Novita y Lalo
dancing at the Sinaloa Club
in San Francisco, CA 1951.
Then in 1950 a phone call came from AGVA man Ernie Fast in San Francisco asking her to join a team. She did - working the Sinaloa club in S.F. with Lalo Pineda, a dancer from Spain. That took top priority. At the end of that year, she married her high school sweetheart, drummer Buddy Greve. Novita enjoyed a much traveled period of time which included touring with the Dorothy Lamour Road Show with Buddy as her drummer.
In 1955, she started working as a burlesque exotic, tutored by Lillian Hunt, and was dubbed "The Pixie of Burlesque" by theater manager Bob Biggs.
After many theater and night club appearances and working with many great jazz musicians (such as Teddy Edwards, Sonny Criss, Herb Geller, Lorraine Geller, Kenny Drew, Joe Maini, Walter Norris, Lou Levy, Jack Sheldon), and comics (opening many a "Lenny Bruce show" with a jazz tap routine, doing blackout skits with Tim "Kingfish" Moore of Amos and Andy fame, and performing with Scatman Cruthers, Harry Savoy, Slats Taylor, Harry Clexx, "Little Jack" Little) she quit dancing and joined AFTRA & SAG. Assisted by three good friends (actor Macdonald Carey and character actors Eddie Ryder & Jay Novello), Rosie started working in television and films and performing in live stage shows.
Novita at the Sinaloa Club
in San Francisco, CA. 1951.
She has been interviewed by Paul Coates, a popular TV personality in the 50's. Before he was honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant had a radio show and played tune requests for Rosie to listen to in her dressing room at the Follies Theater in L.A.
In 1957, she married eminent bassist "Red" Mitchell and gave up dancing and traveling except for a Gene Kelly TV Spectacular in the early 60's. Gene hand picked her for his show. Rosie resumed singing (her 2nd love) and did gigs with Red and Hampton Hawes among others.
Marriage to Red ended in the late 60's. During this time, she worked as an office manager along with Marshall Robbins for Commander Publishing (Johnny Mercer's company) which shared the office with Neil Hefti. Upon remarrying, she moved to San Francisco..
Also in the 60's, Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics to a Harry Warren tune for a movie titled "Rosie!" Johnny wrote these lyrics with Rosie Mitchell in mind and presented her with an acetate record and autographed sheet music - the record has now been made into a CD and you can hear Johnny singing the lead.
Rosie singing with Walter Norris,
Ed Leddy and Jack Sheldon
at Duffy's Gaieties
in Los Angeles in 1955.
In the 70's, Rosie became a franchised agent, joining the musicians union in San Francisco, and managed her own 9 piece rock/jazz fusion band. She brought in people from L.A. like Anita O'Day, The Merv Griffin Show Band with Jack Sheldon, Alan Broadbent, Blue Mitchell, etc. At that time she also became a professional sculptor and potter, selling her bronzes at Kersting's Gallery in Sausalito and operating her own pottery shop.
Johnny sent her tunes he had recently written with pianist Jimmy Rowles "to see what she could do with them". One was given to bassist Andy Simpkins who was with Sarah Vaughan at the time. "Morning Star", a Mercer-Rowles collaboration, was recorded by Vaughan.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1986, she worked with Ginger Mercer (Johnny's widow) as her personal assistant. Rosie has been in just about every phase of show business. Given the name Novita by her mother, she has danced under that name for everyone from Marlon Brando to Carol Channing.
Novita and "Little Jack" Little backstage at the Follies Theatre in Los Angeles - 1954.
Her talents still show in her art work - she has paid tribute to Johnny Mercer by painting him and getting his "Huckleberry Finn" look. 1997 found Rosie working as an art teacher in a local college. At the same time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a 30% chance of survival, she has been surviving that for 5 years... but as she says, "This illness has put me in focus of what I should be doing for the rest of my life".
Her artwork includes pastels of music legends, drawings of exotic dancers and her bronzes.
These and also the 8 x 10 autographed photographs of her "dancing days" are all offered for sale.
Tunes written for Rosie include "Rosie!" (Johnny Mercer), "Rosie's Spirit" (Red Mitchell), "Rose Marie" (Bernard Igner/W. Callender - recorded on Marlena Shaw's album "Who Is This Bitch Anyway?") and "Rosy Red" (Andre Previn).
Rosie has some of her paintings up in 'The Back Room' Jazz Club at Henri's Restaurant in Canoga Park (21601 Sherman Way - Canoga Park, CA...Phone # 818-348-5582). - World class jazz presented by renowned pianist John Hammond.