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'It keeps me young'

Mickey Rooney, 82, star of stage, screen and TV, taps into fountain of youth by performing some 150 shows per year with his wife

Mickey Rooney, 82, star of stage, screen and TV, taps into fountain of youth by performing some 150 shows per year with his wife

June 12, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Jan Chamberlin Rooney goes on and on about her husband of 25 years.

She's entitled.

Mickey Rooney's career, which started when the 1-year-old boy crawled onto the stage during his parents' vaudeville act, goes on and on.

On Saturday, June 14, The Maryland Theatre will become one more stop in his career.

The curtain will open on "One Man, One Wife" at 7:30 p.m.

"We hope to pack that theater," says Mickey Rooney in a phone interview from the Westlake Village, Calif., home he shares with Jan, macaws Cookie and Crackers and a recently acquired Jack Russell terrier appropriately named Jack.

The Rooneys - who met 30 years ago - will present a show of song and dance, jokes, impersonations and clips from a few of Mickey Rooney's more than 300 films. They'll be backed by a trio of musicians.

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The couple does about 150 shows and personal appearances a year. They've been close to home recently, performing in festivities to celebrate Bob Hope's 100th birthday.

Jan Chamberlin Rooney will acknowledge an age of 55-plus. Her husband is unabashedly 82 years old.

Why is he working so hard?

Surely a career as long and successful as Mickey Rooney's has provided security enough for a less demanding schedule in his golden years.

The feedback and affection the couple receives from audiences is energizing, Jan Chamberlin Rooney says.

"As long as you have the gift and the talent ... therein lies the fountain of youth," she says.

"It keeps me young," Mickey Rooney agrees. "I love working with Jan."

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born son of performers Joe Yule and Nell Carter, Mickey Rooney - then Joe Yule Jr. - made his film debut at age 5. A year later he became Mickey Maguire in 78 short-film comedies. At 12, he took the name Mickey Rooney and took his talent on the road.

His film career is legendary. The No. 1 actor at the box office from 1939 to 1941, Mickey Rooney had roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "National Velvet" with Elizabeth Taylor, "Boys Town" with Spencer Tracy and the Andy Hardy series with Judy Garland.

Real-life leading ladies include first wife Ava Gardner, six other wives and Jan Chamberlin Rooney, whom he married in 1978.

Younger cinema audiences may remember Mickey Rooney from 1976's "Pete's Dragon" and "The Black Stallion," 1979. He also made his Broadway debut that year and was nominated for a Tony award for his role in "Sugar Babies."

Mickey Rooney shared a special juvenile Oscar with Deanna Durbin in 1939, and he has received five Academy Award nominations. In 1983 he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, joining an exclusive troupe that includes Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda and Laurence Olivier. His performances were honored with two Golden Globes, and five Emmy nominations with a win in 1982 for his performance as a developmentally disabled man in "Bill."

But Rooney would rather concentrate on the present, brushing off his rich rsum as "the past." And he lets his wife and partner do much of the talking.

The Rooneys recently filmed their parts in "Strike the Tent," a Civil War film that includes Lee Majors, Tippi Hedren and Amy Redford (Robert Redford's daughter) in its cast, Jan Chamberlin Rooney says.

A native of Hollywood, she began singing in church choirs and has written as well as sung her own songs. She's performed without Mickey Rooney in a variety of venues, and they've also worked together in television, commercials, festivals and clubs. She'll do a couple of Patsy Cline hits, and says she and her husband will team up on the hit tune from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' film "Shall We Dance" - "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."

The Rooneys will stay at The Maryland Theatre for an autograph session after the show. They'll offer a recording of songs from the show backed by a 16-piece orchestra.




If you go...



"One Man, One Wife"

Mickey Rooney and Jan Chamberlin Rooney

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $40 and $45, including service fee, and are available at the theater box office, 27 S. Potomac St., and by calling 301-790-2000.

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