If you know Rosemary Clooney at all, it’s probably from “Come On a My House” or as one of the leads in the holiday classic White Christmas. So when I tell you she was addicted to pills and had a nervous breakdown on stage during a concert in Reno, it may come as a shock.
YES! She really did. She called the audience stupid, and turned her back to them. Then she stormed offstage, jumped in her car (I picture a convertible) and I believe started driving barefoot. She recounts it all in her delicious memoir Girl Singer (included in it is a description of her friendship with Marlene Dietrich, who confessed that she and Noel Coward called suppository sleeping pills “Lamases” because Fernando Lamas was so boring he could put you right to sleep).
Anyway, that drive. So Rosemary—who was so crazy from the pills and the rocky marriages and being there when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated that she called up Ethel to tell her that Bobby was secretly alive—started driving on the wrong side of the road. “God,” she screeched, “prove that you love me by not letting a single car hit me.” And every time a car swerved to miss her, she shook her fist at the sky and screamed, “One for you, God!”
We leave you with two choice Rosemary songs. Watch for the final note of “Blues in the Night,” and listen and love what she does with Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” especially with the line, “I said, ‘I appreciate that. And would you please explain about the 50 ways?'”