bunny-playmate mercy rooney -- a neophyte rodeo fan -- has her hopes for the future riding on an acting career
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."
Photography by Alexas Urba