Monday, April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney

“Mickey Rooney was  friend of mine.  As a young man, there was no bigger star. His last years were not easy but he met them with great dignity and the help of his wonderful wife. He was very brave and very compassionate.
He will be greatly missed.”
-Donald Trump

Goodnight, Mickey!
The two time Academy Award winning legend Mickey Rooney died at the age of 93 on April 6th 2014.
He was 18 months old when he first appeared in his parents’ vaudeville act. Born Joe Yule Jr., he took the name Mickey Rooney when he was 7 and it was at
this age that he appeared in his first film, changing his life forever.
Stars including Mia Farrow and Lena Dunham took to Twitter to remember the late Hollywood great, celebrating his prolific career and commemorating his full life.

The first news I heard upon getting up today was that SCREEN LEGEND (and, yes, he EARNED that title), Mickey Rooney,  has passed on.

Liza Minnelli and other other Stars are now mourning this celebrated actor. Today, I celebrate Mickey Rooney, ALWAYS one of my favorite entertainers.
A group photograph of MGM's stars and starlets under contract, taken for the studio's 20th anniversary in 1943.

I have this image of a standing ovation from all of the entertainment greats that have passed on as he passed through the Pearly Gates!
He bounced on stage before he was two and rarely left the spotlight for the next nine decades.He was a pint-size, precocious actor and all-around talent whose more than 90-year career spanned silent comedies, Shakespeare, Judy Garland musicals, Andy Hardy stardom, television and the Broadway theater.
Jan Rooney, Mickey's 8th and current wife

Enduring success of his kind qualifies Mickey Rooney as a legend and a star.I never met him. I did see him from a distance once. He and Ann Miller were on the giant turkey in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1979. I had only been living in New York a few months and this is one of those iconic events that I had to experience.

That's a blog in itself!

The exciting part is that I got there VERY EARLY and had an amazing vantage point. It was exciting to see Ann Miller (who I did meet years later) and Mickey Rooney not TOO very far from me. They, of course, were the toast of Broadway at that time, along with Ann Jillian, in Sugar Babies.

I have very vivid memories of the commercials and of their appearance on the Tony Awards in 1980.
I, unfortunately, could not afford to see the show at the time, one of my BIGGEST regrets.When I arrived in New York in 1979, on Channel 4, the NBC affiliate here in New York, had, as part of it's afternoon news program, a show called LIVE AT FIVE with Sue Simmons and Chuck Scarborough. 

