April 7, 2014 at 9:22 AM ET
Billy Crystal knows funny and he knows talented, so it's no wonder he was a "tremendous" fan of the late Mickey Rooney's, as he noted during a visit to TODAY Monday.
"He was a tremendous talent, and someone at 5 foot tall that everybody looked up to," said Crystal.
He noted that the actor, who died Sunday at age 93, was always up for a performance. Crystal hosted one of Rooney's final appearances, a 50th anniversary celebration for 1963's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" in July 2012 (he also noted it was one of the late Jonathan Winters' last appearances as well), and recalled how Rooney was escorted on stage in a wheelchair.
But he didn't stay in it, said Crystal. "He got out of the chair and did a time step (dance) for about a minute —brought the house down," he said. "And Jonathan said to him, 'Don't do that again, or you'll die!'"
To Crystal, Rooney really had it all. "He was the No. 1 box-office champion I believe seven years in a row. He could sing great, tap dance great, he did Shakespeare, he was a phenomenal talent."