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Legendary actress, singer Rosemary Clooney dies

Legendary actress, singer Rosemary Clooney dies

BEVERLY HILLS, California (CNN) -- Legendary singer and actress Rosemary Clooney died Saturday night from complications related to lung cancer, her spokeswoman said.

Clooney, 74, was at her home in Beverly Hills surrounded by her family, including her five children, grandchildren and her husband.

Services will be held in Beverly Hills and Kentucky and are pending, according to an official statement from spokeswoman Linda Dozoretz.

In February, Clooney was awarded a lifetime Grammy for her career that spanned seven decades. She was unable to accept the award in person because she was still recovering from lung cancer surgery.

Known for her distinctive, rich voice, Clooney's career humbly began in Cincinnati singing duets on the radio with her younger sister for $20 a week, according to the actress' Web site.

Clooney's childhood was turbulent and short-lived. She was born in Maysville, Kentucky on May 23, 1928. Along with her sister Betty and brother Nick, Clooney was shuttled between her alcoholic father and her mother who traveled constantly. Eventually, the two daughters moved to Cincinnati when Rosemary was 13.

After collecting soda bottles for money to survive, the two sisters successfully auditioned for a spot on Cincinnati's WLW Radio in 1945.

Clooney's first single record, "Come On-a-My House," became a big hit in 1951. It also started her career as a star and headliner. Three years later, in 1954, she co-starred in the classic movie "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby.

Clooney married Jose Ferrer in 1953, and the couple had five children by 1960. Several years later, they divorced. She remarried an old friend, Hollywood dancer Dante DiPaolo in 1996.

In June 1968, Clooney had a brush with history when she was at the celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles with two of her children the night her friend and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was killed. One of her children summed it up at the time by saying, "Mamma went nuts."

After that event, her life and career began to fall apart.

Rosemary spoke openly about her subsequent nervous breakdown, hospitalization, drug use and diagnosis of a drug-induced psychosis.

"The whole country was having a nervous breakdown in the late 1960s," she later reflected. "I just had mine in public."

Clooney's friendships with legends such as Crosby, Tony Bennett and Bob Hope helped reignite her career. She was invited to perform with them, and also became known to a younger generation for her voice in Coronet paper towel commercials in the 1980s.

In addition to her husband, DiPaolo, and five children, Rosemary Clooney is survived by ten grandchildren; her brother, Nick, sister Gail Clooney Darley; nephew George Clooney, nieces Cathi Campo and Ada Clooney.

The family asked that any donations be made to the Rosemary Clooney Fund for Support of Pulmonary Research, c/o Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.




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