Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

UPDATED 02/17/1997 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/17/1997 at 01:00 AM EST

>Nick Clooney

HEART-TO-HEART

IN ER AND IN LIFE, GEORGE Clooney has specialized in playing the field. It's not a family trait. Clooney's parents, Nick, 62, and Nina, 57, have been married for 37 years. So the pair were a natural choice to preside over American Movie Classics' Valentine's Day special Isn't It Romantic? In the special, Nina and Nick (a host for the cable network since 1994) profile three long-wed Hollywood couples—Charlton and Lydia Heston (52 years), Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter (12 years) and Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson (49 years). "What I learned is that there is no common denominator," says Clooney, who, quoting Eli Wallach, adds, "Every long-term relationship is a kind of miracle."

The Clooneys' own magic began in 1959, when Nick, a Lexington, Ky., broadcast journalist, emceed the Miss Lexington Pageant. Nina, then a student at the University of Kentucky, won, and it was his job to chaperon her to official soirees. "By about the fifth or sixth of those chicken-and-peas dinners, I said, 'Would you pass the butter and would you marry me?' " he recalls. "She picked up the butter, looked at it for a second and said, 'Here's the butter, and okay' We married two months later." Over Clooney's four-decade career, the couple—with kids George and Ada (now an accountant and mother of two) in tow—moved frequently as Clooney filled anchor slots in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Buffalo and hosted a short-lived 1974-75 ABC game show called Money Maze. Now settled in Augusta, Ky., Clooney admits he and Nina, a local council-woman, have had their share of marital ups and downs. But, he advises young lovers, "if you can hang in for a while, I think you'll find something wonderful on the other side."

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