Remembering Rose Marie: 90 Years a Trouper

Few entertainers in history enjoyed as long a career as did Rose Marie, born 100 years ago today. Her career began when she was just four years old (known then as Baby Rose Marie, she had a weekly radio program that was broadcast nationally before Shirley Temple was even born), and she went on to enjoy success in vaudeville, radio, records, motion pictures, Broadway, and television.

In 2017, a delightful documentary, Wait for Your Laugh, was released that told the story of her amazing life and career, and we’re delighted to share a very lightly edited transcript of a telephone conversation we had with her shortly after the film’s release. Buckle your seat belts; it’s a delightfully wild ride. As you’ll soon see, even at 94, Rose Marie was 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 am involved with an online radio station that features music of that era. We 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, Claudette Colbert!

We’ve had the good fortune to meet a few stars from the Cladrite Era—Esther Williams, Gloria Stuart, Margaret Whiting, Cab Calloway, Kitty Carlisle—and we’ve enjoyed relatively close encounters (but not personal meetings) with others, among them Benny Goodman, Richard Widmark, Fay Wray, Dickie Moore, Jane Powell, Farley Granger and Francis Dee.

Our greatest regret in this area involves Claudette Colbert, who was born 112 years ago today. In 1985, we got see Ms. Colbert, costarring with Rex Harrison, in a Broadway revival of Frederick Lonsdale‘s 1923 drawing-room comedy Aren’t We All? It was an enjoyable production, and Ms. Colbert, whom we greatly admire, was delightful. So what was the issue?

For some reason, we didn’t wait by the stage door following the show to meet Ms. Colbert. As we said, we’re big fans, and we honestly don’t know what we were thinking in passing up that opportunity, but we’ve regretted it ever since, and ever more so as we became more and more immersed in the cinema of the 1930s and ’40s, when Ms. Colbert was in her glorious prime.

Perhaps in the next life, Ms. Williams or Ms. Carlisle will help us to rectify this misstep and introduce us to Ms. Colbert. But in the meantime, we’re thinking of Claudette Colbert on her birthday. Here’s hoping it’s a happy one, wherever she may be.

Claudette Colbert quote

Goodbye to another glorious gal

Popular recording artist Margaret Whiting, the daughter of songwriter Richard Whiting (“Hooray for Hollywood,” “She’s Funny That Way,” “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” and many, many more), has passed at age 86. Whiting, who was mentored early in her career by the great Johnny Mercer, recorded more than 700 songs and earned a dozen gold records.

Whiting led an interesting later life as well, as she would cohabitate with and eventually wed John Robert Stillman, a prominent porn star whose stage name was Jack Wrangler; the two were married for 15 years until his death in 2009.

We encountered Ms. Whiting a few times some years back, over the course of our employment as a waiter and bartender at a popular Central Park South eatery. Ms. Whiting, as we understood it, lived upstairs in the building that housed the restaurant, so she was a fairly frequent patron. Though a pleasant enough sort, she wasn’t terribly outgoing, so we have no memorable tales to tell, but she was accompanied on occasion by Mr. Stillman.

Whiting’s greatest success came in the late 1940s and 1950s, as the big bands gave way to a focus on individual singers, in advance of the rise of rock ‘n’ roll.

We hope Ms. Whiting’s final years were peacerul and happy ones, may she rest in peace, and we’re happy to be able to pay tribute to her by sharing a pair of our favorites among her recordings and a video of a live television performance from 1952.

Margaret Whiting — “It Might as Well Be Spring”

Margaret Whiting — “Moonlight in Vermont”

Happy 88th, Ms. Whiting!

Songbird Margaret Whiting is 88 years old today.

Whiting, the daughter of successful songwriter Richard A. Whiting—he wrote “Hooray for Hollywood,” “Breezin’ Along With the Breeze,” and “Too Marvelous for Words,” among many others—signed a deal as a young woman with family friend Johnny Mercer, who had just launched Capitol Records. Mercer’s gamble, if it can fairly characterized as such, paid off royally, as Whiting went on to have numerous hits in throughout the 1940s and ’50s.

We encountered Ms. Whiting a few times in the 1980s. She occasionally patronized a restaurant on Central Park South where we were tending bar and waiting tables in those days. As a customer, she was amiable enough, but she seemed a bit private, keeping largely to herself, so we have no stories to share of our encounters.

Ms. Whiting was long involved with Jack Stillman, better known as Jack Wrangler, renowned gay porn star. Though Stillman, twenty years Whiting’s junior, insisted he was gay, not bisexual, the pair obviously forged a lasting connection, as they were together from the late 1970s through his death in 2009. The two were married for the final 15 years of their time together.

We hope this birthday finds Ms. Whiting in happy spirits and good health. We’re celebrating the occasion by sharing with the Cladrite Clan her first hit, recorded as the vocalist for Freddie Slack and His Orchestra, That Old Black Magic.

Margaret Whiting with the Freddie Slack Orchestra—“That Old Black Magic”