“The Ides of March” opened No. 2 at the box office last weekend with $10.4 million, behind Hugh Jackman’s “Real Steel” robots ($27.3 million).
USA Today said that the film, “considered an early Oscar contender,” marked a “solid debut” for George Clooney’s political thriller set in the Cincinnati area.
But long before he became a national star, George Clooney already showed star quality while living in Mason with his family from 1968 to 1974.
While in Mason, the Clooneys — Nick and Nina, son George and his older sister, Ada — lived in an old farm house across from Western Row Golf Course. George attended school at both Western Row Elementary School and St. Susanna, where he served as an altar boy.
It was in Mason that George began to perfect his talent for deflecting trouble and disarming rivals by making them laugh, as reported in a 2006 Enquirer story by reporters John Kiesewetter and Margaret McGurk
Like most bright dyslexics, she said, he learned to compensate. “George got through school by charming his teachers,” she said.
Classmate Ann Harpen remembers George facing some less-than-friendly attitudes among other children.
“George was very hyper in grade school,” she said. “Some of the kids were not real nice to him,” she said. “His father was this famous TV anchorman, and some kids were mean to him because of that. That’s why he and my brother (Pete) got to be good friends. My brother was never like that.”
John Romer, now a vice president at Fifth Third Bank, remembers serving Mass as a St. Susanna altar boy alongside George.
“George and his sister were always very conscious of social issues, and his parents were strong influences on the person he is today,” Romer said. “George would strongly defend his positions and argue logically and passionately. The ongoing debates between George and (conservative talk show host) Bill O’Reilly are easy to understand. But George was never combative. He was the person you wanted to be with and laugh with.”
“In my opinion, George is now making millions of dollars doing the same things he did in Mason,” said Perry Denehy, now head athletic trainer at Sycamore High School, who was a close friend during the years when the Clooneys lived in Mason. “George always had all the props, like rubber chickens and whoopee cushions.
“I always thought Pete Harpen and I gave him a run for his money,” Denehy said. “The three of us emceed an evening talent show, and I got to stick a whipped cream pie into George’s face during our ‘Three Stooges’ act.”
“I have always felt that I gave George his start in show biz,” said Carol Rauch, an associate academic director at the University of Cincinnati. “I was a first-year teacher at Western Row Elementary School in Mason 1969-70 when George was in second grade there. For the Christmas program, George and Ada were my featured performers in a play I wrote called ‘When the Toys Came to Life.’ When the play opened, they were sitting on the front of the stage singing ‘Dear Santa, I just got the measles,’ covered with red dots.”
The Clooney family moved from Mason to Augusta when George was midway through seventh grade. George missed St. Susanna so much that he made his way back to Mason for the eighth-grade graduation, posing with his old friends in their class picture.
“I have no idea how he did that,” Nina said. “But there he is in the picture. He’s wearing an open-collar shirt and the rest of the boys are in jackets and ties.”
Do you have any memories of growing up with George in Mason? Share them in the comments.