Rose Marie: ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ star who counted Al Capone as a fan

Rose Marie Mazzetta was born in Manhattan to Frank Mazzetta and Stella Gluszcak. At the time, Frank, a vaudeville actor, was married to and had a family with somebody other than Gluszcak. However he fully embraced his role as father to his new daughter. And later his role as her manager.

Frank soon had his daughter on stage. She began her vaudeville career as Baby Rose Marie at the age of three, after winning a Manhattan talent contest. She had her own NBC TV show by the age of five, though the raspy voice that would become her trademark made many people doubt she was really a child. Aged nine in 1932, she had a hit with single “Say You Were Teasing Me”. Meanwhile Frank retained 100 per cent of his daughter’s earnings, using them to support both his families.  

Frank Mazzetta was a small-time gangster and in her 2002 autobiography, Hold The Roses, Rose Marie claimed much of her success came courtesy of the mob. Al Capone was an early fan. At their first meeting, when Rose Marie was eight, Capone promised, “If you need anything, you want anything, you let us know. We’ll take care of you.” And though “Uncle Al” went to prison shortly afterwards, he remained true to his word. 

Dropping the “Baby” from her name, teenager Rose Marie worked as a nightclub performer, and Capone’s associates made sure she was always earning. “They kept me working all year, because every place I went, somebody owned it, you know. And I was looked after with kid gloves. It was absolutely wonderful.”

Aged 23, Rose Marie headlined at the 1946 opening of Vegas casino The Flamingo Hotel, owned by the mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Judy Garland and Joan Crawford were in the audience.  

But while the mobsters treated Rose Marie with great respect, she found less gallantry in Hollywood. Last year in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Rose Marie recalled her own #metoo moment. After working on a musical called Top Banana, she was all set to star in the 1954 film of the same name.

“The producer… came up to me after I’d run through the song called “I Fought Every Step of the Way”, which had boxing references, and said that he could show me a few positions. He wasn’t referring to boxing.

The star was the subject of 2017 documentary, ‘Wait For Your Laugh’ (Getty)

“I laughed it off, but he said he was serious and that the picture could be mine. Well, in front of everyone onstage, I said, ‘You son of a…

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