Julia Rooney (1887–1990) has left her family scrapbook to the American Vaudeville Museum and her famous family connections ensure that her gift, now in the University of Arizona collection, is virtually a who was who of vaudeville.
Like many performers, Julia Rooney came from a showbiz family. Her father was Pat Rooney Sr, (1848–1892), a young, short and slight Irish immigrant who boxed and wrestled his way in America to become a famous singing and clog-dancing veteran of variety saloons. Later, he led his own variety troupe, earning as much as a thousand dollars a week. His five children, all of whom were musical, followed him into show business. The most famous of them, Pat Rooney Jr (1880-1962), spent seventy years on stages from vaudeville to Broadway, even into film and television.
Julia Rooney (1887–1990), dancer, pianist and singer, trumped her siblings with an eighty year career, and she could still play piano and do a bit of tap dancing (from a seated position) at her one-hundredth birthday celebration. During her career, she acted in touring stock theatre, played vaudeville in a sister act and played fine theatres across Europe when only twenty years old.
She married singer Walter Clinton in 1915 and the two formed a vaudeville team that grew into a huge act with a ten-piece orchestra. With the decline of vaudeville and the onset of the Great Depression, they disbanded the act. Walter toured with the band as Walter Clinton & The Invaders; Julia opened a dance school in Hollywood, where they settled down yet continued to play occasional dates.
In 1942 Julia returned to show business full-time for eight years, singing and dancing in Ken Murray’s Blackouts (1942–1950). She was sixty-two when the show closed. In 1970, Julia performed on television as a featured act in Johnny Carson’s Sun City’s Scandals.
Estelle Wright (1916–2006), married Julia’s nephew, Pat Rooney III (1909-1979), an exceptional hoofer. She knew Julia Rooney and told me she thought Julia was the most talented member of the Rooney clan. Certainly she lived the longest, passing away one-week before her one-hundred and third birthday.