There was a time when I used to actually enjoy Andy Rooney, the long-time 60 Minutes commentator who retired in October 2011, and died less than a month later. It was even before I knew who he was. I remember watching a series of CBS News specials called ‘Of Black America’, back in the days when network television would/could broadcast such things, and as it turns out, Rooney wrote two of them. He also penned ‘Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed’, which won him his first Emmy.
Then he did a bunch of quirky shows in the 1970s and early 1980s, such as ‘Andy Rooney Takes Off’, ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Work’, ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner’, and the Peabody Award-winning ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington’, which Mark Evanier linked to.
When he got his regular gig on 60 Minutes in 1978, he was seldom profound but often entertaining enough. But even then, he played the part of the crotchety old man. I always remember this segment, pre-Thriller, of who was famous. Paul McCartney was famous; Michael Jackson was not, even though he had led the Jackson 5ive and had a hit album in Off the Wall. He never, in my recollection, gave contemporary music any credence.
Still, his observation about fame has stuck with me. Who IS famous, these days? Media being as diffused as it is, a Real Housewife of Schenectady might be well known in certain circles but totally invisible by lots of others.
His schtick and delivery became so well known that he was often parodied. And lots of quotes were attributed to him, not all of them accurately. He DID say, The French have not earned their right to oppose President Bush’s plans to attack Iraq. What was often left out is the next line: “On the other hand, I have,” referring to his service as a war correspondent during WWII. And he DID suggest that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson were “wackos.”
However, he did NOT start a commentary with I like big cars, big boats, big motorcycles, big houses, and big campfires. Nor did he write an essay ‘In Praise of Older Women’ or advocate in favor of prayer or give tips to get rid of telemarketers or the ramblings cited here or here.
In the last decade, Rooney has made a number of unfounded comments about government and politics that made me grimace. A person who read as many newspapers as he purported to peruse would have known some of the things he proudly announced he didn’t know. I kvetched about him in this blogpost here over an ill-informed observation about the Census.
Still, he always was proud of growing up in Albany, and he summered in the county, in Rensselaerville, and I liked that. I’d hoped that he would have had a chance to enjoy his retirement. But, true to his seeming contrarian nature, he didn’t have that chance.
My old buddy Steve Webb writes about Andy Rooney, Howard Hunt, Bob Dylan, and Steve Ditko, among others.