Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Show-biz trouper


Rose Marie is a star of show business history, in "Wait for Your Laugh." Photo: Courtesy Rose Marie
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Now 94 years old and confined to a wheelchair, Rose Marie is ready for her next job. Best-known for her role as the man-hungry Sally Rogers on the legendary sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-66), Marie is said to have had the longest active career in show business history. "Wait for Your Laugh," the new feature-length documentary about Marie's extraordinary life and career, will open at Landmark's Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco and the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley on Nov. 10.

Marie is an old-school trouper. In her world you show up on time and give the audience what they came to see. The jobs might vary. Marie has been a nightclub singer, a comedian, she's done radio, film, Broadway, sitcoms, and game shows. No matter what the gig, you give your all.

Most of her fans know that her career began as Baby Rose Marie when she was 4. Marie took to the vaudeville stages and belted out numbers in a surprisingly adult voice. She became one of the biggest names in vaudeville and radio. It was a nomadic life, going wherever the work took her. Marie loved every second of it.

Much of the story in "Wait for Your Laugh" is told by Marie herself. She reveals many surprising tales. Her dad, for example, had strong ties to the Mob, and gangsters like Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone were among her biggest fans. She opened the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas for Siegel, and called Capone "Uncle Al." They "took care" of her, and she adored them.

But there were also the usual show-business heartbreaks. In 1951 she co-starred with Phil Silvers on Broadway in the hit musical comedy "Top Banana." When the show was filmed in 1954, she was asked to reunite with Silvers, only to see herself relegated to second banana when all her numbers were cut. There was even some tension on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" when she again found herself playing second fiddle, this time to co-star Mary Tyler Moore.

It was during her run on "Van Dyke" that Marie showed her true strength as a performer. She lost her beloved husband midway through the show's production. Musician Bobby Guy, the only man Rose Marie ever loved, died of a blood infection at age 48. Devastated, Marie didn't want to work. Yet she never missed an episode, and never let the audience see her heartbreak.

After the "Van Dyke" show ended, Marie worked almost continuously for another 45 years, including a 14-year run on the game show "Hollywood Squares." She never stopped, as her life became a history of show business itself. Now, at 94, Rose Marie sits in a wheelchair, her mind sharp as a tack. She watches herself on film as a younger woman as she waits for that next gig, ready to work at any time.

There have been few people in the entertainment industry who've had the strength and staying power of Rose Marie. This film is a testament to that strength. Not only a riveting portrait of a fascinating woman, it's a look, through her eyes, inside an industry which continues to intrigue. Here's hoping that Marie gets a few more gigs.


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