Rosemary Clooney Museum draws in fans for White Christmas collection
A house in the Northern Kentucky river town of Augusta that Rosemary Clooney called home is a museum paying tribute to the singer and actress.
The museum displays the largest collection of costume memorabilia from the 1954 movie White Christmas.
On the banks of the Ohio River sits the Rosemary Clooney house and museum. On this day, docent Dorinda Perkins guides a steady stream of visitors through Clooney’s former dining room where pictures of the late singer’s career fill one wall.
“This was Rosie’s house from 1980 to the present. She was born about 19 miles from here in Maysville. So, this was coming home,” explained Perkins.
The non-profit museum is owned by Former Miss America Heather French who is from Augusta and her husband former Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Dr. Steve Henry. French Henry said she was good friends with Rosemary Clooney.
“When I became Miss America, she was one of the only Clooneys I hadn’t met yet and so she actually called me, she was the second phone call I received after winning. And then she proceeded to call me every week for the entire year and we got a chance to become very good friends. She was a great mentor to me. And people from all over the world have come to the house. Whether it is remembering her through White Christmas or remembering her music career, people love Rosemary Clooney,” said French Henry.
The museum displays memorabilia from every movie Rosemary ever made and even a few pieces from nephew George Clooney’s productions like his film, Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
Andrea Adkins who came from Orlando, Florida is interested in the White Christmas Collection. She said she loves the iconic movie that starred Rosemary Clooney along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera Ellen.
“Well, I heard that the White Christmas exhibit was leaving today and we had to come today or we weren’t going to get to see it this season. So, we got dressed, we got here as quickly as we could and wow, I’m so impressed with the museum and then to come into this room and see all these costumes that I have loved for years after watching White Christmas many, many, times. This is like the mecca of White Christmas the movie and I’m just moved, it’s beautiful,” reported Adkins.
Owner and curator Heather French Henry said the pieces from the White Christmas collection have come from all over the world and she says each piece is authentic.
“We have the largest collection and really, possibly the only collection of White Christmas costume memorabilia. We cataloged around 177 pieces and that varies from everything from costumes to props from the movies to lobby cards and posters which actually, are just as hard to find as the costumes,” said French Henry.
Several visitors stand in awe as docent Dorinda Perkins points to the two blue dresses worn during the popular song, Sisters, sung by Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney in the 1954 movie classic.
“Now the two Sisters’ dresses are the originals. Rosemary’s is really sun-faded. So, we keep it dark in here as much as we can. We got Vera Ellen’s directly from the studio and it’s still really pristine,” said Perkins.
Wearing a t-shirt with a picture of the film White Christmas on the front of it, Dayton, Ohio resident Kathy Schaefer said she’s been planning a trip to this museum all year. She and her sister Sally Fridley said their mother taught them the song Sisters when they were very young.
“She’d say, now sing your Sisters song and we would do that. We had no idea until we grew up that that’s what it was from and then it was like, oh, that’s that song mom made us learn,” explained Fridley.
The women are big fans of the iconic movie and have seen it countless times. I asked the duo if they’d sing a few bars from the song. They’re hesitant but say they might get the courage to sing a few lines of the Sisters song before they leave here today because their 92-year-old mother would get a kick out of that.
What did you see today that stood out to you in the White Christmas room, asked Lawson.
“Probably their Sisters’ dresses. It’s such a big part of the movie. It’s also interesting that she said one of them has been preserved and the other hasn’t. And you can really tell that taking care of these things matters,” replied Schaefer.
Schaefer and Fridley: chime in singing: “Lord help the mister that comes between me and my sister and lord help the sister who comes between me and my man….laugh laugh
For now, said curator Heather French Henry memorabilia from Clooney’s other movies including costumes worn by co-stars like Bob Hope, Arlene Dahl, and Anna Maria Alberghetti will remain on display. As a big box truck pulls up to the back of the museum, she said the White Christmas Collection will be transported to an Omaha, Nebraska museum for the Holidays but she said it will return to Northern Kentucky in 2024 in time to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the iconic film.
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