Media

Farewell Andy Rooney

By Mandy De Waal 7 November 2011

That nostalgic, curmudgeonly man with grey bushy eyebrows and a bulldog face that delighted the American public with insights into everyday life is with us no more. The cantankerous 60 Minutes columnist that audiences loved has gone to that big newsroom in the sky. By MANDY DE WAAL.

Veteran CBS News commentator Andy Rooney wasn’t down with Justin Bieber, hip to Usher or didn’t even know who Lady Gaga was. “I have heard of Sting and The Rolling Stones,” Rooney said in his signature 60 Minutes commentary, which had run for decades, but gotten shorter as the writer edged into his eighties and nineties. “But someone sent me Billboard Magazine and I looked at a list of the top 200 performers and nobody that I know is on that best seller list.”

“If I am an average American, how come I’ve never heard of any of the musical groups that millions of other Americans apparently are listening to?” he asked in a 2010 broadcast, a year and a half before his death. “The singers I know have been replaced by performers like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Usher. I mean, who?”

Watch: Andy Loses Touch With New Music on CBS News Online:

With his typical wry, acerbic and hold-no-punches style, Rooney says: “”I think of myself as a musical ignoramus who doesn’t hear or like the nuances of sound that other people do like… I don’t know who Lady Gaga is and kids today probably don’t know who Ella Fitzgerald was. Maybe we should call it even.”

Rooney was a straight shooting, politically incorrect “curmudgeon” (as Time Magazine called him) who wasn’t averse to stirring up controversy, yet his audiences adored him. In 1990 Rooney was suspended from 60 Minutes for three months for alleged racist and homophobic remarks attributed to him by Advocate magazine. The suspension led to an outcry, and after the news programme had lost 20% of its viewership, the man described by television journalists as “America’s favourite grump” was back on air.

For 33 years, Rooney was filmed sitting behind his desk at CBS and offered a satirical take on the minutiae of everyday life. The crusty, old-school journalist in a suit opined about bottled water, Bill Gates, women in the workplace, the death of Bin Laden, annoying relatives, the size of paper towels and dirty words.

Watch: Andy Rooney talking about his suspension from CBS on TV Legends:

Rooney first appeared on “60 Minutes” in 1978 and vowed to keep on writing until his death. MSNBC reports that Rooney’s last appearance on the programme was at the beginning of October when he was interviewed by correspondent Morley Safer, who called him “America’s favourite grouch-in-chief.”

In his farewell essay for his final “ A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney”, his 1,097th piece for the program, the man who claimed he’d had a life more lucky than most said: “This is a moment I’ve dreaded,” adding: “I wish I could do this forever. I can’t, though. But I’m not retiring. Writers don’t retire. And I’ll always be a writer.”

Rooney died a writer a couple of weeks later on Friday 4 November 2011 from post-operative complications following an undisclosed surgical procedure. DM



Read more:

  • “As God told me.” Andy Rooney’s essay on God for 60 Minutes;
  • Andy Rooney obituary in The Guardian;
  • Watch Andy Rooney’s final “60 Minutes” sign off CBS News Online on YouTube.

Photo: REUTERS

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