Mickey Rooney's Eighth Wife Defends Herself: "I Never Physically Abused Mickey, But We Had Some Minor Pushing Scuffles"
A transcript of THR's exclusive interview with Jan Chamberlin.
The Hollywood Reporter published "The Tears and Terror of Mickey Rooney’s Final Years," an investigation into continuing questions surrounding the late Mickey Rooney's financial and physical well-being during the final years of his life, in print and online on Oct. 21. His widow, Jan Chamberlin, declined a traditional interview with THR in connection with the story, but agreed to respond to written questions if THR published those questions and her responses in their entirety. THR is honoring that request, although certain information has been redacted to protect Ms. Chamberlin's or other individuals' privacy interests.
1. There have been a lot of accusations flung around over the last few years of Mickey’s life and years since his death. Have there been any misunderstandings, in general, that you would like to clear up?
My son Christopher and I continued to deny all of the false allegations made against our family over the last several years in the media, to the present time.
2. We know you loved Mickey and he loved you, too — there are a million interviews in which this is stated. So what don’t people understand about the challenges that always came with being married to Mickey?
Loving married couples like Mickey and me always bring different personalities and experiences to a relationship and require constant adjustments and we were no exception.
Mickey was a complicated man, a bona fide creative genius. Complex and challenging people like that can make it more difficult. I was never without faults myself but we were always devoted through all the turmoil. In his last years, when separated, he would reach out to his friends numerous times and ask them to get a message to me and say, "Please tell Jan that I love her."
3. What was The Rooneys reality show pilot? Whose idea was it? How was it financed? What was Mike Schrimmer and Ray Willey’s role in it? What was Chris’ role in it? What was your role in it? What was the ultimate goal for it? How much money did Mickey himself receive for his involvement with it? Why, if it was something that was profiting him, does he, on the show, clearly appear to be in great distress for having had to participate in it? Why, when he asks where you are going and when he can return home, do you essentially ignore his questions and concerns?
Another paragraph and too many questions. As for your last question — emphatically deny.
4. Why do you think Mark/Charlene are upset with you?
I believe they must be frustrated because after several years, they can’t come up with any proof of their false accusations that Chris his wife or I ever abused Mickey in any way.
5. When/how did you first meet Mickey? And what drew you to him, even knowing that he had many prior wives?
Everyone was immediately drawn to Mickey’s charisma. Because of his immense talents, he was considered the greatest star in the history of Hollywood. When we fell in love I guess he was ready to settle down After 7 wives and we completed each other personally and professionally.
6. In the last years in which you and Mickey lived together, what was Mickey’s state of mind and daily routine? What did he do all day? What did he like doing? What are your favorite memories of him?
Sorry, there are too many questions in one paragraph. Mickey could not control his impulses. He gambled and invested badly. Chris always tried to protect Mickey from his bad habits, though not always successfully.
My favorite memory of Mickey is how much he always loved me through all the good times and the bad times and especially those sweet messages he had his friends deliver to me to the very end.
7. Mickey’s biological children Kelly and Kerry allege, in court documents, that you admitted to them that you physically abused Mickey, and that they filed a police report that they eventually dropped because you relentlessly pleaded with them to do so. Is any part of this not true?
I never physically abused Mickey, but we had some minor pushing scuffles, tempers flared when we were angry. Sometimes it was his fault, sometimes mine. We always made up.
8. What were Mickey’s finances like at the time you married him?
9. How effectively would you say Mickey managed his finances?
10. Did Mickey’s gambling and poor investments lose you two a lot of money and cause you a lot of angst?
Yes. And of course that caused me angst. I was his wife.
11. Was Mickey ever physically abusive toward you?
12. Chris told us that Mickey was arrested in 1996 for physically assaulting you. Is this true? And, if so, what occurred?
True — I assume you’ve checked the public records. I don’t want to relive that. Christina, Chris’ wife, bailed him out with their credit card.
13. When did your two sons stop getting along?
I won’t speak for them. They’re my sons and I love both of them and it’s very uncomfortable.
14. Why did you and Chris not attend Mark and Charlene’s wedding on March 14, 2006? And did you take steps to keep others from attending?
We never received an invitation and Mickey told me that he would never have gone anyway.
15. When did Mark and Charlene first move into your home? Where in your home did they live? Were they there full-time or part-time? Did they pay rent or provide services? And how did you feel about having them there?
Sorry, too many questions in one paragraph. Mark and Charlene were renting the house next door to us. When they couldn’t pay their rent, Mickey and I invited them to stay with us full-time temporarily, until they could find work.
They stayed for 3 years, and didn’t contribute anything and I don’t know if they worked or not.
