Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney may have been one of the highest-paid actors in the late '30s and early '40s, but he died penniless due to being a victim of elderly abuse.
With a career spanning nine decades and more than 300 acting credits, it would be fair to think Mickey Rooney had enough money to enjoy retirement away from drama. That was not the case.
It wasn't that he didn't want to. His eighth wife, Jan Chamberlin, and his stepson, Chris Aber, allegedly didn't let him. Unfortunately, Rooney's final years were tragic as he faced elderly abuse by those closest to him.
Mickey Rooney, his wife Jan Chamberlin, and his stepson Chris Aber on December 17, 2006 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE
According to a 2015 piece by the Hollywood Reporter, it is unclear when Rooney allegedly started facing abuse. But one of the first times he talked about his experience was in 2011.
A few weeks after Chamberlin's son, Chris was served with a restraining order for financially exploiting Rooney as his business manager. The "Bill" star told Senate Special Aging Committee Herb Kohl about his case.
Mickey Rooney and wife Jan Chamberlin on February 26, 2004 at The Annex in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images
Although Rooney didn't mention Chamberlin or Chris, he revealed he was prohibited from making decisions about his life. He wasn't even allowed to buy food or carry his ID, so he described his existence as "unbearable" and "helpless."
The abuse was also physical. Some members of Rooney's family admitted that they saw bruise marks on his body in his final years, but he always denied spousal abuse.
Mickey Rooney in his 30s | Photo: YouTube/Facts Verse
Chamberlin, who was significantly taller and heavier than her husband, told the Hollywood Reporter that they used to have "minor pushing scuffles" but always made up. Hector Garcia disagreed.
After officials handed over Rooney's finances to attorney Michael Augustine – a conservator – in 2011, Garcia was hired to oversee the actor's safety and be present during Chamberlin's visits.
One day, Garcia heard yelling and a thump and eventually found Chamberlin standing over Rooney. When confronted, she told Garcia he should get used to it because Rooney learned "like a kid:" by getting hit.
Chamberlin maintained they never meant to hurt each other. It is important to point out that Rooney was arrested in 1997 for allegedly hitting Chamberlin, but the case was dropped.
Rooney and Chamberlin's relationship was destined to fail. In his autobiography, he admitted their marriage had been a "big, joyous fight" since it started, and the only reason they had not separated was that the fight wasn't over yet.
Chris would spend [Rooney's] earnings as if they were his own.
Mickey Rooney and Jan Chamberlin on February 22, 2009 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images
Coming back to Augustine, he accused Chris of stealing over $8 million from Rooney. In 2013, Aber agreed to a $2.8 million civil settlement, but he had not paid anything as of October 2015.
Augustine added that Chris and his wife spent Rooney's money fast with frequent trips to Hawaii and buying big diamonds. Things between the actor and his stepson were not always bad, though.
Mickey Rooney on September 2, 1988 | Photo: Getty Images
When Rooney started earning over $60,000 a week in the Broadway production "Sugar Babies," he hired Chris and his brother, Mark Aber. Initially, Chris was his driver, and Mark was his chef. A while later, they became his assistants.
Both brothers struggled with drugs, and Mark even spent time in a treatment facility in Nashville and later entered an after-care program in Florida. During that time, Rooney would call him frequently, something Chamberlin and Chris never did.
Mark admitted his mother banned Rooney from giving him money to return from the after-care program. When he finally did it, he realized that Chamberlin and Chris were "running the show."
Apart from committing Rooney to performances and interview appearances in exchange for cash, Chris would spend the earnings as if they were his own.
While Rooney's home kept getting refinanced to withdraw equity, Chris owned two Mercedes and a Porsche. He also had four properties, including a five-bedroom house sold in 2012 for $695,000.
Mickey Rooney on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images
Rooney's monthly pension and Social Security payments were also transferred almost immediately to other accounts. One of the accounts was named "Tiyana," the name of Chris' daughter.
Chris also shut down his stepfather's production company and fired most of his financial advisers except one who supposedly stole Rooney's money, too.
[Rooney's daughter] could have done more to take her dad out of such a hurting environment.
Mickey Rooney on January 27, 2008 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images
Unfortunately, the actor faced verbal, mental, and physical abuse until April 6, 2014. He passed away from natural causes in a Studio City rental with nothing but $18,000 to his name.
TMZ reported the news even before Jan or Rooney's biological children were notified. They were even cut off Rooney's will as his money went to Mark.
The actor was so poor that Hollywood studios had to pay for his funeral. He was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the last resting place of other movie stars, including Cecil B. DeMille and Rudolph Valentino.
KELLY ROONEY ON HER DAD
Five years after Rooney died, one of his biological children, Kelly, shared some details about their relationship. She confessed they were very close, especially after her mother, Barbara Thomason, was killed in 1966. Kelly was just seven years old.
Kelly acknowledged that her father lost most of his money due to elder abuse and financial mismanagement. She also shared that he was forced into working and "demeaned" if he forgot his lines.
However, she couldn't visit him as much as she would have liked to because his "caretakers" would tell her he wasn't home every time she called. The only way she could see Rooney in his final years was by showing up unannounced.
Mickey Rooney and his wife Jan Chamberlin in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Facts Verse
Kelly confessed she felt guilty and ashamed for years because she could have done more to take her dad out of such a hurting environment.
For that reason, she became an advocate for laws aimed to protect older adults and ensure visitation rights for their loved ones. She has also raised awareness on elder abuse so that nobody else experiences what Rooney went through.
Even though Rooney was one of the most successful and hardworking actors in Hollywood for years, he died humiliated as the people supposed to care for him betrayed him. Rest in peace, icon.
news.AmoMama.com does not support or promote any kind of violence, self-harm, or abusive behavior. We raise awareness about these issues to help potential victims seek professional counseling and prevent anyone from getting hurt. news.AmoMama.com speaks out against the above mentioned and news.AmoMama.com advocates for a healthy discussion about the instances of violence, abuse, sexual misconduct, animal cruelty, abuse etc. that benefits the victims. We also encourage everyone to report any crime incident they witness as soon as possible.