Sunday, February 22, 2009
Calling Mickey Rourke a loose cannon would be like calling Norman Bates a mama's boy. The truth is that Mickey's been hanging on to the precipice of sanity with his tip-toes for years: turning down big, lucrative parts to become an almost instantly washed-up boxer; getting into fights with directors; publicly professing his love for dogs that even Paris Hilton would consider "too prissy"; basically throwing his career in film away in favor of a life lived on the fringes of polite society.
All things considered, Mickey's the worst kind of artistic caricature.
And yet I couldn't be happier to once again see him in the spotlight.
Back in the mid-90s, Mickey Rourke owned a bar along Miami's ultra-hip Washington Avenue called, imaginatively, "Mickey's." The place was a singularity on South Beach: a friendly pizza-and-beer joint which also doubled, incongruously, as a chic dance club. Because South Beach hadn't yet become the wealthy celebrity playground it is today -- which meant that seeing an honest-to-God movie star would still merit more than an indifferent sigh -- Mickey's presence was enough to draw a pretty steady crowd to his place. Mickey's-the-bar was usually packed -- usually with every stripe of South Beach scenester. But whereas the surrounding clubs and bars boasted a relatively exclusive, upscale clientele, Mickey's had no tight velvet rope or strict dress code and therefore quickly became known as a regular haunt for the breadth of South Florida's douchebag frat boy set. This laissez faire entry policy, the same one which admittedly made the place so inviting, would eventually bite Mickey in the ass when, on January 6th of 1994, a couple of drunk college guys showed up at the front door and tried to pick a fight with a bouncer. Within minutes, this staggeringly stupid show of popped-collar bravado escalated into an all-out brawl, with Mickey Rourke himself coming out of the bar and basically cleaning the clocks of the tough guy wanna-bes. Mickey wound up getting himself arrested on charges of disturbing the peace -- thereby giving every television station in South Florida the kind of local lead story it could only dream of. (I specify local because January 6th, 1994 was, as it turned out, a pretty big day for national news, being that it was on that morning that Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by Tonya Harding's not-very-bright goons.)
Most stations went with the official, or at the very least more sensational, version of events, breathlessly parroting the police report that relied primarily on the college kids' side of the story. It seemed to me -- the young producer of WSVN's popular 10PM newscast at the time -- like no one wanted to look beyond the seemingly obvious because at face value the story was just so damn juicy: "ACTOR BEATS UP KIDS OUTSIDE SOUTH BEACH CLUB!" So, on the show I was responsible for at least, we did our best not to convict Mickey Rourke on the air nor to lead the audience to some kind of natural conclusion that Mickey was a monster with anger management issues. We didn't say he was completely without fault -- we just didn't publicly crucify him.
Which is why he called to say thanks.
I'd just finished my show and was walking back to my desk from the control room, a little after 11PM, when my assignment desk editor -- a guy named Edwin Lester -- called out to me across the newsroom.
"Hey, pick up your phone. I just transferred a call to you."
"Oh yeah?" I shouted back. "Anybody I should care about?"
"I think you'll want this, man," he chuckled. "It's Mickey Rourke."
"Shut the fuck up."
But when I picked up the phone at my desk, that's exactly who it was. Mickey Fuckin' Rourke. He asked who he was talking to; I told him I was the producer of the show. And then he basically thanked me and my staff for presenting the story in what he thought was as balanced a manner as possible.
"You guys were the only ones in town who gave me a fair shake. You didn't assume I was guilty."
"Well, thanks. We certainly appreciate that -- but it's sort of our job."
Regardless, Mickey wanted to show his appreciation, so he invited me and my crew to come down to his bar -- the scene of the crime, as it were -- and grab a couple of rounds of drinks and pizzas on him. While I knew even at the time that taking Mickey up on his offer would be a major violation of journalistic ethics, I was neither smart nor unselfish enough to refuse. So I went. We all did. And we all had a hell of a time.
If Mickey Rourke, who had just been arrested in scandalous fashion, was simply trying to ingratiate himself to the people who'd be covering his story for its duration, then it worked. To this day, I consider Mickey to be a pretty decent, albeit mildly fucked-up, guy. And yeah, it was fun to be reached out to at 24-years-old by a guy who at the time was one of my favorite dark horse actors -- particularly since the daily grind endured by me and my staff afforded very few perks.
Eventually "Mickey's" -- like just about every bar on the beach before it and after -- closed its doors for good. But for a while, it was one of my favorite places in Miami, and its eccentric owner provided an increasingly glitzy and sterile South Beach scene with some much needed local color.
Mickey Rourke is truly one of a kind in Hollywood -- or anywhere else for that matter. And I hope he takes home an Oscar tonight.
If for nothing else, just so we can see if he gives the kind of acceptance speech he gave yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Just don't even think about cutting him off.
We've already seen what he's capable of.