AUGUSTA -- Memories and all-day festivities are planned, leading up to the White Christmas parade in Augusta, Dec. 18.
Riding in the blue Corvette the late Rosemary Clooney was driving in 1973 when he first got her to give him her phone number for a date, Dante DiPaolo will be the grand marshal of the parade this year.
"I am honored to be asked. I have never been a grand marshal," DiPaolo said Tuesday. "I don't know what I am suppose to do as grand marshal, so I guess I will just be myself."
During that fateful reunion of the actor and actress, Clooney was driving her Corvette, he said.
Confirming a passage in Clooney's memoirs, DiPaolo said he was driving his white 1956 Ford Thunderbird and, for lack of paper, wrote her number in the dust on the dashboard.
DiPaolo, an internationally known dancer and actor has been an adopted son of Augusta through the Clooney family. He is often recognized when he visits his former vacation home, wearing what has become a trademark straw hat.
"I love everyone in that whole area; they are so welcoming and have always treated me so nicely," DiPaolo said. "I have been to my home town in Colorado and there is nobody left I know. I am the oldest of my clan and the others are all gone."
Clooney and DiPaolo once lived in the yellow brick home on Riverside Drive which now houses the Rosemary Clooney House Museum.
Beginning dancing at 6 years old, DiPaolo's career both dancing and acting has spanned generations, including a stint in 1945 as a chorus boy in the Ziegfeld Follies, and acting roles in movies and television.
At age 18 he entered the U.S. Army as an infantryman and was just an hour away from being sent to the front lines of World War II in the Philippines when General Douglas MacArthur took control of Manila.
"They said he needed clerks who could type 40 words a minute," DiPaolo said.
After taking the test, DiPaolo said he was relieved to learn his high school typing classes had paid off and he had passed the test with exactly 40 words per minute.
"One mistake and the rest could have been completely different," he said.
Following the war he returned to his career as a dancer.
DiPaolo first met Clooney during the filming of "Here Come the Girls."
"It was love at first sight," he said.
They were romantically linked until he left the filming of "White Christmas" for his roll as Matt in the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers."
In 1973 they reunited and in 1997 the couple was married in Maysville.
Clooney died in 2002.
In recent years DiPaolo, 84, has been organizing things he has collected from his career and life.
"It is funny how you find one thing you forgot about and it brings back so many memories," he said.
DiPaolo has been helpful in not only uniting the cars for the museum, but he has accessed his entertainment industry contacts to assist the museum in collecting what has become an internationally known collection of White Christmas movie memorabilia, curator Steve Henry said.
Following a donation campaign "and a bit of luck," the cars have recently been reunited for the museum, he said.
"We are planning a dedication of the Thunderbird in the spring," he said.
A Willys military-style Jeep was also acquired by the museum; the same style as was used in the movie, Henry said.
A permanent location to display the vehicles is being prepared in Augusta, Henry said.
Planning to arrive a few days early, the weather is the only factor which may change DiPaolo's parade plans, he said.
"I don't want to fly if there is a snow storm," he said.
In addition to shops being open, Dec. 18 is filled with activities, including a Christmas Journey tour of churches, holiday blood drive, Gingerbread house and Elf contests, Augusta Art Guild holiday art show, chili cook-off, petting zoo, and live music, planners said.
Following the parade, which begins at 6 p.m., the Augusta Rotary will be hosting a party at the Parkview Inn, honoring DiPaolo and the Clooney family, said Jackie Hopkins, Rotary member.
Contact Wendy Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 606-564-9091, ext. 276.
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