One of the most enduring performers in show business, Mickey Rooney died Sunday at the age of 93. He made his debut on the vaudeville stage in 1922 as a toddler and toured into his late 80s in a two-person stage show with Jan Chamberlin, his eighth wife. They were married in 1978 and later separated.
Jokes about his propensity to walk down the aisle were once a staple of pop culture. Even Rooney told them. "My marriage license reads, 'To whom it may concern,'" he chortled to The Times in 1981. The first and most famous of his wives was actress Ava Gardner, whom he married in 1942.
When the 90-year-old Rooney testified before Congress in 2011 about elder abuse, the actor said he spoke from personal experience. A family member who took and misused Rooney's money had left him powerless, he said.
"I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated," Rooney told a Senate committee. "When a man feels helpless, it's terrible."
In the mid-1970s, Rooney claimed that he found Christianity after a mysterious busboy leaned over in a Lake Tahoe coffee shop and whispered, "Jesus loves you."
At one point, Rooney made $500 a night circulating at private parties pretending to be a friend of the host. Rooney turned to alcohol and played the horses, The Times reported in 1999. He filed for bankruptcy again in 1996.
Rooney proudly declared that he followed W.H. Auden's counsel: "Thou shalt not live within thy means."
Soon after his death, his family began feuding over his burial site leading to his body going unclaimed and remaining at the mortuary of Forest Lawn Cemetery.