After a career that spanned nine decades, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney was practically penniless (by Tinseltown standards, anyway) when he quietly passed away at his home in California on Sunday. Rooney, 93, died of natural causes, including complications related to diabetes, according to his attorney Michael Augustine.
Rooney willed his modest estate to his stepson and caregiver Mark Aber and his wife Charlene, effectively disinheriting his eight biological children and estranged wife of 35 years Janice (Jan). Mickey, who made appearances in Night at the Museum and The Muppets in recent years, argued that his Social Security benefits and pension earnings would be adequate compensation for the eighth Mrs. Rooney. His children, he said, were in a better financial position than himself.
Best known for bringing joy to troops and audiences during the Depression and World War II eras, the short-statured actor starred in more than 300 features over the years. In 1983, Rooney was awarded an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar for his lengthy career on screen.
It was a career that crisscrossed generations and earned Rooney millions. Where did it all go?
One of America’s most beloved Pepaws claimed to have lost most of his seven-figure fortune to elder abuse and financial mismanagement at the hands of his Jan and another of her sons, Christopher Aber. In 2011, Mickey told US lawmakers that he “suffered silently” for years while enduring abuse at the hands of his partner and stepson, who allegedly withheld food, kept the star a prisoner in his home, denied him medication and eventually made off with a substantial sum of his lifetime earnings.
Rooney told a Senate Special Committee on Aging:
“My money was stolen from me. I was eventually stripped of the ability to make even the most basic decisions. My daily life became unbearable.”
Rooney said he felt “helpless” as he was repeatedly emotionally abused by the Abers over the course of several years.
During the hearing, the Bill actor suggested lawmakers pass a measure to make the abuse of seniors at the hands of family members and caregivers a crime.
“When a man feels helpless, it is terrible. And I was helpless…for years I suffered silently, unable to muster the courage to seek the help I knew I needed. I’m asking you to stop this elderly abuse. Stop it now. Not tomorrow, not next month, but now.”