Rooney and Ann Miller wowed 'em in "Sugar Babies." Rooney and Ann Miller wowed 'em in “Sugar Babies.”
I still remember the interview with Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney to talk about Sugar Babies.Miller, who
claims she was psychic, said that one night, this "force", that she felt was Judy Garland tried to push her off the stage in a jealous rage that she (Ann) was doing this show with Mickey!
According to Mickey, he and Judy had discussions about doing a similar type of vaudeville show towards the end of her life but that she was not in the right shape for this to happen.
Can you imagine if that had happened!
Being in New York, there are so many options on a daily basis. Once I commit to something, I am committed. Unfortunately, when Mickey Rooney's 90th birthday was being celebrated at Feinstein's in 2010, I was already booked for those nights. I kick myself over and over for missing that.
Ellen Easton with Jan and Mickey Rooney at Feinstein's (photo courtesy Feinstein's)
I spoke with Ellen Easton, who produced that event,and Magda Katz (click here for video highlights) who also contributed today. It was produced by Ellen in association with John Iachetti, director of entertainment, at Feinstein's. Magda Katz came on board to handle public relations to ensure the evening's success. Ellen says she could not have done it without Magda's help. Ellen was responsible for getting many of the celebrities there. Michael Feinstein also got Tony Bennett to attend. Michael has said it was one of the most exciting nights that Feinstein's ever had.
Michael Feinstein and Mickey Rooney (Courtesy Feinstein'sn)
Ellen Easton had been friends with Mickey Rooney going on fifteen years, having met him in the late 90s. NOBODY in the industry had done anything to celebrate Rooney's 80th birthday. When his 90th was approaching, Ellen desired the "industry" to honor him in some way. Nothing was coming of that. Ellen asked John Iachetti at Feinstein's if they could do a special tribute to Mickey. John immediately came on board with a lot of enthusiasm, saying, "Let's make it a spectacular night that New York will never forget.
At the time, Mickey and his wife, Jan, were doing a show called, "Let's Put on a Show" with both appearing celebrating his career.
Ellen and John came up with the idea of having Mickey and Jan do their show, with the birthday celebration to follow. It sold so well that they decided to do it for two nights.
Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein, Donald Trump, Joy Philbin, Melania Trump, Jan and Mickey Rooney, Regis Phibin, Arlene Dahl (Courtesy of Feinstein's)
There were TWO birthday celebrations!
Nathan Lane was the first to come on board. According to Ellen, "A prince of a man!" who rallied to ensure that more celebrities would come and be supportive of Mickey. The first thing Nathan did was buy a table for twenty. He invited Victor Garber, Matthew Broderick, and many others to come along with him. Ellen
Rooney greets Jake "Raging Bull" Lomatta(Courtesy Feinstein's)
then got Donald Trump and Regis Philbin to come on board. Lane, Philbin, and Trump were all so gracious. Trump and Philbin changed their schedules in order to attend to celebrate Mickey. It became a gigantic FUN party.
(Source: The Judy Garland Experience)
After the show was over, Donald Trump went on stage. Ellen had arranged for birthday greetings from the White House. as well as Mayor Bloomberg's office,as well as Manhattan borough president Markowitz to send a proclamation.They had a lot of fun with Nathan reading the proclamation and Trump reading letters from the Mayor and the President. Rooney and Trump started ad libbing. That turned into a fifteen minute hilarious routine. Everybody had a great time and so many in the industry celebrated Rooney. The attendees including Rita Moreno, Richard LaGravenese, Dan Luria, Jake (Raging Bull) Lamotta, Arlene Dahl, Elaine Stritch, Michael Feinstein and Cristina Fontenelli (who presented the birthday cake and led the room in Happy Birthday), Tony Bennet, Ian Kelly, Joe Franklin, Ervin and Edith Drake, Judith Regan, the late Randall Wreighitt, Kevin Spirtas, and Fran Capo...quite a star studded night.
There have been many rumors that Rooney was difficult to work with. Ellen never experienced any of that. He was kind, grateful, humble, personable, easy, not demanding. Whatever other people experienced or saw, Ellen did not in all the years that she knew him.
There is nothing that Ellen would have done differently with her celebration. Ellen hopes that the press will take a lesson from Rooney's passing. It was so difficult to get the "young press" to embrace the celebration of Rooney's celebration. She could not get him booked on any of the morning talk shows to celebrate either the event or even his birthday.
Lucille Ball and Mickey Rooney on The Lucy Show
Now that he is gone, everyone is talking about him. Ellen feels, as I do, that the press doesn't always celebrate LIFE, they are quick, however, with the obits.
Ellen has not yet spoken to Jan. Our condolences to her and her family.
Ellen would like Mickey Rooney to be remembered for his true genius of talent. Those words are now used very loosely these days, but he was truly generous with his talent in ways that people don't truly appreciate. He was so multi-faceted. Ellen would also like him to be remembered for his tenacious drive to never give up, even when people were knocking him down.
Magda has two personal memories that stand out for her that evening. The first took place in the green room. Mickey Rooney grabbed Magda's hand and pulled her very close to him, and said, "I'd like to thank you for what you have done for me tonight", then he quickly pushed her
Magda Katz with Mickey and Jan Rooney (Courtesy: Magda Katz)
Another memory was that Jan called Magda up on stage for a group photo op. Magda asked a friend who was sitting to take a photo with her(Magda's) camera. Her friend pushed the WRONG button turning the camera off!
Magda had no idea until she got home that night. Talk about a missed opportunity!
Magda said it was a lot of fun planning this event. What they came up with was a wonderful celebration. Magda told Ellen that it would be a nice gesture to have a memento of the evening for all of the guests to leave with.  Sandi Durell interviewed Mickey for Cabaret Scenes Magazine, also getting him on the cover. That made a nicekeepsake for everyone. In addition to the magazine, Magda was thinking there had to
Sandi Durell with Mickey Rooney
be something else everyone could take home with them. They thought about a bottle of wine with his picture on it.
For some reason, they were unable to do that. Ellen came up with the idea of a Mickey Rooney cookie! Magda came up with the idea of a cookie with the image of Rooney from the thirties on the wrapping.
John Iachetti arranged for everyone to have pictures taken holding Cabaret Scenes Magazine and the cookie.
The next day, Regis Philbin spoke about the evening on his show and showed the cookie!
Magda recalls that, at first, it was difficult building the audience for the event. At first, they were even beginning to wonder if they would have that audience for Rooney. Then Ellen got an item listing on Page Six of the New York Post.As stated above, once Nathan Lane was on board, everything started falling into place. When Magda walked into Feinstein's that first night, she was overwhelmed by the celebrities she saw. Magda was able to interview most of the celebrities afterward. They were all overwhelmed at how wonderful this evening was. It turned out better than anything Magda had envisioned.
Magda also states that Mickey was an extraordinary talent. She believes he lived a better life "on stage" than off. That saddens her.
He played many instruments and that evening he played the piano.
Mickey with  Cristina Fontanelli (Photo courtesy:  Cristina Fontanelli)
From Cristina Fontanelli, " RIP beloved Mickey.
Thank you for brightening our lives with your irrepressible positive energy and the light of your incredible spirit.  We love you and will miss you very much.  I will always treasure the memory of singing "Happy Birthday" to you at your 90th Birthday celebration at the now historic NYC nightclub Feinsteins at the Regency Hotel.
Tony showed up for you - so did Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, Michael Feinstein, Nathan Lane and many, many others!  They all loved you Mickey - who wouldn't?!! Thank you to Ellen Easton for "orchestrating" this great event.
Not only does Ellen know how to throw a great party she is the premiere expert on tea.  I highly recommend attending a tea etiquette party with Ellen or reading one of her excellent books.

