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Rose, Billy


ROSE, BILLY (William Samuel Rosenberg ; 1899–1966), U.S. showman. Rose was born to a poor family in New York. He acquired an unusual mastery of speed at shorthand, which during World War i won him a job with Bernard *Baruch. After the war, Rose decided that songwriting was a lucrative field and, on studying successful lyrics, established that they either romanticized the commonplace or played on ordinary words. His "Ain't Nature Grand" (1920) became a "hit," and three years later, at 24, Rose was earning $100,000 a year as a songwriter. He wrote lyrics for nearly 400 songs, about 50 of which were popular successes. In 1924 he opened a small nightclub and began to pioneer nightclub-style entertainment for people of moderate means. He also owned the Diamond Horseshoe in New York. In 1929 he married Fanny Brice, the Broadway musical star, the first of his five wives. From 1930, Rose produced shows on Broadway, among them Jumbo (1935), Carmen Jones (1943), and Seven Lively Arts (1944). He bought the Ziegfeld Theater (1954) and the National Theater (1958), which was renamed The Billy Rose Theater. Investing in real estate and stocks after World War ii, he became the largest single stockholder in the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. He collected art on a grand scale, and in 1965 donated his sculptures to the *Israel Museum in Jerusalem, including works by Rodin, Jacob Epstein and Daumier, to be housed in the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden. He also donated a collection of paintings that included a Gainsborough, a Reynolds, a Romney and a Turner. His sister, Polly Rose Gottlieb, wrote his biography, The Nine Lives of Billy Rose (1968).


E. Conrad, Billy Rose, Manhattan Primitive (1968).

[Lee Healey]

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