NOT MANY people work until the age of 92, but Andy Rooney – despite often dealing with everyday topics – was a unique person.
The talented curmudgeon, who always said that he wanted to work until the day he died, almost did so, because it was a month after his final commentary on “60 Minutes” that he died.
Most people remember his commentaries as a high point on the Sunday night program, but Rooney had many talents. He started as a reporter on the Army publication, “Stars and Stripes,” and went on bombing raids over Germany.
A freelance writer after the war, he once encountered CBS radio star Arthur Godfrey in an elevator and told Godfrey that his show could use better writing. Godfrey hired him, and he eventually became that show’s only writer.
He later became a writer and producer on television, and about half of his more than six decades in television were spent behind the camera. Although he won various awards prior to his work on “60 Minutes,” it is for his sometimes-cranky commentaries that he is best known.
Rooney wrote for television since its birth, but he also wrote books and a national newspaper column. Despite his popularity as a commentator, he preferred to be known as a writer.
An early “60 minutes” essay for which he won his third of four Emmy Awards concerned his compromise to the grain embargo against the Soviet Union, and he proposed to sell them cereal. “‘Are they going to take us seriously as an enemy if they think we eat Cap’n Crunch for breakfast,’ deadpanned Rooney,” according to a CBS news report.
Rooney was hurt by a charge of racism. He was suspended by CBS for three months in 1990 for allegedly making racist remarks in an interview, which he denied. He had once been arrested in the 1940s in Florida for refusing to leave a seat among the black soldiers on a bus in the South.
Witty and opinionated, some of his commentaries were controversial. People didn’t always agree with his ideas, but they listened.
Somehow, even though Rooney presented 1,097 commentaries, it hasn’t been enough.