16. Were there good times with Mark and Charlene there? Could you describe them?
17. Were Mark and Charlene cruel to you? What exactly did they do?
They were not kind, much worse to Mickey.
18. Why didn’t you tell Mickey that you were charging people (including me) for interviews with him? And why was he so upset when he would hear the name "Kevin Pawley"?
Mickey would never give a free interview — anytime — whether I was around or not. He might’ve been angry at Kevin at one time or another, but for over 20 years he relied on and trusted Kevin who always tried his best for Mickey.
19. From April 7, 2008, until June 29, 2012, you were listed as secretary of Densmore Productions. What did you do in this capacity?
I don’t recall any details, I don’t think not much at all, but I was told that every corporation needed to at least name someone as Secretary so they made me the secretary but I wasn’t a businesswoman.
20. What was your major in college? Was it psychology?
22. During the ’80s, when Mickey was on the road doing Sugar Babies, did you feel neglected?
Not at all neglected. I traveled with him 50% of the time until the show closed and he called me at least 5 times a day when I was home. I missed him terribly but I was overjoyed he was doing what he loved and costarring with our wonderful friend, Ann Miller
23. We’ve heard that you’ve had some health issues. Chris and Charlene have both mentioned tumors. What is your current health situation and prognosis?
24. Is it true that you would often find ways of injecting yourself into the public eye that was intended for Mickey? For example: (a) handing him notes of complimentary things to say about you in interviews? (b) insisting that he conduct interviews, requested only of him, with you? (c) making him let you read speeches for him?
Mickey always insisted (sorry, part of your question is unclear to me)
25. Is it true that Mickey was often unkempt? That you did not facilitate haircuts, clean clothing or trash removal, and that you did nothing after finding bugs in couches, rats in bedroom, etc.?
I believe it was Mickey’s conservator Mr. Augustine who asked the court to put Mark and Charlene in charge of Mickey’s health and welfare. You’ll have to ask them.
We had a monthly contract with Orkin Pest Control.
26. Were there times when Mickey did not want to go to shows/appearances/interviews/the like, but you and/or Chris made him do so under the veil of threat? Sometimes on short notice?
No one ever threatened Mickey. He loved making appearances, doing shows and interviews but sometimes we had to convince him to keep busy and active because of his age.
27. With Mickey gone, where do you live and how are you able to support yourself?
I’m getting tired and I would appreciate the questions being about Mickey. I’m doing the best to get through this.
28. When did you first begin receiving Mickey’s SAG pension? And do you share it with anyone else?
This also is not about Mickey — I don’t remember when I first received it but it’s enough for me to get by.
29. How do you think he would feel about you receiving his pension considering he took action to get away from you late in his life?
Mickey never wanted to separate from me. As I said before, he was always sending messages to me from friends asking them to tell me that he loved me.
30. Did you have an account at Citibank that Mickey did not know about?
When my mother died she left me about $4,500 and I put it in citi bank but I would have told him because we always shared information about finances.
31. Did Mickey not receive his SAG pension payments for years while he was alive? And were you aware of where they were going?
I became aware after an investigation.
32. In spring 2006, was Mickey put on an IV due to stress and shingles? And did you express concern to others that he would be unable to work?
I always expressed concern for my husband’s health and well-being.
33. On Nov. 23, 2006, is it true that, after Mickey stepped in dog feces, you became so upset that you smeared some of it on him?
I won’t dignify that question with an answer.
35. Did you ever tell Mickey that his SAG pensions had been cashed out?
I would not have been the person who would tell Mickey anything about his pension.
36. Did you ever own a gun, and did you ever request that Mark/Charlene purchase bullets for you?
Mickey bought a shot gun to protect our home. I don’t recall asking about bullets but I might have purchased them at Mickey’s request.
37. Why did you have a shotgun? Why would Mark/Charlene — and your own sister Ronna Riley — claim that you did just that on June 18, 2009?
Please see my last answer.
38. In late 2009, did you become very upset upon learning that Mark, after cooking Mickey breakfast, took a roll of paper towels from your home? And did Mickey tell you to go live with Chris?
I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to discuss paper towels.
39. By March 2010, were you aware that Mark/Charlene were so destitute that they had to collect unemployment benefits? And that they felt obligated to spend some of those funds on food for you guys and gas to drive you around?
They were both healthy and if they were destitute it was because they didn’t work. I think Mark drove me somewhere once.
40. Did you not own a car of your own in 2010 and had to depend on Mark/Charlene to transport you to/from places? Why?
Mickey and I bought a 2011 ford with $5000 down. Mark would never allow me to drive it and be away from them for very long.
