Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rosie, Bill Bailey, and Water Street Pavillion



There have been several mentions of Rosie on Flint Expatriates and her performances of "Bill Bailey" in various Flint locales. Steve Hester, a producer and director at Zoom Digital Media in Grand Blanc, passed along this video of Rosie singing her signature tune.

"Rose Mary DeRosia was one of Flint's all-time great characters," Steve writes. "I taped this when I worked at Water Street Pavilion in downtown in 1988.

"Rosie, as she was universally known, had one true love in life: singing. Her theme song was 'Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey,' and for years she would belt it out anyplace, anytime, especially if there was a band or a crowd nearby.

"Physically disabled and a survivor of 30 years in a mental institution, she was not homeless but spent much of her time on Flint streets, hitchhiking to get around.

Rosie got her moment in the limelight for her 68th birthday, in 1987, when 500 people came out to hear her sing — backed by some of Flint's top musicians — in a concert put on just for her at the Windmill Place.

"Rosie died March 18, 1990, after being hit by a car. Benefit concerts and fundraisers paid for a complete funeral and a headstone inscribed with the opening notes of 'Bill Bailey.'"

18 comments:

  1. I can remember Rosie when she would sing outside the old Little Caesars in the South Flint Plaza. Back in the mid 80s that was where we would hang out on Friday nights. This post sure brought back some good memories. Everyone always treated her well. My dad knew about her to

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  2. I never knew about this Lady, I was long gone from Flint by then. Her delivery and inflection is really good. I definitely would have been in her gallery had I have been around. South Flint Plaza, eh. I remember the Friday nights there earlier though-with Orange Fred and some others from the area...unclebuck

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  3. Nice to see her memorialized here. I think everyone in Flint has seen or heard of Rosie. If she's not on your Slim Chipley post about 'you know you're from Flint', she should be.

    Thanks for posting this. :)

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  4. When I used to run the open mike night on tuesdays at Doobies, Rosie used to come in sometimes and ask me if she could sing. She always brought the house down. Everyone was "Dear" to her. I loved the way she sang.

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  5. Rosie DeRosia rules! Here we are twenty years after her death still talking about her. She LIVES!! Rosie may have been "disabled" or whatever, but she was a true positive vibe merchant.

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  6. Rosie startled the hell out of me the first time she came up to our table at Doobies. I had my back to her and she came on with that voice, somewhere between sweet granny and a hoarse croak. It got better after that. She was as much Flint as those Buick portholes.

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  7. This is freaky, I saw Rosie the night she died. She was at the bar called "Cruisin" on Dort Hwy.(what a joint that was! I think Expats could do a whole expozay on that place!!)

    I went to the DJ and said...Hey Rosie is here..let her sing!..but the DJ rejected my offer!!

    When we left I saw the ambulance and Police in the street and wondered what had happened, only to find out it was our "Rosie"

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  8. Oh she was a sweetheart! I used to work at Water Street Pavillion and see her there all the time. I did not know she had be killed until about 2 years ago. She reminded me of my beloved grandmother and I cried just as hard for poor Rosie.
    I have always wondered if that scum who hit and killed her was prosecuted.
    I know this woman is in heaven!

    RoadsideDinerLover

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  9. I hope to live as full a life as Rosie! Rosie brought the house down at the Peppermill Underground.

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  10. I gave her a ride several times from one bar to another.As she got out of the car she would mooch a couple of dollars for "price of admission",her first drink.After that everyone would buy her drinks.She made my wife sit in the back seat because she said she would get sick riding there.

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  11. She was awesome. A true character. I wish I could have met her.

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  12. My Mother always used to talk about Rosie. She would walk around singing all of the time and was just the sweetest thing. my Mom said one sure way to make Rosie happy was to ask her to sing, especially if you requested Bill Bailey specifically. I remember seeing her outside of the Little Caesar's and was so excited to tell Mom that I saw her.

    Another character from Flint that many people don't mention is Big Bertha. My Mom talked of her a lot too. If I remember what my Mom told me correctly she was a six foot tall deaf lady who wore a fur coat everyday no matter the weather. Does anyone remember her?

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  13. On the note of Flint classic folks..does anyone remember the guy who used where a surgery mask and lived at the junk yard on Grand Traverse? I used to see him quite often at the Hamaday on 3rd and G. Traverse and he walked up and down that street quite frequently.

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  14. I think, if it's the same fellow, he wore a scarf even in the summer around the lower part of his face and neck because part of his jaw was missing. I think he did work around Wolfe's junk yard on Deming Rd. He may have been a DAV...if he was, God bless him...unclebuck

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  15. I was wondering if anyone knows where Rosie was buried?

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  16. I think you are talking about big Bessie.I don't recall that she was deaf.She walked everyuwhere and made 5 mph easily.She sometimes carried a gown in a hamady sack and people in the bars would ask her to sing.She would have to put on her "costume".There was a lot of music in the bars in Flint but it was illegal to dance in the city until late 50's or early 60's i think.

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  17. I remember "Big Bess" very well from early fifties. She was well over six feet tall and wasn't deaf. She hoofed all over Flint, but would accept a ride. I felt sorry for her because she was made fun of where ever she went. I've always wondered/hoped that her life turned out OK....unclebuck

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  18. I have a pic of My Grand Father and Big Bess back in 1955 when they were both well known musicians in Flint. My Grand Father was recently inducted into the Michigan country Music Hall of Fame. Jim Minor was his name. Please email me if you know him or would like to see the pic. Donnamhasman@yahoo.com

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