Sunday, July 14, 2002

Camilla and Rosie, we hear your song

        We surely do love some people. Even when we don't know them. Or maybe we know them, but they just don't know us. Take the “girl singer,” for instance. Rosemary Clooney's neighbors in Maysville waited four hours outside St. Patrick's Church to pay their respects.

        “It was great to see how much of the town turned out 1/2hellip 3/4,” said her son Miguel Ferrer. “There's something beautiful about saying goodbye to her in (the) church where she was baptized, where she received first communion and was married.”

Bad news travels fast

        She was a familiar figure in the little town, and she surely had a lot of chances to disappoint them, if she'd been that sort of person. If she'd been rude to a clerk, if she'd traded on her celebrity, if she'd snubbed somebody, word would have gotten around pretty quickly. Just ask Martha Stewart.

        Instead, her brother Nick Clooney said at the July 5 service, “There's not a person here who's not saying in a corner of their heart, I knew her best. She connected with everyone, from Maysville to Singapore and all points in between.”

        Camilla Warrick, on the other hand, connected mos tly with people around here. Her talent was on paper, literally A columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer and, later, the Post, she led a semi-public, completely decent life, which ended with heart-breaking brevity last month. Kind, funny, empathetic, brave. She was also honest and tough, but like Rosemary Clooney, she never hit a sour note, personally or professionally.

        And, although she claimed she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, the Rev. Hal Porter entitled the eulogy he delivered at Camilla's beloved Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church “An Endless Song.” He said at the service on June 29 that her life was “music from the richest of souls.”

        In her life, with her exquisite talent for words, she railed against bigotry and abuse. A champion of the rights of gays and lesbians, she didn't pick easy fights. And when cancer challenged her, she took it on with typical gallantry. “Quitters,” she said, “are about as useful as complainers.”

Jesus' self-portrait

        Camilla wrote to her pastor once, “If Jesus were painting his own portrait, would it be a cross? I suspect not. I kind of see him in an embrace. Probably with a stranger.”

        Among condolences sent to Rosemary Clooney's family was one from a stranger in Austria. “I apologize for my broken English. I hope you nevertheless get what I want to say,” wrote Camilla Chlebna, “I am 16 years old. I never saw Ms. Clooney as a star in her best time, because I'm too young. I'm a fan of jazz, blues and swing music since long time and through this I found this woman's incredible voice. I like it from the first day on. What now stays in our heart is her warmth, damn good sense of humor and her love to life.”

        Well put, Miss Chlebna.

        The talent is just the thing that gets us to know them. It's all the other stuff that makes us love them.

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        Special Section: Rosemary Clooney Remembered

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