Singer/Actor Rosemary Clooney Dies

Rosemary Clooney, the mellow-voiced singer who co-starred with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" and staged a dramatic comeback after her career was nearly destroyed by drugs and alcohol, died Saturday

Rosemary Clooney, the mellow-voiced singer who co-starred with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" and staged a dramatic comeback after her career was nearly destroyed by drugs and alcohol, died Saturday. She was 74. Clooney died shortly after 6 p.m. at her Beverly Hills, Calif., home surrounded by her family, her publicist said. She had been hospitalized earlier this month after suffering a recurrence of lung cancer.

Born in Maysville, Ky., on May 23, 1928, Clooney started singing with her younger sister, Betty, on WLW radio in Cincinnati in 1945. Bandleader Tony Pastor heard the girls when he was touring Ohio and hired them. "The Clooney Sisters" made their debut with the band at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City in 1947.

Two years later Betty tired of performing and Rosemary relocated to New York. She soared to fame with her 1951 record of "Come on-a My House," and became a star in television and films, including "Here Come the Girls," with Bob Hope and "White Christmas," with Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Her career was sidelined by her 1950 marriage to Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer and the births of their five children: Miguel in 1955; Maria, 1956; Gabriel, 1957; Monsita, 1958; Rafael, 1960. Ferrer's womanizing caused her to divorce him in 1961. After a three-year reconciliation, they divorced for the final time in 1967.

The following year was particularly difficult. Clooney was devastated by Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, and was present with two of her children in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Robert F. Kennedy was shot.

For years she had taken pills to assuage personal grief and maintain her double life as a star and a single mother. Overeating had caused her to gain 60 pounds. Her children and associates became alarmed at her irrational and erratic behavior which sabotaged her attempts to return to performing.

After four years of therapy, Clooney return to performing in 1972 at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. For the first time in years, she found joy in entertaining an audience. "Then at Christmas in 1975 Bing called me," she said in a 1985 interview. "He said he was going to do a concert at the Los Angeles Music Center. Would I appear with him?" She agreed, thinking it would be a one-time benefit. But the pair continued on to Chicago, New York, and London. The Clooney career was reborn. She won a new record contract, and singing dates poured in.

In 1995, she received an Emmy Award nomination for guest actress in a drama series for her role on "ER" with her nephew, actor George Clooney, who is the son of her brother, veteran TV newscaster Nick Clooney. In 1996, Clooney married Hollywood dancer Dante DiPaolo. She is also survived by a brother, sister, and 10 grandchildren.


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