Interview with Radio, Television and Stage Legend RoseMarie
Rarities Newsletter Some Years Ago
Born Augusts 15th 1923 in New York, probably most remembered
as the wise cracking man hungry Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke
Show. But Rose Marie has a career that spans 8 decades. She
started at the ripe old age of 3. Rose Marie's mother would take her
to see stage shows on 14th street in New York City. After the shows
Rose Marie would then reenact the shows for her mother and neighbors.
Her mothers friends and neighbors suggested she enter a talent
contest, they pooled there money and bought her a dress and shoes
(which she still has) and she sang "What Can I Say Dear After I
say I'm Sorry" "I had the voice then that I have now!"
she exclaims. She won hands down.
Shortly after that on a trip to Atlantic City her parents took her
to see a show at a small club staring Evelyn Nesbitt. As Evelyn was
singing Rose Marie began to sing along with her. Evelyn brought her
up on stage and people starting throwing money and cheering. Evelyn
asked her "what's your name?" Her father said "Dainty
Rose Marie" Evelyn replied "she's a baby, call her Baby
Rose Marie" She performed at the "Steel Pier" for
three or four months. During her stint in Atlantic City NBC got word
of this phenomenal child. Upon their return to New York NBC signed
her to a 7 year contract. She was now among some of radios most
famous actors, Amos and Andy, Rudy Vallee and Leo Reisman. So at 5
years old Baby Rose Marie had a national radio program. At this time
Vaudeville was nearly gone and NBC had an affiliation with RKO, so
Baby Rose Marie toured the country performing at the RKO Theaters for
a year. By the time she was 12 Rose Marie had begun singing at
roadhouse clubs and started to hone her act and at 16 she was
Headlining at some of New York's classiest night clubs, The Roxy,
Copacabana, The Latin Quarter and several others.
They had move to New Jersey because of the child labor laws, in
fact she recalls her father being arrested 108 times in Cleveland.
"I'd do my set, they'd arrest my father, they'd let him out, I'd
do my second show and they would arrest him again, that went on for
two weeks" she remembers. In Albany she had to lip sync her own
records to avoid her father being arrested again. As time went on
Rose Marie became a staple in all the best clubs. During the second
World War she devoted time to doing shows for the Armed Forces. As
television became more and more popular it was only logical that Rose
Marie would begin to conquer it as she had done radio and nightclubs.
She started doing guest appearances on TV shows like the Perry Como
Show. She met her husband in the Army, before the war he was a
musician with Kay Kyser. After he got out of the Army they got
married and moved to California. "He knew he would find work in
California." she recalls. Although she was very well known up
and down the East coast Rose Marie had some concerns about working in L.A.
"Danny Lewis asked me to play Slappsy Maxies at that time,
the reviews were sensational, so then people knew I was alive"
In 1946 she then got an offer to help open a new club/casino in
Las Vegas called "The Flamingo" with Jimmy Durante and
Xavier Cugat. Anyone who has seen Rose Marie do an impression of
Jimmy Durante might be interested to know that it was Jimmy who
taught her how to do him.
Along with The Flamingo she played The Riviera and The
Thunderbird. Rose Marie said "you know when you work for the mob
you don't move around to much, they always kept me working and they
treated me like a queen, I was there baby."
RPN: I saw you once in a video attending a show at the Sands
during a Ratpack performance, what kind of an experience was that?
RM: As I often think about it, it was not an experience it was
just something we did. Now it's an experience. Frank used to call and
say "I got a benefit in Palm Springs I want you to do, the plane
will pick you up" and I'd go. Never think twice.
RPN: I guess we look back at those times now with amazement
because there just isn't talent like that now days.
RM: Oh please, don't get me started, now days what I forgoten half
of what these people don't know. It's amazing to me that kids doing a
tv show demand a million dollars an episode and get it! But I
guarantee you you'll never remember them!
RPN: That brings me to my next question, how did you end up on the
Dick Van Dyke Show?
RM: They called me because I was very close to Sheldon Leonard and
Danny Thomas, I opened for Danny when he came in from Chicago. So we
became very good friends. When he came out here my husband played his
show and we were all very friendly. So I used to asked when am I
going to do your show? You know Make room for Daddy. Sheldon would
say oh don't worry, your time will come. But they would always come
to see my show in Vegas. In fact Sheldon used to say to me "Don't
you ever bomb?" And I would ansewer "I try not to."
One day I got a call from Bruce Birch's casting office and she said
they want you down at Desilu. I said "oh great the Danny Thomas
Show" She said "no, it's for the Dick Van Dyke Show."
I said "what's a Dick Van Dyke?" She said just go down and
they'll explain. So I went and I met Carl (Reiner) and Sheldon
Leanord. Sheldon said to Carl if you want the best get Rose Marie. I
was the second one cast, I never even read for it.
RPN: Who was next?
RM: Well I asked who have you got for the third writer? Carl said
we haven't cast it yet so I said what about Morey Amsterdam? He was a
writer before he became a comic. He used to write for everybody,
Milton Berle, Danny Price and Danny Thomas. He wrote my whole
nightclub act for me. I came home and called Morey and said they're
going to call you about a new show called The Dick Van Dyke and he
said, "What's a Dick Van Dyke?" I said "I don't know
but it's a show." Then Richard Deacon and then the kid. Then
they couldn't find the right girl then Danny remembered Mary Tyler
Moore from his show. She had auditioned as his daughter but Danny
said with a nose like that no one would ever believe she was my
daughter. So she got her part.
