9780767905558 / 0767905555

Girl Singer: An Autobiography


Publisher:Three Rivers Press



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About the book:

Girl Singer is that rarity, an entertainer's autobiography that sidesteps the usual cash-in maneuvers, instead earning the label of memoir. Rosemary Clooney, of course, is the 1950s pop sweetheart ("Come On-a My House," a song she detested) turned 1960s nervous-breakdown casualty and, finally, comeback kid with a well-loved interpretive style. She recalls a hectic childhood spent mostly under the wing of her grandmother, who was better equipped than her parents to raise Rosemary, sister Betty, and brother Nick. The memories are often seen through a filter of tough poetry, as in this vivid passage:

"One very cold winter day, when I was five and Betty just about two, we got dressed up in one of our aunts' long dresses. 'Now we have to go down to the river,' I told Betty, 'because we're going on a long trip, and we have to wait by the river till the boat comes.'

"Betty skidded down the slick grading into the river. The dark water closed above her head.

"I leaned over, grabbed her hand, and dragged her out. She wasn't crying, just coughing and sputtering. I got her home and into the bathtub and then dried off, all by myself--my mother had told me I would manage, I would be able to do whatever had to be done."

Near the height of her fame, Clooney herself became the mother of five, as well as the long-suffering wife of actor José Ferrer, who cheated on her early and often. Another romance, with arranger Nelson Riddle, was both her happiest and most turbulent; she remembers Riddle divorcing his first wife and then abruptly marrying his secretary. By 1968, Clooney was suffering prescription drug-induced delusions, imagining a month after his assassination that her friend Bobby Kennedy was still alive and ready to deliver a "lesson for me... to teach the American people." After several false starts, she broke her addiction and made a comeback that's seen her garner several Grammy nominations (and laugh about losing each time to pal Tony Bennett). Hard-won peace may be a cliché, but Girl Singer demonstrates it as the 71-year-old girl singer's truth. --Rickey Wright

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