I was in Washington, D.C., at a poetry conference. Keynote celebrities were Maya Angelou, a young boy with a terminal illness named “Mattie” (if I remember correctly) who wrote poetry, and Mickey Rooney. It was an odd group, true, but it was an odd conference. I mainly went because it was being held in the very same hotel where Reagan was shot on the exit from the parking garage. (That area has been remodeled subsequently, but you could still go outside and see the exact spot where Reagan took a bullet, at that time).
Anyway, at one point, while wandering around, I got in an elevator and an extremely short man got in the elevator with me briefly. I noticed he only came up to about my shoulder, and I’m only 5′ 2 and 3/4″ tall. No sooner had the door begun to close than a blonde lady grabbed the short man and said, “MICKEY! You’re on the wrong elevator!” It turns out that this was our “keynote” entertainer on his way to the stage.
I continued to my seat and Mickey and his then-wife Jan came out onstage. Mickey said a few words and then turned the microphone over to Jan, who sang. Mickey went and sat in a chair at the back of the stage. I seem to remember it was sort of a Robert Louis Stevenson wicker-type fancy chair, but the entire performance was odd, since The Man of the Hour (i.e., Mickey Rooney, Big Box Office Star of the forties…and possibly the thirties, for all I know) really just sat there while his wife sang. (She had a lovely voice; at the time of Mickey’s death, they were “estranged.”)
So, that was my brush with Mickey Rooney, which is exceeded in weirdness only by the time I was following the guy carrying the drink with a pink umbrella in it up a staircase, which turned out to be Christopher Hitchens on his way to the stage at the BEA. (Yet another wrong turn by Yours Truly).
So, that’s my Mickey Rooney story, such as it is. Sad to think he died nearly broke.
On the other hand, the Ultimate Warrior died the same day at the age of 54, which means that Mickey Rooney lived almost 40 years longer than THAT guy….and I think he was married about 7 times, to boot, which says something.