RPN: The show didn't do to well the first year, right?
RM: No, we were bucking Perry Como. But Sheldon went to NY and
told the sponsors to keep the show on, he knew it would make it. They
picked us up only because of Sheldon.
RPN: What's one of yor favorite shows on TV now?
RM:The Practice, it's the best show on the air. I also enjoy West Wing.
RPN: When did you do the Dean Martin show?
RM: It was during the Dick Van Dyke show and after.
RPN: So it was the first time people got to see you in color?
RM: Yeah, right. Well I did a lot of guest shots but yeah.
RPN: Where you surprised that Dean didn't show for rehearsals?
RM: You gotta know that I knew Dean before, I mean I knew Dean
when he opened in Atlantic City with Jerry. So we were all kind of
brothers under the skin so nothing really suprised any of us. But
Dean was just wonderful to me. I had a problem during that time. My
husband had died and he was my whole life. I felt like I couldn't
sing or do anything any more. I was going to quit the Van Dyke show
and John Rich our director came to my house and talked with me until
2 in the morning and convinced me to stay. So I did the last year of
the Van Dyke show and during that time Greg Garrison, Dean's producer
called me to do the show and I said I can't sing and he said yes you
can. I told him No I can't. Yes you can, come on please for me. Now I
thought he wanted me to do a comedy bit, he said no no I know you can
do that I want you to sing a straight song. I said ok. Of all the
songs they pick was "Little Girl Blue" So I went to the
studio and I went in the booth and started to sing and it just didn't
come out right and I said I can't do it, first time in my life I
can't do it and ran out. I went to my dressing room. Nobody came in,
nobody said anything. And finally about 20 or 30 minutes later I came
out and Greg said, do you want to try it again? I said yeah, and I
did one take and said that's as good as it gets. He said ok and the
RPN: Your experience on the show was good then?
RM: Dean was wonderful to me on that show because he knew what I
was going through, I was crying like an idiot during that song. He
just looked at me like I'm here kid don't worry. It was just
wonderful. In those days we were all friends. They all treated me as
an equal. George Burns and Gracie Allen were my best friends and I
was always treated like an equal.
RPN: Was Dean a drinker?
RM: No no it was his shtick. He wanted to be known like that, but
he knew God Damn everything he was doing.
RPN: Is it true that Dean changed dramatically after his son died?
RM: Oh yeah, he was never the same after that.
RPN: What was your relationship like with Frank?
RM:: He was a pal, he would always call me and say I gotta a
benefit here or there and I would go. I can't explain it. It was like
me talking to you. We both respected each other and respected each
RPN: After the Dick Van Dyke Show ended then what?
RM: Well I did Hollywood Squares for 14 years and ran back and
forth to Vegas. I played Tahoe and Reno.
RPN: Did you keep in touch with Frank, Dean and the other guy's?
RM: Well, we weren't in each others pockets but if one of us
needed the other we were there.
RPN: Have you ever thought about writing a book?
RM: I did, it was called "Hold the Roses" Everyone said
it was great, it was a page turner a history of showbiz but no one
bought it. I think there wasn't much interset in BIOS's then.
RPN: Now that your show is on TV Land do you find a new generation
RM: I get over 200 letters a week. From 13 and 14 year olds.
Parents who watch the show with their kids. My fan mail bill is huge!
RPN: What were some of your favorite Dick Van Dyke show?
RM: "That's My Boy" where Rob thinks they have the wrong
baby, The one were Laura's old boyfriend turns out to be a priest and
the episode when Riche was born,"Where did I Come From."
When Mory dropped his pant's he cracked me up. We had to do three takes.
RPN: Do you think the show could have gone on longer and would you
have done it?
RM: Oh sure, I would have, I think we could had done a whole year
just on being in color.
RPN: After Hollywood Squares was over what then?
RM: Well I did a lot of theater and guest shots and don't forget I
did the Doris Day show for three years.
RPN: Do you have any charities that you support?
RM: Oh yeah I belong to 8 different animal charity's "Actors
and Others for Animal" "Peta" and several others
RPN: There is a movie coming out soon on Dean Martin life. Tom
Hanks is the primary choice for Dean, do you think he would be good?
RM: I think Tom is good in anything he does. I think he has the
right personality to play Dean. Knowing him He will get into it. I'll
tell you something about Dean. You know he and Frank were very close
and after a show or something Frank would want to go out and drink
and stay up and carouse and Dean would always go home. He never
fooled around he always went home.
RPN: Did you know Peter Lawford?
RM: Oh yes, I did some game shows with Peter, we did one called
"You Don't Say" and it was one of the funniest shows we
did. He was an odd ball though we was a square peg in a round hole
but everybody loved him.
Rose Marie is still working hard today, she was just in a film
with David spade called "Lost and Found" Working seems to
be part of her. I don't think retirement is in her vocabulary. I
found it amazing that to date she hasn't found a publisher for her
autobiography. As she puts it "I guess it's not dirty
enough" Her charicter Sally Rogers will go on for generations as
a hard working career woman who was always treated equally by her co
workers and her boss, always got the same pay and the was never
looked at as anything less. All in 1961! I would say after spending
the time with her I did that the character Sally is not far from the
way she really is. She belongs in that class of women Mary Tyler
Moore, Doris Day and Lucy that showed people and especially young
girls that it was possible to be girl have a career and make it, with
or without a husband and to expect the equality and respect that they deserve.