Winer, a New Yorkbased journalist who covers musical theater and cabaret (coauthor of Sing Out, Louise!, not reviewed), spent a year on the cabaret circuit following its three dominant figures, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Cook, and Julie Wilson, with serendipitous results. The three grandes dames of contemporary cabaret are all survivors by nature, stars of television, Broadway, and supper clubs, respectively, whose careers came to abrupt and disastrous halts in the early 1960s, and who persevered through personal tragedy to return to the peak of their popularity in the smaller arena of the nightclub world in the '80s and '90s. That they have done so at ages at which most people are contemplating retirement only adds to the triumphant nature of their stories. Clooney suffered from a well-documented nervous breakdown, exacerbated by drinking and pills; Cook succumbed to a combination of panic disorder, hypoglycemia, and eating problems; Wilson was forced out of the business by the advent of rock music and a series of family illnesses and deaths. Winer uses a complex structure of reporting and flashbacks to trace their rise, fall, and rise while using them as a lens through which to view the changes in the nightclub business in the last 40 years. She also manages to give readers a glimpse of the plight of the next generation of cabaret singers, including such stalwarts as Mary Cleere Haran and Anne Hampton Calloway, as they persevere in the intimate world of the boåte. Winer's prose is as limpid and expressive as a Barbara Cook trill, as gritty as Wilson's heartily growling alto, and as warming as Clooney's firm swing. A book of considerable charm, with a surprising but entirely apt feminist subtext and appealing candor. Makes you want to rush out to the nearest nightclub and check out the action.