WILKES-BARRE — Longtime actor/entertainer Mickey Rooney, who played Mount Airy Casino in July 2010 as part of a storied career that dates back to the 1930s, died Sunday at age 93.
When Rooney and his wife, Jan, appeared at Mount Airy, they presented their “Let’s Put on a Show” to packed houses, said Debbie Rafalko, spokeswoman for the casino.
“He was a valued entertainer here at Mount Airy,” Rafalko said. “People remember he and his wife put on an excellent performance that drew extremely large crowds.”
Rooney was surrounded by family at his North Hollywood home when he died, police said. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office said Rooney died of natural causes.
Rooney was shooting a movie at the time of his death — “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Prior to his appearance at Mount Airy, Rooney and his wife were interviewed by The Times Leader.
“We’re still on the road and enjoying every minute of it,” Jan Rooney told The Times Leader. “But we truly do have fun, and I think part of the reason it has been successful is that we truly love getting on that stage and listening to that audience – to the laughs, to the chuckles we get and the standing ovations.”
The “Let’s Put On A Show!” performance was described as autobiographical and included duets on classic material such as “Love Is Here To Stay,” songs associated with Mickey’s musicals with Judy Garland, Jan singing classic pop and country standards, Mickey playing piano and numerous stories about life in Hollywood.
Jan met Mickey Rooney at his agent’s house in 1974 and in 1978 became the eighth Mrs. Rooney. The couple performed together off and on for more than 30 years.
“We’re so happy together, and we love what we’re doing,” Rooney told The Times Leader. “We do it for the enjoyment of the people, and we hope they love it.”
Asked if he ever thought of retiring, he said, “You know, I have said it many times before, and I will say it again to you: You don’t retire, you inspire.”
According to an Associated Press story after his death, Rooney was a superstar in his youth. He was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.
The AP story said the pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible Rooney included roles from the wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms, to some 70 years later roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”
Over a four-decade span, he was nominated for four Academy Awards, and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”
A small man physically, Rooney sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays, and married eight times, siring 11 children.
After his failed marriage to Ava Gardner in 1942, Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.
Born Joe Yule Jr. in 1920, he was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter.
Times Leader Reporter Bill O’Boyle contributed to this report.