Singer Rosemary Clooney, who went from singing catchy novelty tunes to winning respect as one of America's leading interpreters of standards in a rocky career that had many ups and downs, died June 29 at her home in Beverly Hills, the New York Times reported. She was 74.
As one of the last members of the old school of club singing, Ms. Clooney became an admired and popular figure in New York’s cabaret scene over the last decade. She often headlined sold-out engagements as the ritzy East Side nitespot Feinstein's at the Regency, most recently last Christmas when she presented Rosemary Clooney’s White Christmas Party. The title referenced her best known film, a 1954 remake of "Holiday Inn" in which she co-starred with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Most Americans are familiar with Ms. Clooney because of the movie, which is shown on television every holiday season.
Though she went on to sing many albums worth of the standards and ballads she loved, Ms. Clooney continued to be remembered for her first hit, "Come On-a My House," a novelty tune she always professed to despise. Other early songs included "Botch-a-Me" and "Mambo Italiano," tunes forced on her by Columbia musical producer Mitch Miller.
She also helped make "Hey There," from The Pajama Game, a hit.
Born in 1928 in Maysville, KY, much of Ms. Clooney's life was far from happy. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother left the family. Her own marriage to actor Jose Ferrer would be equally unfortunate. Together they had five children, but Ferrer’s compulsive womanizing led to their divorce in 1967 and her addiction to sleeping pills. In 2000, she released her memoir "Girl Singer," which covered these painful periods as well as her late career resurgence as a cabaret star. She made only one Broadway appearance, in 1976's Bing Crosby on Broadway, singing alongside her old co-star at the Uris Theatre. Crosby was instrumental is rescuing her career during a particularly fallow period.
On April 1, 2001, the Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs (MAC) Awards honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award at Town Hall. Clooney told Playbill On-Line that her MAC award made her feel "Just terrific...it's wonderful," she said. "I'm very excited about it."