Mickey Rooney died at the age of 93 over the weekend, and with him died the amazing art of storytelling.
I got the unique chance to meet Mickey a few times in my three decades in Los Angeles, but one of them that was the most memorable was sitting with his publisher friend, and historian pal of mine at the classic Musso & Frank's in Hollywood, known for it's dirty Martini's and a booth that was always set aside for Mickey in the back.
"Ask me about anyone in Hollywood, and I'll have a story to tell about them," Mickey quipped to me. Indeed, it was true. But, that was in the 1990s and he was only talking about anyone who was born before I was three decades earlier.
"People loved to talk to me, they thought they could confide in me, they told me lots of gossip," Mickey said. "I always had a good ear."
Yes, and he loved to talk, as much as he said he loved to listen.
He told me about how he told Marilyn Monroe (then Norma Jean Baker) that she should dye her hair blonde. (I knew many other Marilyn friends who completely dispute that story, but he claimed to give her the superstar's great boost with that idea.)
He told me about women he had bedded, lots of starlets, many many of them. One starlet I later met, I related the story he told me and she said it was all "hogwash" and they were both married at the time, and it never happened. He fell in love with his co-stars, and that was often only on the set, and only in his mind. But, he told good stories.
Later, I got to see him again, and told him that the actress denies knowing him in the Biblical sense, and he said, "Oh, is she still alive? Send her my love next time you see her." That was it.
Mickey Rooney was a hysterical, funny, wonderful man—an actor that other actors loved and admired, but his value of a film historian was questionable, and most of the stories always centered around him.
He died in Studio City, Calif. on Sunday with his family around him. In later years, he was living with Mark Aber and his wife in a hillside house. Aber is the son of Rooney's last wife Jan Chamberlin, who is brother to Christopher Aber, whom Rooney accused of elder abuse at one time. His wife hadn't seen him since last April.
A Facebook post by the family says that Mickey will be buried at the Westlake Village at the Pierce Brothers cemetery. He still has movies coming up, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Night at the Museum 3 according to reports.
Mickey always loved talking, and he especially loved talking to other authors and other journalists. He wanted his stories to go down in history, and he wanted them retold. You never knew if they were true, and you never knew if they had some Mickey "embellishment" spun in with it, but it didn't matter, really. It was MICKEY ROONEY telling the stories! A little bit of research, or timeline investigation could poke holes in many of his stories, but that didn't matter either. He survived to tell the tales.
He was a great story teller, and for that, he will always be remembered.