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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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 dealyou 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 LBJor, rather, he ran into meat
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 yousay,
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.