Rose Marie: 90 Years a Trouper

Rose MarieVery few performers have ever managed to carve out a nine-decade career in show business, but that’s just what Rose Marie (Baby Rose Marie, to Cladrite Radio listeners) has done—and she’s still going strong. Since launching her career at the ripe old age of four (she had a weekly radio program that was broadcast nationally before Shirley Temple was even born), Rose Marie has enjoyed success in vaudeville, radio, records, motion pictures, Broadway, and television.

A delightful new documentary, Wait for Your Laugh, documents Rose Marie’s amazing life and career, and we’re delighted to share a very lightly edited transcript of a telephone conversation we recently had the pleasure of enjoying with her. Buckle your seat belts; it’s a delightfully wild ride. As you’ll soon see, Rose Marie is as sharp and as funny as ever.

Cladrite Radio:  I have a lot of things I’d like to talk to you about.

Rose Marie:  First of all, let me ask you a question.

Cladrite Radio:  Sure.

Rose Marie:  Did you see the movie [Wait for Your Laugh]?

Cladrite Radio:  I did!

Rose Marie:  What’d you think of it?

Cladrite Radio:  I loved it. I thought it was great.

Rose Marie:  What’d you like about it?

Cladrite Radio:  I’m very interested in the popular culture of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, in addition to …

Rose Marie:  That’s my era.

Cladrite Radio:  It sure is. I have an online radio station that features music of that era. I play some of your records on the station.

Rose Marie:  Oh, nice.

Cladrite Radio:  When I got the chance to interview you, I was so excited. I’m a fan of your music, and I grew up with you on TV as well.

Rose Marie:  I know, everybody says that. It makes me feel so old.

Cladrite Radio:  Oh, well, I’m not so young myself.

Rose Marie:  I’m 94, wanna bet?

Cladrite Radio:  You’re doing great. You’re probably doing better at 94 than I am at 59.

Rose Marie:  Okay.

Cladrite Radio:  I wanted to ask you about the documentary. Whose idea…

Rose Marie:  I’m very happy to tell you. I’m very proud of it. I love it. I’m so proud of [director] Jason Wise, I can’t stand it. I think he’s a genius. I think he’s going to be one of the biggest men in the business in a couple years. I think this will introduce him to everybody. I think he’ll even be bigger than Steven Spielberg.

Cladrite Radio:  I’ll bet he wouldn’t mind that a bit.

Rose Marie:  Oh, he’s wonderful. You have no idea. You don’t know how particular he is. When we decided to do this thing, I kept everything from the time I was three years old. Postcards, pictures, film, anything I had, I kept. When he talked about doing the documentary, he says, “Let’s talk.” I said, “I have everything in scrapbooks. Why don’t you just go through everything?” I emptied out my house, and I mean he cleaned me out of everything. He put it in that documentary. Just a genius.

Cladrite Radio:  All the materials that we see in the documentary, the film clips we see and some of the programs and promotional materials and various things that are included in it…

Rose Marie:  All mine. All mine that he dug up out of my house.
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Happy Birthday, Jimmy Durante!

The delightful Jimmy Durante was born 122 years ago today. If ever we find ourselves fretting over our age and perhaps wishing we were younger, we remind ourselves that, were we born later, we might not have shared time on God’s green earth with some of our favorite performers of years gone by, and the Schnozzola certainly deserves a spot on that roster. We weren’t around for his heyday, but he was still a busy performer when we were younger and we got to enjoy him as a frequent talk show and variety show guest.

Durante doesn’t immediately spring to mind when we’re asked to name some of our favorite stars of yore, but when we do think of him, a smile invariably forms on our lips, and that’s as strong an endorsement as any performer could hope for: to make people smile at the mere memory of you some 35 years after your passing.

Happy birthday, Mr. Durante, wherever you are. Give our best to Mrs. Calabash.

Jimmy Durante quote

Times Square Tintypes: J. P. McEvoy

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles author and playwright J. P. McEvoy.

“JUST GREETINGS”

Caricature of J. P. McEvoyJ. P. McEVOY. Two days after he was born this greeting card arrived:.

(To Mrs. McEvoy On The Occasion of Her Son’s Birth.)

I hear that Dame Fortune has been kindly
And blessed you with a boy so fine
And given you something to be proud of
In future years when you sit by a lonesome pine.

May he grow up to be healthy and sturdy
And good to his mother and true,
And be loved by countless millions
As he is loved by YOU.

