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Andy Hardy In Camelot

Michael McWey

Mentally wolf-whistling through my teeth.

So I went to New York ... and had the pleasure, then, of running into a tall, handsome U.S. senator from Massachusetts in the elevator at the Waldorf Towers.

He looked down at me. "You're Mickey Rooney, aren't you?" he asked pleasantly.

"I am, Mr. Senator." I'd seen him on TV during the 1956 conventions, and I had already tapped him a comer in politics. And I heard on the Hollywood grapevine that he was a chip off the old block, his dad, Joe Kennedy, who always seemed to have a thing going with this or that movie queen. The latest rumor had Jack Kennedy linked with Marilyn Monroe.

He said, "I am one of your biggest fans." I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. I suspected he was saying, "I wonder if this little bastard knows I'm fucking Marilyn Monroe?"

I said, "I'm one of your fans, too, but you have been on TV so much, Mr. Senator, that you're stealing all of our stardom." I wanted to add, "And screwing one of our loveliest stars."

And he probably knew that's just exactly what I was thinking. He laughed.

And I knew that he knew. I laughed.

–Mickey Rooney, "Life Is Too Short"


A few years later I ran into Jack again one night in Las Vegas when the two of us found ourselves, quite by coincidence, standing at adjoining urinals in the Caesar's Palace men's room. He was in town for a Democratic fund-raiser and I was there for George Jessel's big 137th birthday gala.

I said, "Mr. President, how are ya?" but what I was really asking was "Who the hell are you screwing these days, you charming Irish SOB?"

He looked down at me. "You're Mickey Rooney, aren't you?" But that fabulous thousand-watt smile of his seemed to be saying, "Haven't you heard? While John Glenn was orbiting the earth the other day, Angie Dickinson and I were going around the world in the Lincoln Bedroom!"

"I am Mickey Rooney, Mr. President," I said, mentally wolf-whistling through my teeth. "Hubba! Hubba!" I seemed to be saying.

My old pal Judy Garland was also a close friend of President Kennedy, and one day while Judy and I were at the Friar's Club for a roast of Pope John XXIII, she mentioned she'd been a guest at the White House recently. So of course I asked if there'd been any message from the Commander-in-Chief.

"For you, Mickey?" she said in that Judy Garland voice of hers. "Gee ... I don't think so."

"Nothing? Not a word?"

"Well ... maybe he said to say hello and I forgot about it."

"Hello?" I said, chuckling to myself. "Hello?" I shook my head. "Good ol' Jack."

"Mickey, whatever are you laughing about?" Judy said.

How could I tell her? Hello from Jack could only mean one thing: he was making time with that Exner broad. But my smile turned to a frown when I realized how an affair with a Mafia moll could very well be jeopardizing national security! And jeopardizing national security is something that really gets me hot under the collar. If Jack had attended the papal roast that night I know I would have given him the telepathic dressing down of his life. "It's one thing for Sinatra," my body language would have said in no uncertain terms. "Another for Sam Giancana. But the leader of the Free World! Use your goddamn head, Mr. President!"

I said, "Listen, Judy, the next time you see Jack, do me a favor. Tell him Mickey says–" I cupped my hand to the side of my mouth "–Hello, Mr. President. He'll understand."

But like any intimate relationship with an international leader, it wasn't all just locker room talk. In the fall of 1962 I was there at the big White House ceremony when Kennedy awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Gobel.

"Aren't you Mickey Rooney?" he said to me in the receiving line. The gag was beginning to grate, but who was I to tell the president of the United States he needed new material?

I sensed a somber mood. For once, those of the feminine persuasion didn't appear to be on his mind. A wrinkle on his brow seemed to say, "Mick, you're never going to believe it, but those goddamn Reds are stockpiling nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba. The CIA's got pictures to prove it."

Jack said to the First Lady, "I think this old friend of Judy Garland's needs no introduction."

"Don't tell me," Jackie said in that soft bewildered voice that could only be Jackie's. "The … mayor of … Munchkin Land?"

"Ha ha ha," I laughed. And of course Jack couldn't mistake my ha ha ha: "What the hell are you going to do? Bomb the bastards?"

"Nice meeting you, Mr. Rooney," he said, all but saying, "Tell you the truth, Mick, I don't know. Gromyko was here the other day talking out of both sides of his mouth. McNamara's been pushing air attacks. I think Rusk may be leaning that way too. And I don't have to tell the man who starred in Andy Hardy Joins the WACs that the military is just itching for a confrontation. On the other hand, Adlai and Bobby are talking embargo, to be followed up with some kind of deal–you know, let Kruschev save face, let him back off with his pride intact."

I'd already tapped Kruschev as a big Russian blowhard whose bark was worse than his bite. I hadn't wiggled my ears since back in the late 1940s, but the situation was too dire not to wiggle them now. "World War III hangs in the balance, Mr. President," my undulating auricles were saying. "Go with the embargo."

Those were years of tumult and tragedy and few of us came through unscathed. In 1966 I ran into LBJ–or, rather, he ran into me–at a party John Kenneth Galbraith was hosting in Cambridge to celebrate the publication of Shecky Greene's new autobiography. Johnson was a tall man, brusque, not taken to watching where he was going. Near the refreshment table, I mistook his approach as a greeting and as I stood there with my big signature grin and a friendly outstretched paw, I suddenly caught a sharp presidential knee in my left temple. Before I knew what'd happened, the big Texan had me eating carpet. I was down for the count!

"Sorry there, little feller," he said. "I didn't see you–say, aren't you Mickey Rooney?" I could almost see the wheels turning. "Listen," he seemed to be saying as he helped me to my feet. "I'm afraid I might've also overstepped myself in this Southeast Asia thing. If you've got a minute, I'd love to run some of the pros and cons by you."

"Yes, Mr. President, I am Mickey Rooney," I said, chuckling my famous nervous chuckle as I brushed myself off. But as I massaged the side of my head and popped my eyes to nearly four times their normal size, my answer couldn't have been more clear: "Uh-uh, Lyndon. I'm through advising Democratic presidents. I'm starting to forget I'm a lifelong Republican!"

I understood that he understood. And he understood that I understood that he understood.

We both laughed.

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