The Rosemary Clooney House Museum held its grand opening in October on the banks of the Ohio River in Augusta. Through the efforts of former Lt. Governor Steve Henry and wife Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000, the Kentucky home of the popular singer and actress has been preserved and opened to the public. This is the home that Clooney owned for more than two decades and where she came to rest and relax from the demands of her busy career. Some of her hit songs from the ’50s were Come On-A My House, Hey There, This Ole House, and Mambo Italiano.
Filled with memorabilia from her six-decade career and her personal life, the home houses the largest collection of items anywhere in the world from her movie White Christmas. One of the blue ostrich feather fans used by Clooney and Vera Ellen while they sang Sisters is framed and hanging above the fireplace. The White Christmas script and the dresses worn in the movie at the cast party are all there.
Visitors will see the white tuxedo worn by Bob Hope in the 1953 movie Here Come the Girls with Clooney; family photos; photos of Nick and George Clooney, the singer’s brother and nephew; movie posters; her library; the rehearsal piano that she used; and Bob Mackie designs for Clooney’s concert hall gowns. Items displayed in the house were donated by Paramount Studios, the Clooney family, and fans. As her home in Beverly Hills was being demolished by its new owner, some of the construction materials were salvaged and brought to Augusta for use in building an addition to the Kentucky house. Those are also on display.
Upstairs, Clooney’s bedroom has the original furnishings and bedclothes used by the singer and her husband, Dante DiPaolo. Across the hall in another bedroom, visitors to the Miss America Room will see the gowns and tiaras worn by Heather French Henry, also from Augusta, when she was crowned Miss Kentucky, Miss America, and at age 9 Miss Sternwheeler.
While you are visiting Augusta, be sure to dine at the Beehive Tavern and Restaurant, which is only one block downriver at 101 West Riverside. The restaurant was one of Clooney’s favorite spots, with fabulous food and wonderful views of the river. Housed in a historic building that once was a drugstore, the restaurant is owned by former opera singer Sean Moral, who sometimes appears in the dining rooms to sing a variety of songs for his customers.
If you want to stay overnight in Augusta, try a historic bed-and-breakfast inn. Built in the 1800s, the Parkview Country Inn has 10 guest rooms, all furnished with antiques.
The Rosemary Clooney House
106 East Riverside Drive
Augusta, KY 41002
Admission $5. Call or go to the Web site for summer hours or tours by appointment.
Other Celeb Tours
Loretta Lynn & Crystal Gayle’s Childhood Home
Butcher Hollow near Van Lear
In Van Lear, stop at Webb’s Grocery (No. 5 Country Store on Kentucky 302 near Miller’s Creek just past Van Lear), 1917 Miller’s Creek Road, Van Lear, (606) 789-3397, and talk with Loretta’s brother, Herman Webb, about a tour of the privately owned home.
Highlands Museum and Discovery Center
Country Music Heritage Hall
Memorabilia and biographies of several well-known country music artists who came from towns either on or near U.S. Highway 23/Country Music Highway, including Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Hylo Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus, Patty Loveless, Tom T. Hall, and the Judds. Hours are Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; adults $4, children/seniors $3.50, children under 2 and members are free.
The Monroe Home Place
(270) 274-9579 or (270) 256-1430
Visit the home of Bill, Birch, and Charlie Monroe, the founders of bluegrass music. Tours are free, although donations are accepted. Hours are Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 2-6 p.m.
Everly Brothers Monument
Central City, KY
Located at the entrance to City Hall is a large granite monument dedicated to singers Phil and Don Everly. An Everly Brothers Museum and Music Complex, on 88 acres on Everly Brothers Boulevard, is in the planning stages to showcase their careers and memorabilia of nearly 50 years. For more information about the annual Everly Brothers Music Festival, contact Central City Tourism Commission, 208 North First Street, Central City, (270) 754-2360.
–Mary Jo Harrod
Visitors to the Muhammad Ali Center are knocked out by the Train with Ali exhibit, where they can shadowbox with The Greatest, and the boxing ring beneath the words that fit Ali like a pair of classic leather gloves: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
The two exhibits are among dozens of others at the museum, which opened in downtown Louisville in November, and helps narrate the story of Muhammad Ali, who was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville in 1942. An international cultural and educational institution, the $75 million Center was developed to preserve and share Ali’s legacy by inspiring and guiding others.
