Monday, April 7, 2014

That Time I Met Mickey Rooney

Me in white with Debbie Reynolds, left, and cast members Robin & Scott.
I grew up watching old Hollywood movie musicals, so imagine how excited I was when I was cast in the show That’s Entertainment, Live, in Debbie Reynolds’ casino. While I worked in the show I met many of Debbie’s friends from old Hollywood and always kept a book of Hollywood musicals in my dressing room in case I needed to pull it out for an autograph.

In my years as a performer I met many celebrities. Usually I didn’t like asking for photos or autographs, preferring to meet them like regular people instead of putting them on a pedestal. But it was interesting to see which stars were nice and which weren’t.

Which leads me to the time I met Mickey Rooney.

I’m writing about him because I heard of his passing yesterday. He was such a talent. Had such a life! It’s hard to think of a bigger star from those good old days of Hollywood.
That's Entertainment, Live! (I'm on the left in the front.)    

So imagine how excited I was when he came to see the opening night of our show at Debbie’s. The afternoon before the show, Rip Taylor, our emcee, offered to introduce me to Mickey, who happened to be having lunch in Debbie’s cafĂ©. I took my book, my pen, and my nervous energy and followed Rip to Mickey’s table. I wasn’t nervous about meeting Mickey – I just wished he knew how much of a lover of old Hollywood I was. I understood! I was one of him!

He sat at his table with three other people. Rip graciously interrupted and then introduced me. Mickey looked up at me and smiled, and we made small chitchat about what role I played in the show and he made a few jokes to the amusement of his friends. I stood there with my book and pen, obviously wanting an autograph.

After our few short polite sentences, he continued talking to his friends and didn't return his focus to me. He didn’t say goodbye or it-was-nice-to-meet-you or anything that would let me know we were finished. The simple act of ignoring me indicated that he was done with me.

I stood there with my book and pen, confused. I needed an exit. I couldn’t just walk away.

He continued to talk to his friends, having clearly dismissed me.

I decided to wait till there was a pause in his conversation and interrupt and say, “Thank you,” and leave, but there was never a pause.

So I stood there.

And stood there. It was agonizing.

Mickey continued talking to his friends and ignoring me. I should have just walked away, but I didn’t want to run away like a dog with its tail between its legs. And I kept thinking there would finally be a pause in which I could make my exit. My upbringing required me to be polite – not to just walk away.

Mickey was not as considerate. He kept talking, knowing I was in an awkward position, and not giving a damn.

After a while – way too long – Rip Taylor returned, saw me standing there, and said, “You’re still here?” (He wasn’t that polite, either.)

I don’t remember anything from that point on, except leaving whiletalking to Rip, and wishing I had never ever tried to ask Mickey Rooney for an autograph.

It’s much better to admire a star from afar than to meet him and realize he’s an ass.

Instead, let’s just remember that incredible talent, and that incredible life.