She remembered Rosemary calling her up saying "what are you doing tonight? Let's sneak away. Don't tell anyone. Nobody must know." So Margaret went down in the elevator and met Rosemary at this certain place, and the two of them walked out of the Fairmont unnoticed. They started singing on the street. Margaret said, "we were doing Berlin songs...we were doing everybody songs, we were so happy to be together. The main press guy in San Francisco saw us outside and said 'if anyone can tell me what Rosemary Clooney and Margaret Whiting were doing last night, holding hands and singing at the top of their lungs...if anyone knows where they were going, please let me know.'"
She described in simplest terms that "we were girlfriends." At this point, Margaret begins to cry and raises her hand to her heart. Gabri takes the microphone and says "I want to tell one story on Margaret, because she is of course a legend and now the Grand Dame and all that. One story that Mama loved to tell about you on tour (looking directly at Margaret)...I'm gonna bust you on this. I'm sorry, I have to do it, it's my job. I forget where you were, maybe Phoenix, some cavernous place with thousands of seats, and after Helen O'Connell does her bit she comes backstage and says that she was in the middle of singing and up in the third balcony there was this disturbance, an ambulance, a stretcher, the whole thing. Just then a stage hand comes back and says that yes the guy died. Everyone backstage says how awful this is, but Margaret, without missing a beat, while putting on her makeup, says, 'well at least he got to see me!'" The audience cracks up.
Mr. Dante, then asks Joe Bushkin to share his thoughts and he says, "the great joy of being Bing's piano player...he made sure you got to play for everyone who sang beautifully. He enjoyed singing with her, and she always seemed like one of the boys, that was part of her charm. Bing and Rosemary had an automatic rapport just loved Rosie dearly....loved her as a pal."
Mr. Dante, says to Gabri that he knew his dad, and that Jose had once said to him about Rosemary, "she was always a great singer, and then she became a great artist," meaning that she had sort of re-invented herself as a great artist. He then asks if anyone wants to comment on that re-invention.
Gary Giddins responds that she really became a greater singer in the later years. "She had this wit that was always there and let it came out in the music in the later years. There was a kind of maternal wisdom. She had a tremendous economy that came with the years. It wasn't that the instrument was any less, because I think if anything the instrument became more brilliant and brazenly Rosemary in the late 70s and 80s. But she just focused right on the melody line. She didn't have to do anything else. She got right into the lyrics. Songs that you heard fifty different singers do, you'd hear Rosemary do it, and for the first time might actually think of what the lyrics meant. She was just an extraordinary artist, and to see her live in those years when she did Rainbow and Stars and other clubs, you felt like you were a member of the family. I have to say that I don't think I've ever known anyone in my life that had the gift of friendship like Rosemary did. It is extraordinarily rare.
Gary's story about the book contract and talking with Rosemary.
Gary's story about Rosemary and Dean Martin.
Gabri and his Mama's special talent of distinction.
John on her conversational style.
Debra on the comedy.
Joe and the early years, her loyalty, the book signing party
Ken Barnes, John (hidden behind podium), Debra, Gabri and Margaret watch the final clip of the tribute to Rosemary.
Kathryn Crosby and Joe from Patsy's. Kathryn has
just finished telling Joe how Rosemary would go on about his dad Patsy,
and how wonderful he had been to her when she was struggling in New York to make it big.
Gabri, Rose, Joe, Sal and Debra after the tribute concluded.