Betty Clooney (April 12, 1929 – August 5, 1976) was an American singer, TV presenter and pioneer who briefly rose to fame in the 1950s with sister Rosemary Clooney. She led a very brief solo career, with songs like "Kiki" and "You're All I See". She married actor and musician Pupi Campo in 1955, and they had several children.
Elizabeth Ann Clooney was born on April 12, 1929 in Maysville, Kentucky to Andrew Clooney (October 13, 1902 – August 27, 1974) and Marie Frances Clooney (née Guilfoyle; March 25, 1904 – December 13, 1972). She was the second of three children, her older sister was Rosemary Clooney (1924–2002) and her younger brother was Nicholas Jack Clooney (born 1934).
Her father was a house painter who drank a lot, and had a troubled marriage with his wife. Frances divorced Andrew Clooney in the late 1930s, and Frances remarried William Stone in 1939 and they had one daughter Gail in 1945. Frances & Bill lived in Oakland, California.
The family resided in the John Brett Richeson House in the late 1940s. Clooney's paternal grandfather sang in his mayoral election campaigns, which he won three times. The two sisters were close.
Rosemary and Betty Clooney were a close sister act, and sang together. The family lived in Cincinnati in the early 1940s, where the girls continued to vocalize. In 1945, the sisters won a spot on Cincinnati's WLW Radio Station as singers. One day they were heard by bandleader Tony Pastor. The bandleader originally hesitated on hiring both sisters, but soon relented and so The Clooney Sisters hit the road with the Pastor band. They appeared in a movie short with the Pastor Orchestra in 1947. The Clooney Sisters recorded a number of songs for Columbia with the Tony Pastor Band like "The Secretary Song", "I'm My Own Grandpa", and "If I Had A Million Dollars".
In 1948, Rosemary was called to New York City to record "Come On-a My House" and Betty returned home to Cincinnati. She became a television pioneer on the city's first station, WLWT. Not only was she a featured singer on the station's main program (called The 50-50 Club and broadcast on TV as well as radio), she also hosted her own shows called "Teen Canteen" and "Boy Meets Girl".
Betty also pursued a brief solo career, far from the huge success of sister Rosemary. Betty signed to the local legendary R&B label King Records, releasing several singles including "Sisters" and "Kiki".
In the early 1950s, she was featured on the 15-minute weekday radio program The Three Suns With Betty Clooney on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
A nightclub career followed, including appearing at the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf Astoria New York. A 1954 review of her performance at the Black Orchid in Chicago, Illinois, commented, "Betty Clooney, a much more vibrant and projecting personality than her sister, Rosemary, opened here to an audience that fell immediately to her contagious charm."
In 1952, Clooney became the mistress of ceremonies of a new program, Goin' Steady, on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. The program was "said to be the most elaborate locally sponsored variety show on the air." She was a regular on three CBS television programs in the 1950s:
The Jack Parr Show, Fridays weekly (1953–1954)
The Morning Show, Mondays - Fridays (1954–1955)
The Robert Q. Lewis Show, Mondays - Fridays (1955–1956)
She also appeared on countless variety shows in the 1950s where she sang, danced and acted in skits that showcased her beautiful voice and brilliant sense of humor. She recorded for several more record labels including RCA's X label, Decca's Coral label (where she had a minor hit with the song "Sin And Satin") and Columbia's Children's Records.
She also filmed several Soundies of popular hits. Although Betty recorded the hit song "Sisters" from the film White Christmas (1954) with Rosemary for Columbia's single release, in the movie Vera-Ellen's singing voice was dubbed by singer Trudy Stevens. Not one to really seek fame, she subsequently retired from showbiz to raise her family appearing only sporadically on television until her death.
She married Cuban actor and singer Pupi Campo on September 7, 1955 at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, New York. They had four children: Cathi Ann (born 1957 Miami Beach, Florida), Carlos Alejandro Campo (born September 5, 1958 in Miami Beach, Florida), Cristina Maria (born 1960) and Rosemary Cari (born 1962). The union ended with her death in 1976.
She became ill in early July 1976 with severe brain damage while working on Jack Paar's TV program. She died on August 5, 1976 in Las Vegas, Nevada from a brain aneurysm. She was survived by a son, three daughters, and a half-sister, Gail Stone.
Several years after Betty's death, J.P. McCarthy of WJR Detroit asked Rosemary Clooney how Betty was doing. As it turned out, he had been unaware of Betty's death up until that point.
After Clooney's death, her family established the Betty Clooney Foundation for Persons with Brain Injury. It operates the Betty Clooney Center for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury near Los Angeles. Additional funds were raised by staging annual concerts to benefit the foundation.
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