By Mark Ellis
Legendary actor Mickey Rooney, one of Hollywood’s last surviving stars of its classic era, passed away April 6th from natural causes. He was 93.
The award-winning actor became the biggest star in the world in his teens when he played the character Andy Hardy in A Family Affair.
The son of vaudevillians, his career started even earlier – as a mere babe. On lunch break when he filmed the Mickey McGuire comedies, five-year-old Rooney walked into an office at Warner Bros. studio, and introduced himself to a cartoonist named Walt Disney.
“Come over and sit on my lap,” Disney told the youngster. When he sat on his lap, Disney held up a mouse he had drawn. “That’s a good-looking mouse, Mr. Disney,” Rooney blurted out.
“It sure is, Mickey,’ he said, and then paused for a moment. “Mickey, Mickey,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “Tell me something, how would you like me to name this mouse after you?”
“I sure would like that, but right now I got to go and get a tuna sandwich,” Rooney replied, and he jumped off Disney’s lap. “It’s a true story,” Rooney told Kira Albin, in a 1995 interview.
Sadly, Rooney’s private life was turbulent, and his eight marriages became the fodder for late-night comedians’ jokes. But the challenges he survived –including elder abuse more recently – left him with an uncommon depth of wisdom gained with time.
After the deaths of his mother and fifth wife in 1966, he battled substance abuse and financial problems. In the depths of the valley, Rooney had an unusual encounter that he said changed his life, according to the same interview with Albin.
Over breakfast at a Lake Tahoe casino coffee shop, Rooney was greeted by a busboy with “blond curls, a white-rose complexion, and shining teeth,” he recounted.
When the man called his name, Rooney started to stand, thinking he had a telephone call. But the busboy leaned toward him and whispered in his ear, “Mr. Rooney, Jesus Christ loves you very much.” Then the mysterious busboy vanished.
When Rooney looked for the young man and gave his description to the manager of the establishment, he was told that no such person worked there. Rooney believed he was visited by an angel.
Even though Rooney veered into the Church of Religious Science – which many evangelicals would label a cult – by the 1990s Rooney boldly proclaimed a very orthodox faith centered on Jesus Christ as his Savior.
In 1995, Albin described Rooney as an “unabashed Christian.” “I’ve given my life to God,” he told Albin, “and I try and do the right thing, but inevitably, and unfortunately, I do the wrong thing. I suffer from being human.”
Rooney’s oldest child, Mickey Jr., is a born-again Christian and has been involved in evangelical ministry. It may be due to his son’s influence that Rooney found the Truth.
“You should take your children to church and teach them about Jesus Christ and about God, who makes the sun shine and the moon glow and gives us so many blessings,” he said in 2011. “I talked before the house and senate about (elder) abuse. No one had more abuse than Jesus Christ.”
“If you go with God and with Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and leave the troubles and everything to God, everything will work out for you.”