Ask 'Mimi' April 13, 2014
Q: Didn't Mickey Rooney, who died last week at age 93, perform here?
A: Yes. At least twice. In 1976 the eight-time married entertainer in real life played an alimony-hounded ex-husband in the comedy "Three Goats and a Blanket" at the Little Theatre on the Square, Sullivan. Off-duty, he spent a lot of time golfing at the Sullivan Country Club, where it was reported he had a good swing.
In 2001, Rooney and his last wife, Jan Chamberlin Rooney, did their "One Man, One Wife Show" at the Starlight Dinner Theatre at the Chancellor Hotel and Convention Center, Champaign.
"Mickey used a teleprompter for some of the lyrics but it was a fun show with more of Jan than Mickey but the audience enjoyed it," Cara Day recalled. "Afterward the line wrapped down the hall as people waited to get pictures and autographs but he'd only sign if you bought a picture. I asked Jan about the teleprompter and she laughed and said, 'None of us remember things like we used to.'"
Rooney also appeared in the national tour of "Sugar Babies" but not in 1982 when it made a stop at the UI Assembly Hall, now called State Farm Center.
Q: What do you think will be the hidden gem at Ebertfest this year, Mimi?
A: Hard to say. There are always one or two. I predict "Wadjda," which I saw at the Art Theater Co-op, will be one. People, particularly women, will relate to the precocious title character's quest for a bicycle and appreciate the inside look at contemporary Saudi Arabian culture.
I predict another with emotional impact — the kind Roger Ebert loved — will be "A Simple Life" (2011), described as a quiet movie from Hong Kong about a servant who suffers a stroke and is then taken care of by the only surviving member of the family she tended for four generations.
Q: How did the Henningsens from Atwood and Brett Eldredge from Paris fare at the recent Academy of Country Music awards?
A: Eldredge was nominated for new artist of the year, but that went to Justin Moore. The Band Perry, a family act like the Henningsens, won for vocal group of the year.
The Henningsens, now a country performance act, have written hit songs before for The Band Perry, a sibling act. In 2011 the Henningsens received a Music Row Awards' Breakthrough Writers of the Year nomination; the award went to Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry.
The Henningsens also have written songs recorded by Sara Evans, Highway 101 and Wynonna Judd. So far their most successful track is "You Lie," covered by The Band Perry. It was certified gold, meaning it sold more than 500,000 copies.