Pat Rooney was actually three guys: Pat Rooneys Senior, Junior and III.
Pat Rooney Senior (1844-92) was an old time variety contemporary of Eddie Foy, Harrigan and Hart and Maggie Cline. He sang character songs, did jigs and played the stereotyped Irishman to the hilt – but apparently with a tad more gentility and subtlety than was the wont of most of his compatriots. Pat Rooney, Sr. was one of the major stars of his day, and a staple at Tony Pastor’s.
Pat Rooney, Jr. (1880-1962) formed a dance team with his wife Marion Bent. They were part of the generation that went from clog dancing to tap. Rooney Junior was apparently one of vaudeville’s most remarkable dancers. According to W.C. Fields, “If you didn’t hear the taps, you would think he was floating…”
When Bent retired in 1932, Pat Rooney III (1909-79) stepped into her shoes. According to historian Anthony Slide, the routine the father and son did “has never been successfully copied.” As Pat Rooney, Jr. slipped into retirement, number three continued to work solo for a number of years. He passed away in 1979.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.