Monday, April 07, 2014


I met the legendary Mickey Rooney at a rooftop party thrown by SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) on a balmy summer night. The SAG Conversations series screened my movie that year on Aimee Semple McPherson (now at Amazon under the title "Richard Rossi 5th Anniversary of Sister Aimee"). After the film, I did a Q/A along with others involved in making the film including actor Rance Howard, and my friends Jeff & Adam. Other SAG speakers were invited so the SAG Conversations party at the pinnacle of the Sunset Boulevard hotel was a calvalcade of stars I'd grown up with: Martin Landau, Tom Bosley, Jonathan Winters, etc...I remembered Mickey Rooney as the voice of Santa Claus on a Rankin Bass claymation special I watched every Christmas. People talked about him being married a lot of times like Elizabeth Taylor. And I watched him in movies (often with Judy Garland) singing and dancing when Mickey was just a kid. He performed his whole life. I remember hearing in the 80's about him having a religious conversion. All these things were in my mind when I saw him at the party that night. A bartender from Brazil was offering us drinks and Mickey was running lines for a speech to raise money for the Actor's Fund. People came up to meet him and a crowd formed engulfing him and he looked frightened, like he was more comfortable on stage than with people at the party. He was short of stature and lost in the waves of starstruck fans. When he got up to make his speech to raise money for a new center to help actors, he was at peace again. I got the impression he was like Michael Jackson, more comfortable giving his gifts and performing than doing anything else. He took those gifts and did so much with them. My wife Sherrie and I were watching Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus on December 4, 1988 when her water broke and our first daughter Karis was born. We think of that every winter when we watch "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and hear Mickey's warm Santa Claus voice enveloping us. Mickey, may you rest in peace, enveloped in God's unconditional love, the love that brought you into being, the endless love that flowed when you gave your gifts and entertained all of us.