His first piece of writing appeared in the South Bend News. He inserted a job-wanted advertisement.
For some unknown reason he is afraid to enter a laundry.
Lives at Woodstock, N. Y. Is the proud possessor of two blessed events and a St. Bernard dog. The two children are now attending school in California. The dog, dying of loneliness, is to be shipped there next week.
The only jewelry he wears is a black opal ring. Wears this because everyone says it is unlucky.
Is very fond of people who resemble him.
He saves unused return postal cards.
Never actually writes a play or story. He dictates everything. Always has two secretaries working. Never revises any of his manuscripts. Show Girl has fourteen chapters. It was dictated at fourteen settings.
He is unable to part his hair.
Believes there should be a law against bed makers who never tuck in the sheets at the foot of the bed.
As far as comedians go he starts laughing if he’s in the same city as Jimmy Durante.
Always buys two copies of a book. One to read and one to lend.
His full name is Joseph Patrick McEvoy. His mother name him Joseph. His father named him Patrick. Not caring for either, he became J. P. McEvoy.
He has a picture of his wife in every room.
Still receives royalties on some of the greeting cards he wrote. His favorite is the following:

Eve had no Xmas
Neither did Adam.
Never had socks,
Nobody had ’em.
Never got cards,
Nobody did.
Take this and have it
On Adam, old kid.

He was once an amateur wrestler. Gave it up because he didn’t like being on the floor.
He hates to see people in wet bathing suits.
His first book to be published was a volume of poetry titled Slams of Life. He has the names of those who bought it. Two more sales and he could have formed a club.
Smokes a cigar from the moment he turns off the shower in the morning until he puts on his pajamas at night.
His pet aversions are women’s elbows, chocolate candy all melted together, fishing stories, fishermen, fish, Laugh, Clown, Laugh; radio talks on how to make hens lay, buying new shoes, mixed quartets, Laugh, Clown, Laugh; runs in silk stockings, three-piece orchestras, waiters who breathe down his neck and Laugh, Clown, Laugh.
When in New York he puts up at the Algonquin. If working on a story or play he and his wife occupy separate rooms.

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Snapshot in Prose: Rodgers and Hart

This week’s Snapshot in Prose visits a pair of classic composers who need no introduction, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, when they were at their most successful.

The author of the story speaks to both men, and we learn that they were of very different temperaments, outlooks, and lifestyles. Apparently musical theatre, like politics, makes for strange bedfellows.

hat incomparable team of songwriters, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, author and composer of Blue Moon, began turning out their great song hits without the benefit of Necessity, the mother of so much of our musical invention, being around to spur them on.
Nor did they hear the wolf howling at the door. But they did suffer a terrible urge to express themselves in their work.
Hunger for approval, thirst for accomplishment. Haven’t you too, often experienced that feeling?
We called upon Lorenz Hart in his spacious, luxurious apartment overlooking Central Park.
He greeted us in his huge music room with Kiki, his nine-year-old dog, romping at his feet.
“She’s just home from the Doctor’s,” said Hart. “Had to take her—she was losing her hair. She’s a Chinese chow.”
I picked up my pencil.
“Don’t say anything about poor Kiki, she hates publicity,” said Hart.
Hart is hospitable and generous. “What will you have?” he said, leading the way into his ultra-modern study and offering everything from Bourbon to coffee.
“A story about you and Rodgers,” we answered.
“How did you happen to begin writing songs with ‘Dick’ Rogers?”
In his inimitable way, Hart began: “We met while Dick was attending Columbia University. I’d been out of the Columbia School of Journalism for a year or two. Of course, we decided to write the college varsity show.”
“What was the name of it?”
“Something like Fly With Me—a great success”
“What work had you done before you met Rodgers?”
“I had produced a play by Henry Myers, The First Fifty Years. There were two characters played by Clare Eames and Tom Powers. We took in so little money, we couldn’t afford to pay the players. It ran for six weeks. We’d have been worse off if it had run 12. Lost our money.

“However, after our Columbia show, Dick met Herbert Fields, a son of Lew Fields of the famous Weber and Fields Minstrels.
“Lew Fields was putting on The Poor Little Rich Girl, so Herbert asked his father to use some of our songs. By the time the show opened all of the songs were ours.
The Poor Little Rich Girl ran 22 weeks on Broadway. Rodgers was then only 17. Of course we felt that we had arrived. We expected the managers to make us some offers. But no offers came.
“We put on amateur shows, benefits, and did anything we could to make a few dollars.
“Finally with Herbert Fields writing the book, Dick and I sat down and wrote a musical comedy. Then for months we made tours of auditions. Some managers liked the music and hated the lyrics, some loved the lyrics but couldn’t hear the melodies. Nobody took it.”
“What did you call it?”
Oh, it had some awful names. Then we all three wrote The Melody Man for Lew Fields. He took it on the road. Yes, it was a colossal—failure,” he finished.
We showed Dearest Enemy to Max Dreyfuss. He liked it, and now signed us up on his staff.
“This was in the month of March. The show could not open until Fall. We were unknown—and now very, very broke.
“We wrote Garrick Gaieties in a week. We used two or three numbers that we had been peddling around. One of them was Manhattan.
“At the opening matinee, I stood in the back of the theatre with a young writer about town, Walter Winchell. Three boys came before the curtain and recited that polysyllabic lyric! I felt like the thing was doomed.
“But that matinee, because of the long applause, lasted until seven o’clock.”

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