Rooneys put on show at the Carson Nugget
For the Nevada Appeal
Mickey and Jan Rooney were recently honored with a shared star on Hollywood Boulevard, recognized for their collaborative partnership that has spanned 40 years in all areas of their lives.
They bring their collaboration, “Let’s Put on a Show,” to the Carson City Nugget on Nov. 27.
The Rooneys come to Carson by way of a recently completed, month-long tour of Canada and a performance at Feinstein’s in New York.
From there they received their shared star in Hollywood, during the Hollywood Walk of Fame 50th Anniversary Gala, Nov. 3, attended by the Who’s Who of that industry, past and present.
“Everybody was there, Placido Domingo, Sherry Jones, Michael York,” Mickey said. “It’s the first star given to a couple, and nobody does as much as we do together.
“We’re best friends. We paint, write and perform together. It’s very special to sing with the one you love.”
Mickey’s career began in 1926, and he has made more than 200 films and was the top-selling box office star from 1939 to 1941.
“Boys Town,” in which he starred with Spencer Tracy, “National Velvet,” with Elizabeth Taylor, “The Black Stallion” in many versions and incarnations, countless roles, many played alongside his MGM co-star Judy Garland, to whom he pays tribute in the upcoming show and recently, “Night At The Museum,” are but a few of his achievements.
He has received an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, a special Juvenile Oscar he shared with Deana Durbin in 1939, five Oscar nominations, one Emmy Award, five Emmy Nominations and two Golden Globes. He also has four stars of his own on the Walk of Fame.
“Did you know Francis Ford Coppola was executive producer of “The Black Stallion” and wrote (the story and screenplay) for “Patton” with George C. Scott? Most people don’t know this,” Mickey said.
This connection of life to film is especially dear to Mickey because he, as a decorated World War II army veteran, received his Bronze Star with clusters, from General George Patton under whom he served. Mickey enlisted so he could perform for the troops.
When it comes to discussing his legacy of film, Mickey shrugs it off.
“I have made (many) films – some that have been good, some that will never see daylight,” he said.
Jan and Mickey recently finished filming an upcoming movie titled, “Night Club, they have been part of holiday pantomime performances during Britain’s Christmas season since 2007 and have staged “Let’s Put on a Show,” the past several years. Jan also plans to begin writing their memoirs, a pursuit she enjoys.
Neither one of them shows any sign of stopping, keeping a schedule that would make younger folks long for naptime.
“We so enjoy doing the show and the audience enjoys it, too,” Jan said. “We have a live trio of folks who played with Frank Sinatra who perform with us and we share some wonderful duets, do some dancing and have a rip-roaring time.”
In addition to music, the audience will be treated to Mickey’s anecdotes of days past, comedic bits, humor and archived film clips, many not seen outside of this show.
“Mickey opens the show with some songs from the ’40s and other things and then I will sing songs from the ’50s, including some Patsy Cline and my version of ‘Moon River,’ a tribute to Henry Mancini and to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,'” Jan said. “I am happy to be able to pay tribute.”
Prior to marrying Mickey, Jan (Chamberlin), 18 years his junior and the woman who, after his seven prior marriages managed to keep his heart, was pursuing a career as a country music artist.
“In the beginning, Mickey wanted to be my manager and I told him, ‘no,'” Jan said. “So he started lining up gigs behind my back, telling me I needed to be at the studio to tape a show with Johnny Carson the next day at noon, stuff like that.”
Thanks to her husband’s unofficial management and relentless coaching, or “pushing,” Jan’s star began to rise, while his stayed closer to the skyline.
“He got a little bent out of shape, so I took a step back and started pushing him and his career,” Jan said. “He is enchanting and I would think life with him could be a rollercoaster ride, I won’t lie.
“If you want to be together, you will be and you’ll work at it and make some compromises.”
What finally grew into a mutual push has brought them forward, arm-in-arm, with great success.
“My greatest joy has been marrying Mickey,” Jan said. “I didn’t have that in mind to perform with him, and it’s a little bit of a thing to work with the caliber of Mickey Rooney. He is a bit of a task master.
“In the beginning I had to learn some things from him that maybe I thought didn’t apply, but he taught me many things that helped my performance,” she said. “I am a better performer for (his direction), but in the end, you gotta have the goods to do it.
“The fact that he even wanted to work together, that he was even willing to test the waters is quite something.”
At 90, Mickey “is still a livewire and gives hope to everyone,” Jan said. “The fact that he’s very young helps and he has these gifts and should use them as long as possible.”
Mickey loves being on stage, though he also enjoys sleeping in his own bed.
“What time does the show start? A matinee would be perfect,” he said.
When told doors open at 7 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m., he did the math and was happy to know he could give a performance and still make it home.
“I am delighted to be coming to Carson. Just the excitement of doing the show together with my lovely lady is very special,” he said. “We’ll be doing some duets together I think folks will like. We have the best trio around, and it’s an entertaining show.
“The fact we love working together and have such fun with it, is part of what the audience responds to.”
Throughout his years in the business, Mickey acknowledges he’s seen many changes, not all of them good.
“We have focused on creating something that people can bring their families to,” he said. “I’ve noticed changes, a kind of coarseness develop through the years, but good taste never goes out of style.”
For those who have yet to find love, Mickey has words of advice.
“He directs where we find our love, you just gotta have faith and when you meet the right one, you gotta hang on,” he said. “Everybody’s different and sometimes things aren’t easy. There are always ups and downs – in love, in life, in business and you just do the best you can, every day at everything you do.
“Now be sure to tell everyone about the show.”
WHAT: “Let’s Put on a Show”
WHERE: Carson Nugget, 507 N. Carson St.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 27
Tickets: $25 to $75, available at ccnugget.com
Dinner and hotel packages are also available. Call 775-882-1626, ext. 293 for pricing and further information.