Rose Marie found success as a child star at age three during the 1920s, long before Shirley Temple made her screen debut. And she never lost her passion for entertaining audiences.
The 94-year-old actress, who went on to star as Sally Rogers in the 1961 sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” died on December 28, 2017.
For what was her last phone interview before her death, Rose Marie spoke to Fox News in November about the new documentary, titled “Wait For Your Laugh,” which chronicles her decades-long career in show business. Originally known as Baby Rose Marie, she first got a taste of fame not in Hollywood, but Atlantic City while on vacation with her parents.
“We went to a club where Evelyn Nesbit was playing,” Rose Marie recalled. “She was a big star at the time… While she was singing, I got up and started to sing right with her. And when we were through, she told my father, ‘She’s adorable, what’s her name?’ My father told her, ‘Dainty Rose Marie.’ She said, ‘She’s a baby! Call her Baby Rose Marie.’ And then I started playing at hotels, country clubs, things like that.”
By age 10, Rose Marie managed to charm “Uncle Al" Capone.
“I didn’t know [my father] was working for Al [Capone] years ago, evidently,” said Rose Marie. “He told my father, ‘The boys want to meet her. The boys are crazy about her.’ My father told him, ‘She’s doing five shows a day, so it’s a little difficult.’ But he said, ‘We’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about it.’”
Rose Marie soon found herself in an isolated house on Chicago’s Cicero suburb with 24 gangsters sitting around a table, fawning over her.
“They were all going, ‘You’re our Baby!’” she said. “And then Al picked me up in his arms and said, ‘We love you Baby. From now on, you call me uncle Al.’ I said, ‘Sure, why not? Ok, uncle Al.’ … At that time every hotel or popular place, gambling place, was owned by one of the boys, or ran by one of the boys. And I knew them all from going from one place to another doing my act.”
Capone would reportedly go on to drive her to and from shows. And it wouldn’t be the last time the young entertainer would enchant a mobster.
“Bugsy Siegel and I became very good friends,” she said. “He was a very sweet man to me. I worked for him for two weeks at the Flamingo. I opened the Flamingo. It was the first hotel I opened. Vegas [back then] was just a desert with two hotels… It was Xavier Cugat, Jimmy Durante and myself.
"Bugsy was running short of money. And the mob got very mad at him and wouldn’t send him any more money. That’s why they called him Bugsy. Because they thought he was crazy… But he helped opened up the Flamingo. All the stars of Hollywood were there that night… It was one hell of a show.”
However, it wasn’t the mafia that offered a helping hand to Rose Marie when it came to achieving international stardom on television. She credited her persistence in wanting to appear in the hit series “Make Room for Daddy,” starring a hotshot comic from Chicago she considered as family.
“Every time I played Vegas, Danny Thomas would come to see the show,” she said. “One day I told him, ‘So when am I going to do your show? Everyone does your show except me!’ He said, ‘Your time will come.’”
Rose Marie quickly received a call from the casting department of Desilu, the production company co-owned by “I Love Lucy” stars Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. She was offered to appear in a new series, titled “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
“I didn’t read for the part [of Sally Rogers],” said Rose Marie. “I didn’t have to audition. I didn’t have to do anything. It was my part from the very beginning… But I had no idea what ‘Dick Van Dyke’ was.”
And while playing wisecrack Sally Rogers, she quickly befriended the sitcom’s leading man when cameras stopped rolling.
“I thought he was wonderful, I still do,” said Rose Marie about Dick Van Dyke. “I think he’s a brilliant talent. He loves a good time… It was a pleasure working for somebody like that. I love him very much. Even today I love him. We do keep in touch. Very, very much so.”
Rose Marie was easily impressed by another co-star.
“Mary Tyler Moore was brand new and very pretty,” she explained. “She had a good figure. And everybody went crazy for her. She was very feminine, very charming. I was always with the boys. I was never in that position. I hung out with Carl [Reiner] and Dick [Van Dyke]."
"Mary was very, very busy becoming a star. Even the first day we were at rehearsal. She said, ‘I’m going to have my own show.’ I would say, ‘Why don’t you wait until we do this one first?’ But Mary, she was very much a go-getter. She learned an awful lot from all of us. And we all helped her.”
“The Dick Van Dyke Show” aired from 1961 until 1966.
And despite her busy schedule, Rose Marie also created a loving family of her own. Before her time on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” she married trumpeter Bobby Guy. They had one daughter, Georgiana Guy. Her friend Frank Sinatra helped her break the news to her beau about the pregnancy.
“Frank said, ‘Don’t forget, I was the first one who knew you were pregnant,’” she described.
Guy passed away in 1964 and she never remarried. Instead Rose Marie continued to perform across the country. However, she admitted the current scene of female comedians in Hollywood have changed the industry.
“I think they’re terrible,” she admitted. “Is that blunt enough? First of all, they’re filthy. They all use four letter words. Being funny is not using four letter words. Morey [Amsterdam] taught me that. He said, ‘If you have to use four letter words, you’re not funny.' And it’s true! They use dirty words for shock value. They’re not funny. I can’t laugh at them… All the great comics are gone… Just pay attention next time and you’ll see what I mean.”