“Ali’s story is one of inspiration that touches individuals across the globe—regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, or culture,” says Jeanie Kahnke, vice president for communications at the Muhammad Ali Center.
That story unfolds across 24,000 square feet of exhibit space in a building that measures 93,000 square feet and is, like its founder and focus, larger than life. Through talkback stations, six exploratory galleries or portals that celebrate the prevailing themes of Ali’s life (respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, and spirituality), and an Orientation Theatre with an introductory media presentation that chronicles the major events in Ali’s life—among other attractions—the Ali Center is a place that inspires exploration of the greatness within the individual.
According to Kahnke, stepping into the Center is an immersion experience wherein visitors become enveloped in Ali’s story and are then inspired to be as great as they can be.
Says Susan Dallas, marketing communications manager of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau: “The Center is so much more than a museum of Ali’s career. You leave with a sense of the significant difference one person can make; of the power that each one of us has inside of ourselves, and how important it is to stand up for your own convictions.”
“Some visitors like the professional boxing ‘torch’ area that showcases Ali’s professional boxing career the best,” says Kahnke. “Others are drawn to the orientation film. Others are inspired and feel connected to the spirituality exhibit. And still others are deeply moved by the Conviction Pavilion that illuminates the Civil Rights era and Ali’s strong principles during that time.
“Many people also enjoy the Train with Ali exhibit in which they can shadowbox, feel the strength of an Ali punch, practice their hand at the speed bag, and learn the basics of boxing and how dedication plays a key role in succeeding,” says Kahnke.
For the Center’s namesakes, selecting a favorite exhibit hasn’t been so easy. Since the Center opened amidst a whirlwind of events, Ali and his wife, Lonnie, have not had enough time to fully explore each exhibit—although Ali expressed his pleasure with the final exhibits.
“The Ali Center’s founders are Muhammad and Lonnie Ali,” says Kahnke. “Lonnie is the vice chair of the Center and both Muhammad and Lonnie have offices in the Center. They will no doubt be making many trips to Louisville in the future.”
The location was important to the Alis: both were born and raised in Louisville and consider it their hometown.
“Lonnie and I wanted the Ali Center to be located in Louisville. It is where my journey began,” Ali says. “Louisville is a vibrant city and the perfect place to realize my dream. Louisville even has a street named after me.”
Muhammad Ali Center
144 N. Sixth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Admission: $9 general, $8 seniors, $5 students, and $4 children ages 6 to 12. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed major holidays. Parking is available in the parking garage located under the Muhammad Ali Center.
• For more information about Muhammad Ali, visit his official Web site at www.ali.com.
Galt House Hotel & Suites, an easy two-block stroll to the Center, offers Muhammad Ali packages that include accommodations for one or two nights, tickets to the museum, breakfast buffet, and complimentary parking. Call (800) 843-4258 or go online to www.galthouse.com.
This spring, the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is scheduled to open in Louisville. According to Susan Dallas, marketing communications manager of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Center will celebrate the cultural, political, historic, and artistic contributions that African Americans have made to the region.
Kentucky African American Heritage Guide
The Kentucky Department of Tourism has a Kentucky African American Heritage Guide that lists the people, sites, and events that help narrate the history of African American life in Kentucky since 1769 when an African American accompanied Daniel Boone on his journey to the new frontier.
A couple of the sites listed include:
• Frankfort: Greenhill Cemetery, corner of East Main & U.S. 60, (502) 564-7005, features the only monument in the state honoring Kentucky’s African American Civil War soldiers. Notes Marge Bateman of the Kentucky Department of Tourism: “It is one of only four monuments in the country dedicated to African American Civil War soldiers. The 14-foot monument was erected by the Colored Women’s Relief Corps in 1924.”
* Nicholasville: Camp Nelson, (859) 881-5716, www.campnelson.org, was a Union Army Civil War supply depot and training camp—the third-largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation: 10,000 African American men gained their freedom here.
• The Heritage Guide lists many more sites, located across the Bluegrass, including churches, cemeteries, galleries, museums, and other significant venues.
For more information, contact the Kentucky Department of Tourism, (502) 564-4930, www.kentuckytourism.com.
Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.