Clooney and Arnaz romance the isle
Famed families' scions head to Hawaii for Catingub's music fest
Matt Catingub might have hit on something with "Return to Romance." It seems, like litmus, the concept colors all those involved in subtly different shades. For guest star Nick Clooney, it's a chance to revisit the great music of his youth, the tunes his sisters used to sing around the house; for Lucie Arnaz, the Hawaii connection scratches up emotional memories of a blissful childhood that was torn apart.
Return To Romance
Tickets are $45 to $75 per concert, available at the Blaisdell box office, Hawaii Theatre and Ticketmaster outlets. Call 591-2211.
» "The Most Romantic Songs Ever Written": with Lucie Arnaz, Nick and Nina Clooney, Brian Stokes Mitchell; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Hawaii Theatre
» "Return to Romance -- the CD," 7 p.m. Friday, Waikiki Shell
» "The Rhythm of Romance": with Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and Ruben Studdard; 7 p.m. Sunday, Blaisdell Arena
"First of all, I love Hawaii more than anything in my life," said Arnaz from her snow-covered home in upstate New York. "I've been there many, many, many, many, many times -- our honeymoon, our anniversaries, brought our kids there many times, my parents brought me there when I was little -- Hawaii is my own special oasis on this planet."
Since Arnaz's parents were Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the trips were a way of escaping the Hollywood pressure cooker.
"We had some of the happiest times of my life in Hawaii," she recalled, her voice going quiet. "It was before my parents were divorced and the time when they were at their happiest. No arguing, no work to take them away, and they just loved being there and with each other. My best memory of pure joy.
"As I got older, and my mom was married to somebody else and my dad was married to somebody else, still, if anyone said they were going to Hawaii, I would get tears in my eyes. The plane would land in Honolulu, and I would start to weep. ... You'd step off the plane and smell the flowers -- your scent memory is so strong -- every pore in my body remembers it."
Clooney's family also dissolved when he was a lad, and sisters Rosemary and Betty escaped by forming a singing duo. "I was the third-best singer in my family, so I went into the Army," laughed Clooney.
He then became a well-respected television news anchor and director in Ohio and Kentucky, and has written a thrice-weekly column for the Cincinnati Post for three decades now. He took brief stab at politics but lost to a Republican whose platform was "Nick Clooney is a loony liberal!"
Sister Rosemary and son George have -- ahem -- had some success in show business.
Six degrees time: Lucie Arnaz learned of Matt Catingub when she picked up Rosemary Clooney's posthumous "Last Concert" album, arranged by Catingub. "I thought, 'This guy's phenomenal!'" said Arnaz. "I've played it until it's worn out."
COURTESY RETURN TO ROMANCE FESTIVAL
Lucie Arnaz performs romantic classics on Thursday.
The songs are classics, and Clooney is eager to spread the word. "I won't be doing any singing!" he insists. "We're gonna have some people who do know how to do that. What I'll try to do, I think, is maybe put some of the music itself in perspective.
"I find myself the oldest guy in the room now everywhere I go, and I remember those days. There was a specific age in music, from about 1925 to maybe 1950, that a kind of mental convergence occurred in American popular music.
"There is empirical evidence because we have people who, even now, if they want to set a romantic mood for a movie or something, they're going to have to reach back and find one out of that enormous pool of remarkable music."
In those days, he said, everyone knew all the songs because there was only one hit parade -- not a fragmented collection of playlists for different genres.
"I know all these songs. I knew them the first time around. I know they weren't all good, too. But the interesting thing is they were all musical. Even if it was a nonsense song, there was a musicality to it that was undeniable. ... The interesting thing was, at one level or anther, the music was always trying to touch your rational being, rather than just your emotional sense. And I think that made a huge difference."
These tunes are "so pretty -- classic, beautiful love songs written by the best composers ever." said Arnaz. "I'm doing 'Can't Take My Eyes Off of You,' which is from the '70s. 'I'll Be Seeing You,' one of the greatest songs ever written, 'How Deep Is the Ocean.' Just a lot of good stuff!"
She and husband, Lawrence Luckinbill, are in the midst of selling their house in upper New York to move to Connecticut, and she's feeling reflective. They've lived there for a quarter-century.
"Empty nest syndrome, the kids have moved out and we're downsizing," sighed Arnaz, whose 24-year-old daughter, Kate Luckinbill, is also pursuing a musical stage career. "It just snowed here. We have 17 acres and lots of trees, and it looks spectacular."
Shouldn't she be out shoveling snow? And, once the tears have dried, will she rest up in the islands?
"Downtime? Of course! Are you kidding? Hawaii invented downtime! There's no uptime there! Stuff like this, I hate to call it work. To be in Hawaii, doing what I love to do, playing with an orchestra -- you just don't get to do that anymore.
"I just performed at Lincoln Center in a tribute to Marilyn and Allan Bergman, and you know, it was just piano, bass and drums. And I did my part with just piano, because they didn't want to come up with bass and drum charts! It was fine, but where are the days when you could salute great songs and songwriters with a full orchestra? It's real privilege, a real treat. I can't wait."