~by tony reverditto
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts presents Debby Boone’s “Reflections of Rosemary Clooney” on Saturday, May 19.
Many of us fondly remember when singing sensation Debby Boone first delivered the heartfelt 1977 smash-hit, “You Light Up My Life” and instantly rose to fame when the hit held the number-one slot for ten weeks, selling 4 million copies. If that weren’t enough the song went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture, and received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist of the Year. Since then, she has won two additional Grammy Awards and has received seven nominations. In September 2008’s Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 All-Time-Charting Topping Songs, it ranked number 7!
Not too long after, in September of 1979, Debby married Gabriel Ferrer. Like Boone, Ferrer was also a member of a well-known Hollywood family; he is the son of José Ferrer, a Puerto Rican actor with an Academy Award, as well as a theater and film director. He married mega-star, Rosemary Clooney and the rest is Hollywood royalty history.
If not for Debby’s deep admiration of late mother-in-law, legendary singer/actress Rosemary Clooney who passed in 2002, Reflections of Rosemary a may not have come to be. She has assembled a collection of 14 jazzy numbers thoughtfully selected for their significance in her life with Clooney and not necessarily their popularity. Ironically, Boone was also led by Clooney’s Musical Director John Oddo for the tribute CD and touring stage show.
In addition to her recording career, Debby’s starring roles on Broadway include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the role of Maria in Lincoln Center’s 30th Anniversary production of The Sound of Music and as Rizzo in Grease. Debby toured nationally in Meet Me in St. Louis, and performed the role of Anna in the 50th Anniversary staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, The King and I.
Hello Debby, this is Tony Reverditto from The Rage Monthly, how are you?
Hey! Great! How are you?
Very well, it is quite a kick to talk with you today. I never thought that back in the ‘70s when I first started to sing along with your songs, that later in life I would be a journalist interviewing you for a story.
That is a kick. And thanks for doing this.
It’s great to have you back on stage and I’m sure that you are asked a lot, what inspired you to do a tribute show in honor of your late mother-in-law, Rosemary Clooney?
It began with a tribute held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel; a lovely event about six months after she passed away. So many people loved her in the entertainment industry and wanted to be there; Haley Smith, Tony Bennett, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Webb, Michael Feinstein. . . and George Clooney was there of course, and lots of big name people. They loved her and wanted to honor her at the event while raising money for a foundation she had set up for lung cancer research. I was asked to participate and was honored and really wanted my moment to be a reflection of how deeply I felt about her and our relationship. That is what inspired me to do my own tribute show for Rosemary.
“What I have done, that I think some people are surprised and some possibly disappointed, is not a traditional tribute to Rosemary Clooney with all of her big hit records. I do come out singing “Come on to My House” and take it takes off from there. A greatest hits show is not at all what I wanted or intended to do.”
Those are some big shoes to fill; what was your biggest challenge in bringing it to the stage?
What I have done, that I think some people are surprised and some possibly disappointed, is not a traditional tribute to Rosemary Clooney with all of her big hit records. I do come out singing “Come on to My House” and take it takes off from there. A greatest hits show is not at all what I wanted or intended to do. In fact, the executives from the Concord jazz label, which is the label that Rosemary recorded for, came to me wanting me to do a very personal tribute to her. The idea was to make a CD of songs that would enable me to tell personal stories about our relationship, her family, things that people wouldn’t already know about her instead of doing covers of all of her hit records. I was thrilled.
I bet. What song makes you feel the closest to her and has extra special meaning?
The song I originally did at the tribute at the Hilton was a song Rosemary sang to my son, Jordan, who was her first grandchild. It was his and his Grammy’s song and it was so special. I actually have a recording of the song on CD and I used it in my concert. The memory of that recording; her singing the song “Blue Skies” a capella to my baby boy, intended only for him, certainly makes me feel a strong connection.
Do you plan on eventually airing the tribute on television for those people who can’t get to the concert halls?
We would love that, but don’t have any specific plans. It would be a lovely thing if it aired as a PBS special or something like that.
You have four children; son Jordan who is 31, twin daughters Gabrielle and Dustin, 28 and daughter Tessa 26. What is the secret to your success in raising a family and lasting 33 years in a marriage?
I had someone in partnership with me who is very committed to his marriage and his kids and has been really there!
Your husband, Gabriel Ferrer is obviously a great guy; he’s even an ordained Reverend with the Episcopal Church. Back in 2008, he and Judge Judy jointly performed a gay wedding ceremony at the home of singer/pianist Michael Feinstein and his longtime partner, Terrence Flannery. That is so cool; has he become a go-to-guy to officiate same-sex unions or was that a special occasion?
They weren’t the first or the last; Gabriel had participated in other ceremonies just like that. We are very close with Michael, so it was ideal when Judge Judy also officiated. Michael basically lived right next door to Rosemary, he was part of all of the parties and really a part of the family, so it worked out just beautifully that Gabriel was able to participate in that ceremony with them.
Well on behalf of The Rage Monthly, thank him for all of us for making himself available for those who want and deserve an official union. It’s fantastic.
Thank you so much, I will tell him.
“They weren’t the first or the last; Gabriel had participated in other [gay wedding] ceremonies just like that. We are very close with Michael [Feinstein]… Michael basically lived right next door to Rosemary, he was part of all of the parties and really a part of the family, so it worked out just beautifully that Gabriel was able to participate in that ceremony with them.”
Now, our readers would never forgive me if I didn’t ask about your cousin-in-law, George Clooney. He was close to his Aunt Rosemary, is there something funny you could share about him and her?
I don’t know if I have a specific story. I remember when I first met him though, I wondered, where did this guy come from? You know, he was adorable . . .
No Kidding. The thing about George that everybody knows— it’s no secret— is that he was just always fun, always funny and a prankster which he is famous for. I got to see a lot of the antics going on around the house. He’s charming and fun!
The whole package!
I don’t know about him being the whole package, because so far he hasn’t been able to sustain a really long relationship and that’s something that I think is important. We’ll see if this is the one that does it.
Stacy Keibler is a talented and beautiful woman, she may just be the one.
You never can tell; never say never!
“The thing about George [Clooney] that everybody knows— it’s no secret— is that he was just always fun, always funny and a prankster which he is famous for.”
I think of him as a role model simply because he’s has managed to escape the shackles of marriage for this long.
(Laughing) Shame on you!
Just kidding! Now that you are pretty much in the empty-nester chapter of your life; what would be the ideal direction that would you like to see your career move in?
I am working on a brand new show that I am really excited about. I love making personal appearances; I love them now more than I ever have. I have done a lot of musical theatre over the years but they have always been famous musicals. I would love more than anything to somewhere down the road originate a role and be able to create something that isn’t compared to someone else.
DEBBY BOONE in REFLECTIONS OF ROSEMARY will perform on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada. For tickets call 562.944.980 or 714.994.6310 or go to lamiradatheatre.com.