Sad details of PART 2 of 2 ...
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Date Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 03:54:15pm
In reply to:
Sad details of PART 1 of 2 ...
's message, "Sad, sad story of Rooney final days of elder abuse. ..." on Wednesday, September 23, 03:47:52pm
Sad, sad story of Rooney final days of elder abuse. ...
>> PART 2 <<
The Marriage ...
..."Being married to Mickey is like a game of chess," Jan told People in 1979, a year after they tied the knot. "I'm not sure who will win. It'll probably be a stalemate." For Rooney's part, he observed in his 1991 autobiography Life Is Too Short, "ever since I started going with Jan, it's been one, big, joyous fight. The reason we don't part: The fight isn't over yet."
Rooney was the first to acknowledge that, with his big ego and impatient personality, he could be a pain. He went on in his book, "Sometimes I mistreat her. She mistreats me, too." In the couple's final years together, a period during which Charlene claims they largely didn't interact in their own home, she recalls an incident during which Rooney accidentally tracked dog feces through their house, prompting Jan to smear it on his clothes in a rage. (Asked about it, Jan replies, "I won't dignify that question with an answer.")
An apparent strain in the marriage was the asymmetry of their success. While Rooney had been at a low ebb in his career when they met, he rebounded with Sugar Babies, and, according to those around them, Jan pushed her husband to leverage his fame to increase her own with little success. "Mickey was offered a part in a Muppets movie," says Charlene. "She said to Mickey, 'You call that producer and you tell him that I'm going to be in that or you're not going to do it.' " (Cameos of both Rooney and Jan were shot; hers was cut.)
Jan liked to script Rooney's phone calls, claim Mark and Charlene, particularly with the press, scribbling notes on scraps of paper passed to him to read, some of which have been reviewed by THR: "Jan is the singer in the family!"; "I never really felt married until I married Jan. How she's put up with me all these years I'll never know"; and, perhaps most ironically: "I may not have a million dollars but I have a billion-dollar wife."
Jan often insisted she autograph photographs handed to Rooney and leaned into photos with her husband. "Mickey was always pushing to get Jan a role in things he was working on," says Malcolm. "She was just a person who wanted to be in the limelight."
For her part, Jan contends that any efforts to include her were her husband's doing: "Mickey always insisted." Similarly, she maintains that their July 2013 separation agreement included a clause that his conservator would continue to "make reasonable efforts to include Jan into some of Mickey's appearances" not at her entreaty but because "Mickey demanded that it be written into the contract. He loved having me in his shows." (Counters Augustine, "She is of the belief that she is some kind of a star, so we threw that in
we knew it was a provision without any teeth because nobody wanted Jan.")
Garcia observes that "she was loving toward him in public, but behind closed doors, it was like you turn on a light switch she would start screaming and yelling at him." After one loud outburst, when police were called in spring 2012, Charlene says that Jan sought to spin their toxic rapport in innocuous terms, comparing herself and Rooney to the pair on The Bickersons, a late-1940s radio show about a squabbling couple.
Yet, according to those close to Rooney, too often the fights coincided with unexplained physical ramifications for the star. In one instance in 2012,
according to Mark and Charlene, Rooney had the beginnings of a black eye and a tooth knocked out, claiming he fell onto a big-screen TV. ...
...In another, in November 2010, when Mark (seen above) found him at the bottom of the stairs, he claimed to have slipped in the shower.
(In Jan's telling, "I was in a different part of the house and I found out about it 10 to 15 minutes after it happened.")
In an August 2014 court filing at the behest of seven of Rooney's biological children that in part accuses Jan of isolating her husband from the rest of his extended family, Kelly Rooney and Kerry Rooney Mack claim Jan confessed to them in April 2010 that she had assaulted her husband. "She said, 'You know, sometimes, I have to hit him,' " says Kelly, now a hairdresser who lives in Northern California. "And I said, 'What? No, you don't!' She said, 'Oh, yes, I do!' " Court documents indicate that some of Rooney's children filed a report with local police but did not pursue it further after, they say, Jan pleaded with them.