More about Mickey Rooney can be found at

This blog is dedicated to Jan Rooney

Let's start celebrating artists again rather than tearing them down.

Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
 With grateful XOXOXs ,

A Testimonial from Richard Skipper's most recent event
Bryon Sommers (Musical Director), ME, Joan Jaffe, Mark-Alan, John Patrick Schutz, Ellen Bullinger, Rita Harvey, Carole Demas: Richard Skipper Celebrates Cabaret at Pier 701 Restaurant and Bar, Piermont NY April 5th, 2014
Thank you, Richard Skipper,  for hosting a wonderful evening at Pier 701.  It was a delight to join other performers and sing for an audience full of people happy to be there and having a great time!  You are, indeed, a warm, inviting and very caring host- and as upbeat and giving a performer in your own right as anyone could wish.  Hoping for more of your Celebrations at Pier 701!
Carole Demas

 (Richard Guestbook)
with Ellen Bullinger: Richard Skipper Celebrates Cabaret at Pier 701 Restaurant and Bar, Piermont NY April 5th, 2014

with Ellen Bullinger and Rita Harvey: Richard Skipper Celebrates Cabaret at Pier 701 Restaurant and Bar, Piermont NY April 5th, 2014
Check out my site celebrating the FIRST Fifty years of  Hello, Dolly! 

I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

                                                               Keeping LIVE entertainment LIVE!
Jan and Mickey 


  1. Thank you Richard for stating so well that the young press, nor "news" shows cares to write or celebrate the long life of our celebrities who paved the way for the stars of today. I have complained that we should celebrate/talk about/interview those actors who gave us so many entertaining hours so long ago.
    Several times, actors are not even listed among the memories on award shows! The rag/entertainment shows never mention the lives or deaths of our hard working elderly stars. It is a shame we no longer respect or appreciate them.
    Thank you for all you do to uplift and celebrate everyone.

  2. What a lovely tribute and story. Mickey Rooney was a show business legend before he was 30 and that says a multitude about a man who defined the word 'talent'. He more than anyone in show business deserves to rest in peace. He truly has earned it.