Julius La Rosa, a pop singer known for his hit song “Eh, Cumpari,” died on May 12, 2016, at the age of 86. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Maria La Rosa Smith, and Joe Charapata of the Rhodes-Charapata Funeral Home. Smith said her father died in his sleep of natural causes at his home in Crivitz, Wisconsin.
La Rosa was born on January 2, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian-immigrant parents. He joined the United States Navy at age 17, after finishing high school, and became a radioman. He sang in a Navy choir, at the officers’ club, and at bars to pay for his drinks.
His singing talent caught the attention of Arthur Godfrey, one of America’s leading radio and television personalities and a Naval Reserve officer himself. Godfrey invited La Rosa to appear on his CBS TV show, and offered him a job after his discharge. La Rosa became a regular on both the morning Arthur Godfrey Time and the Wednesday night variety show Arthur Godfrey and His Friends from 1951 to 1953.
A Controversial Firing and a Successful Career
La Rosa’s popularity grew exponentially as he recorded several hits, including “Eh, Cumpari,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1953. He also received 7,000 fan letters a week, eclipsing Godfrey’s. However, his growing fame annoyed Godfrey, who fired him live on the air on Oct. 19, 1953, saying that he lacked “humility” and that he had hired an agent.
The public firing actually boosted La Rosa’s career for a while. He served as the summer replacement on Perry Como’s TV show in 1955, where he met and married Como’s secretary, Rosemary Meyer. He also got his own TV show in 1955, and appeared on numerous other variety shows in the 1950s and ’60s, including Ed Sullivan’s. He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1980 for best supporting actor for his role on Another World. He was also a longtime disc jockey on WNEW-AM in New York.
A Quiet Retirement and a Loving Family
La Rosa lived for 42 years in Irvington, in New York’s Westchester County, and continued to tour, perform and act for decades. He and his wife moved to Crivitz, a small town in northeastern Wisconsin, only in November 2015. He loved Wisconsin, where he spent his summers and holidays with his wife’s family. He died peacefully in his sleep, leaving behind his wife, his daughter, his son Christopher, and his grandchildren.
Julius La Rosa was a talented and versatile singer, who overcame a humiliating dismissal and achieved a long and successful career in the entertainment industry. He was also a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, who enjoyed a simple and happy life in his later years. He will be remembered by his fans and his family as a charming and humble man, who sang from his heart.