43. How would you characterize the rat problem when you lived at Red Sail? And what steps did you take to combat it? Did you discover dead rats in your home when cleaning out things?
We always had a pest control service as I said earlier and Mark and Charlene were responsible for everything else so you can ask them.
44. It’s alleged that on Nov. 17, 2010, Mickey was found at the bottom of the stairs gushing blood. How did that happen? And how was he treated? It’s alleged that you had not taken any measures to treat him and discouraged others from doing so. Why?
As I have said, according to conservator Michael Augustine’s orders, Mickey was placed under Mark and Charlene’s care. When it happened I was in a different part of the house and I found out about it 10-15 minutes after it happened. I talked to Mickey when he was on the sofa and he told me he slipped in the shower and neither Mark or Charlene were there to stand-by.
45. On Dec. 10, 2010, did you sign over your own power-of-attorney to Chris? If so, why? And did you tell anyone else?
Chris had a power of attorney, but we gave him a current one to deal with a loan modification and some other things.
47. Mark/Charlene say that Mickey had a bloody arm on Jan. 15, 2011. Do you recall how that happened?
Mark and Charlene failed to keep their dog safely away from Mickey and it bit him.
48. Is it true that by 2011, you and Mickey essentially lived separate lives in the same house, not even eating meals together?
49. Did you ever sell a ticket to the Oscars to someone else?
A close friend of Mickey’s bought our tickets and escorted us to the Oscars.
51. Is it true that on Feb. 18, 2011, with a security person in your home, you struck Mickey and, when confronted about it by him, acknowledged that you did so?
In February 2011 there was not a security person in the home. That might have been one of the very few times I have when we slapped each other on the arm during an argument. But we never meant to hurt each other.
52. What was your reaction when, in February 2011, Mickey got a restraining order from Chris/Christina? And when you learned of his plans to testify in D.C.?
At that time, Mickey was a 90-year-old man who was in and out it mentally and was easily influenced by other people.
53. Did you ever sell any of Mickey’s awards? And did you ever re-acquire them?
No, but other people did.
55. Why, in the separation agreement that you signed with Mickey, did you insist that a clause be included that says: “The Conservator will make reasonable efforts to include Jan into some of Mickey’s appearances?”
Mickey demanded that it be written into the contract. He loved having me in his shows.
56. How much are Mickey’s SAG benefits? How often are they paid? And who are they made out to?
Sorry, but I prefer not to discuss numbers.
57. Did you ever sell stories about Mickey to the Globe, including once on Jan. 1, 2012, after he was found at the bottom of the stairs?
58. What occurred on Jan. 2, 2012, that left Mickey with a black eye and missing tooth? And how did the police wind up at your house with you in the bathroom?
You’ll have to ask Mark and Charlene — he was under their care and I was not well at the time, having surgery on my brain tumor that very month and then undergoing radiation treatments.
59. What is your sister’s name? And how often did she see Mickey?
Ronna — I don’t know how often — I would say periodically as his sister-in-law.
60. Did you ever have a conservator of your own?
I had a temporary conservator after an attorney strongly recommended it to “protect me from Michael Augustine.”
61. Did you know that Mickey couldn’t eat hard candy? And did you give it to him anyway?
I knew Mickey couldn’t eat hard candy and that’s why I never gave any candy to him.
62. When Mickey began visiting you after your court-ordered separation, we are told that you tended to ask not how he was doing, but when you could again start eating out at restaurants. What do you have to say about this?
63. Why did you try to maintain the perception — particularly on Facebook — that you and Mickey were still together and happy, long after that was not the case?
That’s incorrect. We were always legally married and neither of us ever wanted to be separated.
65. Have you ever been unfaithful to Mickey or vice-versa?
Please, do you mind not asking questions that are about gossip?
70. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything people don’t understand about you, Mickey, Chris and Mark?
I think enough has been covered about Mickey, Chris and Mark at this time.
Considering all of the time and effort I spent to answer your questions, I demand that you publish all of your complete questions verbatim and all of my complete answers verbatim. That is the only fair way to do it in your article. Otherwise, I withdraw my permission for you to print any of my answers at all.
71. Is it true that you kept clippings of Mickey's hair from over the years? Is this true? And, if so, what did you intend to do with them?
I regularly gave Mickey haircuts.
72. Kelly Rooney and Kerry Rooney Mack claim, in court documents, that you confessed to them that you had periodically hit Mickey. They say they then filed a police report about it, but ultimately dropped the case after you pleaded with them to do so. Is this true?
I answered that in one of the 70 questions you already asked.