Augustine acknowledges he and Rooney's attorneys became aware of Jan's behavior but were powerless to prohibit their interaction unless Rooney formally registered a complaint against her, which he refused to do.
Multiple sources tell THR that Jan has struggled with mental illness over the years, a topic that Jan declines to address ("I'm not comfortable discussing anything like that"). It's unclear whether, as family members and Garcia say she has claimed to them, her outbursts toward Rooney were exacerbated by her battle with a brain tumor that has led to hormonal issues. (She defines her current prognosis simply as "uncertain.") Mark and Charlene say she had an acute crisis following the dissolution of a monthslong, at times explicit, Facebook messaging fling with a would-be paramour from Florida in 2010. THR contacted this man and confirmed key aspects of the unconsummated affair.
"She was seeing things coming out of walls," says Charlene, who lived downstairs with Mark, "and she was tapping some kind of Morse code on the walls for days." Charlene notes that Jan demanded that someone buy her bullets for a Benelli shotgun in their house: "I was scared to death that we were all going to be on the front page." (Of this incident, Jan explains, "Mickey bought a shotgun to protect our home. I don't recall asking about bullets, but I might have purchased them at Mickey's request.")
Despite their troubles, Rooney chose for many years not to leave Jan. "Mickey never wanted to separate from me," avows Jan. Garcia says Rooney "did not want to end this one with a divorce" despite it all, Rooney told friends, he still loved Jan. (However, that outlook, says Garcia, dissolved near the end, when Rooney realized Jan was protecting Chris.)
THR spoke to Jan within days of Rooney's death. Between sobs, she claimed the separation had been at her initiative: "I just couldn't deal with it anymore, with the fights, so I said, 'Maybe we just need to take a break and see if we can work through this.' "
While Mark is estranged from both his brother and mother, Jan says, "They're my sons, and I love both of them and [their antagonism toward each other is] very uncomfortable." In their troubled youth, Mark says the two got along, occasionally doing cocaine together, until he completed rehab.
Mark and Charlene moved in with Rooney and Jan in 2006, several months after a disconcerting family trip to the Telluride Film Festival, at which Rooney was being honored. "[Chris] told somebody at Telluride, 'Mickey Rooney works for me, I don't work for Mickey Rooney,' " says Mark. Adds Charlene: "Mickey grabbed me by the arms and said: 'Look at me! You have to promise me that you and Mark are going to help me. I can't take it anymore!' "
Chris claims the couple, both earning low wages in Florida, saw a meal ticket. "They thought Mickey was worth millions," he laughs. By Jan's estimation, the pair, who only erratically have been employed since their arrival in California, "didn't contribute anything" to her household. These contentions infuriate Charlene, who in her journal documented scores of incidents that she claims to have witnessed caring for the star between 2005 and his death (typewritten excerpts shared with THR totaled 45 single-spaced pages): "We had a house and we had jobs [in Florida]. We made a promise to Mickey."
The couple sees themselves as having embarked on a quiet, protracted mission to extract Rooney from an abusive situation and care for him during his final decline. "When Mickey would shit in the bed, Mark cleaned it up," says Augustine. It all came in the end at a significant financial and personal cost to Mark and Charlene, leaving them broke after he died, while other key players particularly Chris, who has yet to pay out his settlement, and Jan, who is receiving Rooney's SAG pension have, to their minds, made out. "There was no money," says Garcia of the trio's living arrangement before Rooney died. "There were instances when I had to give them $50 or $100 out of my own pocket just so they could eat." (Mark and Charlene claim they're entitled to unpaid caregiver fees totaling $38,000. Augustine says they're the first in line to be paid ahead of him and Rooney's attorneys, who never have been paid anything and are owed $200,000 and $1.5 million, respectively after the IRS, which is owed "less than $50,000.")
