Rosemary Clooney House
Since 2005, this former home of singer and Hollywood actress Rosemary Clooney has served as a museum that preserves and shares the story of her career. Clooney was born in Maysville, Kentucky on May 23rd, 1928 and performed as a young girl with siblings before striking out on her own in the 1950s. During that decade, she starred in the holiday classic White Christmas and sang such hits as “Come On-a My House” and “Mambo Italiano.” Rosemary was married three times, twice to actor José Ferrer, the father of her five children, and once to dancer Dante DiPaolo. She continued to perform in the later years of her life, returning to this home in Augusta whenever she could. Following her death in 2002, family friends converted the home into a museum that includes original furnishings and memorabilia from Clooney's many films. The museum even includes items related to Rosemary Clooney's nephew George Clooney.
Backstory and Context
Rosemary Clooney was born in Maysville, Kentucky on May 23rd, 1928. Her early childhood was fraught with tragedy as her father was an alcoholic and her mother left the family. Tragedy also struck with the loss of her brother Andy who drowned. As a young girl, Rosemary found solace in performing-a passion she discovered after playing the part of the witch in a school production of Snow White. Rosemary and her remaining siblings were later sent to live with their maternal grandparents and lived for a short time in Ironton, Ohio before settling in Cincinnati in 1941.
While living in Cincinnati, Rosemary and her sisters entered a variety of singing and talent contests and their big break came when they landed a regular gig at the local radio station in 1945. In 1946, the Clooney Sisters received their second break when they were invited to tour with the Tony Pastor Band after their uncle agreed to serve as a chaperone. Eventually, Rosemary's sisters decided to retire from performing and start families. Rosemary chose a different path, traveling to New York in 1949 where she began a career as a solo artist.
Rosemary had her first hit two years later with the song “Come On-a My House.” Her most famous role was 1954’s White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera Ellen. That film came out a year after she married movie star José Ferrer. The marriage, which produced five children, was not a happy one: the couple divorced, remarried, then divorced again. After their final divorce, more unhappiness came into Rosemary’s life. There was another failed romance, an addiction to prescription medication, and witnessing the assassination of her close friend, Robert F. Kennedy.
Rosemary recovered from her addiction with the help of time in a mental hospital as well as the decision to reduce her workload for a time. By the 1970s, Rosemary rebuilt her career by performing anywhere she could. A change of fortune came when Bing Crosby asked her to join him on his final tour. The tour brought Rosemary renewed success and helped lead to a contract with the Concord Jazz label.
In 1980, Rosemary decided to buy a house near her family back in Kentucky. She bought this home in Augusta and despite her travels, she returned to this home whenever she could. In the 1990s, she married former-flame Dante DiPaolo, a dancer, and guest starred on an episode of E.R., which featured her nephew George Clooney. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and died of complications from lung cancer later that same year.
After her death, Rosemary’s children offered to sell the house to her friends Dr. Steve Henry, the former lieutenant governor of Kentucky, and his wife Heather French Henry, a former Miss America. The couple bought the house and decided to turn it partially into a museum. They were surprised, however, at the number of memorabilia that Paramount Studios and others contributed and decided to convert the entire home into a museum that is open to the public and displays original furnishing and objects from Rosemary Clooney's professional life. Highlights of the museum include costumes from White Christmas. The museum also features costumes from Rosemary’s friend and co-star Bob Hope and her nephew George Clooney. The museum opened in 2005 and includes exhibits and artifacts related to the career of Rosemary Clooney and others of her era.
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