What is a living legend? A unique talent who made 362 movies (more than anyone else), made his debut at 18 months old and is currently celebrating his 90th Birthday doing what he loves. Mickey Rooney has been a silver screen star beginning as little tough guy Mickey McGuire and better known as Andy Hardy opposite Judy Garland. His list of films are more than impressive including musicals that were the cornerstone of Hollywood with songs by the Great American songwriters; Rodgers, Hart, Berlin, Gershwin.
In a recent interview with Mickey and Jan, I found out they’re like most married couples. They fight about a lot of things “What program we should watch on TV. . .Mickey yelling, you’ve got that damn CNN and Fox on again. . .” Jan retorting “All you ever watch is NBC. . .It goes on and on” says Jan. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but as Jan relates “I never would have married him but for the fact that I saw he was truly a family man and very down to earth.”
Today Mickey is an adherent Christian, religion a central part of who he is and how he lives his everyday life. Mickey reminisced to me about his days at MGM, including a difficult topic for him, Judy Garland. “Judy was a very unhappy girl, she just wanted to get married. . .” changing topics to speak about Marilyn Monroe, taking credit for giving her that name, discussing his all too young marriage to beauty Ava Gardner saying “I was looking for someone who would give me a life, a reason for living” and punctuating with “I was lucky. I found the woman who really cares about me” (referring to Jan). (see the complete interview in Cabaret Scenes, September 2010 issue www.cabaretscenes.org )
He and eighth wife Jan have been touring the world with “Let’s Put On a Show,” a compilation of nostalgia video segments, charming banter and musical material, relating highlights of Mickey’s career and their married life of 32 years together. “The Mick” talk-sings most of it, forgets some of it, even does a little soft shoe and can always rely upon Jan. From Mickey’s opening “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” to duet “I Remember It Well,” the songs were endearing examples of a life and love unsurpassed.
A singer in her own right, Jan is a sassy, sexy presence, especially at home with Patsy Cline tunes like “Crazy.”
As for Mickey’s many wives, he says “I practiced a lot. . .the alimony is like pumping gas in another guy’s car.” Rooney still has a strong stage presence showing that same spunkiness for which he is famous. He has three stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame plus an additional star with wife Jan.
Feinstein’s was jammed with fans and celebs including Rita Moreno, Elaine Stritch, Arlene Dahl, Tony Bennett, Dan Luria, Ervin Drake, Victor Garber, Regis Philbin, Matthew Broderick, Jackie Mason and others too numerous to mention. Special presentations were made by Nathan Lane and Donald Trump and a birthday cake presented by Michael Feinstein. Here’s to another 90 years Mickey! (www.MickeyRooney.com)