Mar 20, 2008

Mickey the Great

  At an astonishing span of 81 years, his is the longest film career of all time. He was, as a very young man, the biggest star in the world. He's worked with Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, and every ingenue in between, and he is, let's face it, the closest I will ever get to the aura of Ava Gardner, unless I somehow come up with the cash to buy those earrings she gave Lana Turner off of eBay. And thus, mulling over such weighty attributes, I argued myself into seeing Mickey Rooney in person.

  He's aged a bit, yes, but impish Andy Hardy is still intact. Touting 2008 as his 85th year in show business - he made his stage debut in a vaudeville act at just 17 months - Rooney, his humor, and his 8th wife, Jan, have melded songs, jokes, and affectionate husband-and-wife shtick into a thoroughly enjoyable and genuinely funny two hours of entertainment, Let's Put On A Show!, which is currently touring the United States.

  Physically unimposing though he appeared onstage, Rooney, 87, is still an Old Hollywood legend, the extent to which can really only be felt acutely in his presence. That is to say, he doesn't look the part of a star so much as he speaks it - the stories he tells, the fond memories of dear friends like Judy Garland and Ava Gardner, the latter whom Rooney shared a brief marriage with - even the songs he sings, or rather talks, are remnants of his long-buried stint as a superstar. But Rooney's talent for balancing out snippets of self-deprecation with honest accolades to his own success allow for such sugar-coated sentimentality: if Mickey Rooney can't reminisce about the glory days at MGM, then who can?!

  I was hoping for at least a tiny bit of interaction with Mickey when the show was over, but it proved to be a futile hope, as the program ran beyond its anticipated end time, and the lobby was nearly empty when I finally reached it. But I can't take a shred of disappointment from such a night, and I have consolation in the fact that he couldn't have missed seeing me out in that audience: I was the girl in the seventh row with stars in her eyes.

Visit Mickey Rooney's official website to see when he'll be in your area.

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