In the fifth installment of Famous Brooklynites, we take a look at six different iconic celebrities: Mickey Rooney, RZA, Rita Hayworth, Steve Guttenberg, Rosie Perez, and Omar Epps. They were all born in Brooklyn and all went on to achieve stardom. (And one of these celebrities still calls Brooklyn home.)
Mickey Rooney was born as Joe Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920, in Greenpoint. He made his first stage appearance as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act. From 1927 to 1934, young Joe played Mickey McGuire in a popular series of comedy shorts, a role that would eventually give him the first name of his stage name. (His mother wanted him to call himself Mickey Looney.) Then, in 1937, Rooney played Andy Hardy in the first of 15 films featuring the character that would make him a superstar and pair him with a young Judy Garland. Mickey Rooney’s film career lasted for over 87 years, up to his death in April 2014.
Publicity photo of Mickey Rooney via Wikipedia.
RZA | via BET
The rapper, producer, actor, director, and screenwriter RZA was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He moved to North Carolina from age 3 to 11, and spent some time in Ohio before returning to New York, where he was a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Rita Hayworth | via Wikipedia
Rita Hayworth, originally known as Margarita Carmen Cansino, was born in Brooklyn to the Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino and the Irish-American Ziegfeld girl Volga Hayworth. She got her start in show business performing with her parents in California and Tijuana, Mexico. Fox Studio signed the young actress when she was only 16, in 1935.
Steve Guttenberg | via Skyla Project
The actor Steve Guttenberg, best known for his breakthrough role in 1984′s Police Academy, was born in 1958 in Brooklyn to a surgical assistant and electrical engineer. Soon after he was born his family moved to Massapequa, Long Island, where he grew up. Right after he graduated high school he then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.
Rosie Perez | via Wikipedia
The actress Rosie Perez was born in Bushwick and raised in both Brooklyn and upstate New York. She was very honest about her tumultuous childhood in her memoir Handbook for an Unpredictable Life, where she also chronicled her meeting with another famous Brooklynite, Spike Lee, which led to her film debut in Do the Right Thing. She remained true to the borough and now lives in Clinton Hill. Back in 2009 she shared her thoughts on gentrification.
Omar Epps | via Celebritywealth
The actor Omar Epps grew up as an only child in a number of Brooklyn neighborhoods including Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, and Flatbush, and attended New York’s famous High School for Performing Arts. His mother was a principal for a public school in East New York. He hit it big as an actor soon after high school — starring with Tupac Shakur in the film Juice — and went on to found his own production company, Brooklyn Works Films.
For more on Famous Brooklyn, check out our articles: Five famous and historic Brooklyn stoops, Famous Brooklyn movie locations, Famous Brooklynites part 1, Famous Brooklynites part 2, Famous Brooklynites part 3, and Famous Brooklynites part 4.