The couple particularly was aggrieved when, after Rooney's death, Augustine portrayed himself as a saving-the-day figure. Notes Mark: "They take a lot of credit, the lawyers and the conservator. But, you know, some of it kind of sucks because they act like they just came and found Mickey and we didn't do shit."
Augustine says that he's sympathetic to their plight but that there's little he can do to assist them. "Mark and Charlene somehow were of the opinion that [Rooney's conservator and attorneys] were responsible for providing them with some sort of housing and/or living support and, when they were advised that this was not something that we could do because there were no funds in the estate, they basically ceased communication," says Augustine. "I am always open to speaking to them concerning matters of relevance to the estate."
Charlene brushes off his vows: "That's unbelievable. Why would we choose not to be in touch with the person who is trustee to the estate and, as the sole beneficiaries to the estate, has our future in his hands?"
As Rooney continued to be verbally and physically abused by Jan and trotted out to events with which he wanted nothing to do by Chris, he became more forward about his situation, unwilling to go on living in fear. An executive with Disney named Edward Nowak, whom he confided in during the making of The Muppets, referred him to Bruce Ross, a senior partner at Holland & Knight, who became Rooney's counsel and suggested he request a voluntary conservatorship to stop the abuse.
"The role of a conservator is basically to take over when the court determines that a person can't take care of [himself or herself]," says Burt Levitch, a partner at Rosenfeld Meyer & Susman. Adds Laura A. Zwicker of Greenberg Glusker, "Most people with any significant assets have done estate planning such that they wouldn't need to get a conservatorship. And it's unusual for someone to be imposed upon while he can still go out and earn money. Usually it's imposed on someone with severe mental or physical impairment."
Family members often are made conservators (see Britney Spears), but Ross felt strongly that an independent party should be appointed to navigate Rooney's situation, and, after interviewing several candidates, he and Mickey decided on Augustine, a state trust lawyer with 40-plus years of experience who also represents the trusts of Gene Kelly and the creators of Gumby.
Augustine went to work. In short order, after presenting evidence of financial wrongdoing, he procured a restraining order keeping Chris and Christina away from Rooney, negotiated a separation agreement with Jan (Rooney was advised against divorce to save money) and, in June 2012, won court approval to place Rooney under the care of Mark and Charlene at a rental property, the location of which would be withheld from Jan and Chris. He then sold Rooney and Jan's Westlake Village home for $1.057 million; afterward, Jan moved in with Chris and Christina. And in May 2013, he reached a settlement with Chris.
Augustine has not recovered any money. He says Rooney's art collection remains unaccounted for and that he hired a P.I. to follow Chris.
Augustine tried to initiate criminal prosecution of Chris, filing a report with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, but says, "They decided it was a civil matter and refused to take it to the D.A." A spokesperson for the VCSD said, "In 2013 we received a report of a possibility of some kind of a financial elder abuse that was investigated, and at no time was a crime ever established."
Says Chris: "If they proved just one thing, I could go to jail. They couldn't prove anything."
In the end, Augustine went after Chris via civil litigation, though he knew there was nothing to recover. He sued Chris' homeowners' insurance carrier ("We discovered there was an insurance policy that insured [Chris] for negligent acts"), but a judge ruled in July that the carrier was not obligated to pay. Now, the carrier is suing Augustine to recover the costs of their defense.
On the bright side, Augustine's efforts meant Rooney no longer was "physically in peril." He says, "All of a sudden Mickey's appearance improved, everything about Mickey improved." Indeed, while Jan fueled the impression that nothing had changed on Facebook, she continued signing posts, "Love, Jan and Mickey" Rooney was shining at summer 2012 Q&As at the Academy and Hammer Museum and even had a cameo in 2014's Night at the Museum 3.
Yet Jan, Chris, Christina, Mark, Charlene and most of Rooney's surviving biological children agree that they are unhappy with Augustine, either because he sued them, limited their access to Rooney or failed to send them a check.
