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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Rose Marie--An appreciation

Rose Marie performs "I Wish I Could Sing Like Durante"

It didn’t last long enough, but there was something truly special and wonderful about Rose Marie’s final curtain call.

She was 94, true, but somehow it was like she was just getting started when she died Thursday, what with her acclaimed new documentary Wait for Your Laugh and a twitter presence that seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds over the last few months.

Indeed, she was tweeting daily, even on the day of her death: “After opening the Flamingo Vegas 71 years ago this week, I always considered myself a Flamingo Girl, and worked there many times,” she tweeted Thursday. “I worked other casino showrooms, but only after I made sure it was okay with ‘the boys’ at the Flamingo.”

Just the day before she had tweeted: “71 years ago I was in [the] City of Las Vegas performing at the Grand Opening of Flamingo Vegas. Opening night was amazing, great reviews and packed with so many stars from Hollywood. Jason Wise did a great job of covering this period of my life and Vegas’ history in Wait for Your Laugh.”

Then the day after—yesterday—the Flamingo Las Vegas tweeted its tribute: “It is with great sadness that we had to say good-bye to a Las Vegas legend yesterday. The first to ever perform at the Flamingo on opening night, December 26, 1946, ‘Baby’ Rose Marie will never be forgotten.”

Credit Wait for Your Laugh director Wise for giving the beloved entertainer, who started her performing career at age 3 as Baby Rose Marie and kept it going to the very end, one last victory lap.

As Paula Poundstone tweeted, “Thanks to the documentary makers who, just in the nick of time, gave the great Rose Marie the chance to hear the wonderful round of accolades she earned.” Mark Hamill likewise tweeted: “Thanks for all the laughs Rose Marie! So glad you could take your final bow while enjoying ANOTHER career high w/Wait for Your Laugh & a new generation of fans who loved you. Your timing always was... perfection.”

Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady on The Brady Brunch and worked with Rose Marie on a sitcom pilot episode, surely voiced the thoughts of a generation with her tweet, “Thank you for bringing my family and I a lifetime of happiness and laughter! One of my greatest childhood memories was gathering around our TV set to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

In a guest column written for The Hollywood Reporter’s recent “2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100” issue, Rose Marie noted that her role of television writer Sally Rogers on classic 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show “was a groundbreaking character in part because it wasn’t expected that a woman would be equal to men in a professional setting and make the same salary,” though she also acknowledged her disappointment that the “ideal woman” was still younger and prettier, i.e., Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie housewife to Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie head writer.

“I find it interesting that so much of the talk today about our show isn’t about either of our legs, but rather what a trailblazing character Sally was,” wrote Rose Marie. “There are so many people, especially writers and comediennes, who were inspired by her. She has had a tremendous impact and even paved the way for the characters in [Marlo Thomas's '60s sitcom] That Girl and Mary’s next series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Rose Marie, who also revealed how she stood up to a producer’s sexual harassment—and the professional price she paid for doing so—said that she never knew of the impact her Sally Rogers would have, nor did she know if things had improved for women since.

“On the one hand,” she wrote, “now there are more women directors, producers and studio execs, and I think that is wonderful. On the other hand, there's a new ‘casting couch’ story coming out every day.”

Via Twitter, Carl Reiner, who created and acted in The Dick Van Dyke Show, said, “There’s never been a more engaging & multi-talented performer. In a span of 90 years, since she was 4, dear Rosie performed on radio, in vaudeville, night clubs, films, TV, & Vegas & always had audiences clamoring for ‘more!!’”

On Facebook, Los Angeles cultural historian Alison Martino, who interviewed Rose Marie, Reiner, Van Dyke, and Peter Marshall (emcee of Hollywood Squares—on which Rose Marie was one of three permanent celebrity “squares”), found herself at a loss for words.

“I first met Rose Marie through [comedian and Dick Van Dyke Show co-star] Morey Amsterdam and witnessed her give his touching and hysterical eulogy at his funeral service,” wrote Martino. “I never imagined so many years later I would have the extreme honor of interviewing her this past August alongside her beloved colleagues, Dick Van Dyke, Peter Marshall, and Carl Reiner. It was one of the most incredible nights of my career.”

Not only was Rose Marie “an absolute genius up on that stage,” continued Martino, “she was so loving and gracious to everyone--including me. I was in the company of giants. True comedy legends--the original pioneers of comedy and she treated me with equal kindness. I will miss her forever, but what a wonderful life she had! I'm so grateful she lived long enough to witness that brilliant documentary, Wait for Your Laugh, made about her life. I was fortunate to sit directly behind her as she watched the movie for the first time on the big screen.”

“I couldn't keep my eyes off her,” Martino concluded. “Farewell funny lady.”



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