bunny-playmate mercy rooney — a neophyte rodeo fan — has her hopes for the future riding on an acting career
Merci Montello appeared as the Playboy Playmate of the Month for December 1972 under the name of “Mercy Rooney”. The New Jersey native, who was born in the Garden State on June 21, 1950, acquired her new surname as the wife of Mickey Rooney Jr., whom she had met when she was a “Bunny” at the Los Angeles Playboy Club (or “Hutch”). The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Meci sported a classic 36-23-36 figure, which is a winning hand on both Coasts. Mercy worked as a Bunny at the Playboy Club in Los Angeles.
Before she gained her chance to grab at the Big Brass Ring as a bunny at the L.A. Hutch, Merci was self-employed as a decorator, seamstress and dancer.
In March 1973 she was the Playmate of the Month in the German edition of Playboy and simultaneously appeared on the covers of the U.S., German, French and Italian editions.
She was once married to Mickey Rooney, Jr. and had a very brief acting career, appearing in three motion pictures under three different names: Mercy Mee, Mercy Montello and Mercy Rooney.
On the back of her gate-fold in the December issue, Mercy listed her ambition as “To become an actress”. Unfortunately, Merci Montello’s career in pictures was distinguished only by the fact that she had a different name in each picture she appeared in: “Mercy Mee” in Space-Thing (1968), “Merci Montello” in Erika’s Hot Summer (1971), and — cashing in on her Playboy notoriety — “Merci Rooney” in “Bloody Friday” (1974). In the latter movie, a.k.a. The Single Girls (1974), she was shot in the stomach with a crossbow while gamboling in the woods. The body of the voluptuous Playmate was buried under leaves and straw by her slayer, though Mercy’s hand was left sticking out of the improvised grave to provide a plot device. With that, she waved good-bye to her career and the limelight.
Below is a representative snippet of the aforementioned “Erika’s Hot Summer”, showing off Mercy’s acting talents:
Later, she divorced Mickey Rooney Jr., who is now a born-again Christian and a minister who regales his audiences by testifying about the folly of “Life in the Fast Lane”.
She lived on a New Jersey farm until she was six years old, and her fondness for the country life and animals lingered long after her family’s move from the East to Los Angeles; so it was logical, when Mercy Rooney saw a rodeo last summer, that she’d fall in love with it. Here’s how it happened: “I was deeply involved in clothes designing for a couple of years, and eventually I began to specialize in leather. Through a series of contacts, I agreed to do some leatherwork for rodeo contestants and decided I should go see a rodeo myself in order to get an idea of how the clothes should function.”
She got the chance a short time later, driving north along the California coast to the vegetable valleys around Salinas, where a major rodeo was being held. Everything about it impressed her: the spectacle, the crowds, the athletes and their ladies, and she formed some interesting perceptions about the sport.
“Most people think of rodeo as man conquering beast — men riding bulls, roping calves, that kind of thing. That’s not it at all. Rodeo is actually man conquering his own body, being able to control it and make it work the way he wants it to. The real pros are very disciplined people; with discipline comes skill, and that’s what makes the whole thing a treat for fans. Riding rodeo is a beautiful, graceful art when a person’s really good at it.”
During the Salinas event, Mercy met somebody who’s probably as good at it as anyone ever gets: five-time all-round champion Larry Mahan. “Larry and I became great friends. He’s simply tremendous to watch and he let me see the whole thing from the chutes area. I liked being right down there with the dirt kicked in the air, flying in your face, and the animals lunging so close that you have to jump for a fence to get out of their way.”
Mahan and his colleagues enjoyed Mercy’s visit at least as much as she enjoyed being there. Asked about the reaction when she appeared on the scene, Mahan says, “I recollect hearing quite a few ‘Good God A’mightys!’ And one of my friends said to me, ‘We gotta get her out of here. I can’t concentrate on my horse.'”
When she isn’t distracting rodeo performers, Mercy lives a busy life in Los Angeles, following a schedule that divides time between Bunnying at the L.A. Club and returning to an acting career that she had pursued after high school, then capriciously dropped for a couple of years. “I’m back in acting school and working hard at it. I guess I quit before because I just had too many things going.
I was designing full time, I managed a chain of design shops for a while, then became a Bunny, too. Now I’m working at the Club only three nights a week so I’ll have time to take some classes and audition for parts. I’ve done some TV already — The Tonight Show, Laugh-In and several commercials. This time, I plan to keep acting until I meet the man, retire to a ranch and raise animals. But that figures to be in the very distant future.”
Her rodeo friends are certain that Mercy will find what she wants. Says Larry Mahan, “Mercy’s gonna be a very successful young lady in this little ol’ thing we call life.”