...On April 6, 2014, Rooney died of natural causes after being found unresponsive during an afternoon nap. TMZ broke the news before Augustine could
notify Jan or Rooney's biological children, who were outraged. Within hours, Jan and Chris tried to claim Rooney's body and began granting interviews.
Rooney, one of the top movie stars of all time, died poor. "If he had been managed properly," says Augustine, "I think he would have been in the neighborhood of someone like Paul Newman, easily worth hundreds of millions of dollars." He adds: "The biggest crime here was not stealing the dough, because Mickey could've made the dough back. The biggest crime was they turned Mickey into a dog-and-pony show, and nobody wanted to have anything to do with him."
For all his life, other people sought to make money off of Rooney. Jan kept bags filled with clippings of Rooney's hair from various years, say Mark and Charlene. ("She thought it was going to be like Elvis'," chuckles Charlene.) Chris admits to selling photos of his stepfather to the photo agency Coleman-Rayner hours after his death. And Mark and Charlene acknowledge selling audio of Rooney being berated by Jan to RadarOnline and being a source for a New York Post gossip column item about his condition. "We're just trying to pay the goddamn rent, for Christ's sake," says Mark. (Once all creditors are paid, Augustine says any of Rooney's remaining assets perhaps including the juvenile Oscar, which certainly would go for no less than several hundred thousand dollars would go to the sole beneficiary of his trust, Mark.)
Chris, who acknowledges he and Christina owned four homes while he worked for his stepfather, says, "I lost my beautiful home because Mickey wasn't paying me. I had to go bankrupt so I wouldn't lose my wife's house." Augustine has little sympathy for the Abers. "We did discovery, subpoenaed records, took depositions," he says. "Chris and Christina are thieves. Quote me on that. They could sue me. F 'em."
Today, Jan, Chris and Christina are living off Rooney's pensions. According to Augustine, the last thing Rooney wanted was to subsidize Chris' lifestyle. ("To be honest, his direct statement was, 'I don't want that cocksucker to get a nickel.' ") Still, Chris claims poverty. Now splitting his time between "a small tract house" in Conejo Valley in California and Waikiki, Hawaii, where he works as director of operations at the Burn'n Love Elvis-impersonator show, he says, "I tell my wife, 'I'm sorry, honey, you can't go to Taco Bell today. I don't have enough money.' "
Rooney had purchased plots for Jan and her sons but had conveyed to Augustine that he no longer wished to be buried with them (or to have Chris and Christina at his funeral). However, he didn't have the funds to purchase a different plot. Roger Neal,
a publicist and manager, intervened and arranged a plot for him at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. "They gave him a beautiful spot, a gorgeous crypt," says Neal. "He overlooks the lake." ...
Despite Rooney's legendary career, no Hollywood stars were invited to see him off, much less eulogize him. Except, that is, one who never met him: Mickey Rourke, who had received a fan letter from the elder Mickey three decades earlier, at the outset of his own career, and was touched by it ("I grew up watching his early shit, you know?") but never wrote back. Rourke met Mark at a mutual friend's tattoo parlor on the Sunset Strip just a few days before the star died and arranged to finally meet his fellow Mickey. Then he learned the star had died. "I went, 'Oh, shit,' " says Rourke. "I owe it to him to go to his funeral."
Mark and Charlene invited Rourke and their mutual friend to attend an open-casket private ceremony the day before two other small funeral services for other family members. (In a final indignity, Rooney's body had to be refrigerated for two weeks after his death as family members fought in court over burial arrangements.) It was just the four of them.
"It was a pathetic sight to see him in what looked like a fin' $85 polyester gray suit, with his little hands folded, looking so tiny and all alone," says Rourke. "I thought to myself, 'Wow, after all he accomplished, all he did, the effort that he put forward
Told that Rooney's favorite wine was kosher Manischewitz, he brought a bottle, took a slug and left it beside the body. (Their friend laid down a horse-racing form.) "I kissed him on the forehead, thanked him for the letter and held his hand," says Rourke. "It was cold."
Additional reporting by Austin Siegemund-Broka.
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