Andy Rooney, CBS News “60 Minutes” star died Friday night at 92, only a month after delivering his 1,097th and final televised commentary.
CBS announced the death of Andy Rooney, who launched his long career during World War II as a correspondent for the Stars and Stripes military newspaper and continued to be a fixture on “60 Minutes” until he retired last month after 33 years.
On October 25, CBS said Andy Rooney was hospitalized after developing serious complications after minor surgery.
Andy Rooney had gone to the hospital for an undisclosed surgery, but major complications developed and he never recovered.
He talked on “60 Minutes” about what was in the news, and his opinions occasionally got him in trouble. But he was just as likely to discuss the old clothes in his closet, why air travel had become unpleasant and why banks needed to have important sounding names.
Andy Rooney won one of his three Emmy Awards for a piece on whether there was a real Mrs. Smith who made Mrs. Smith’s Pies. As it turned out, there was no Mrs. Smith.
“I obviously have a knack for getting on paper what a lot of people have thought and didn’t realize they thought,” Andy Rooney once said.
“And they say, <<Hey, yeah!>> And they like that.”
Looking for something new to punctuate its weekly broadcast, “60 Minutes” aired its first Andy Rooney commentary on July 2, 1987. He complained about people who keep track of how many people die in car accidents on holiday weekends. In fact, he said, the Fourth of July is “one of the safest weekends of the year to be going someplace”.
In early 2009, as he was about to turn 90, Andy Rooney looked ahead to President Barack Obama’s upcoming inauguration with a look at past inaugurations. He told viewers that Calvin Coolidge’s 1925 swearing-in was the first to be broadcast on radio, adding, “That may have been the most interesting thing Coolidge ever did.“
For his final essay, Andy Rooney said that he’d live a life luckier than most.
“I wish I could do this forever. I can’t, though,” he said.
Andy Rooney said he probably hadn’t said anything on “60 Minutes” that most of his viewers didn’t already know or hadn’t thought.
“That’s what a writer does,” he said.
“A writer’s job is to tell the truth.”
Andy Rooney wrote for CBS stars such as Arthur Godfrey and Garry Moore during the 1950s and early 1960s, before settling into a partnership with newsman Harry Reasoner.
He left CBS in 1970 when it refused to air his angry essay about the Vietnam War. He went on TV for the first time, reading the essay on PBS and winning a Writers Guild of America award for it.
Andy Rooney returned to CBS three years later as a writer and producer of specials. Notable among them was the 1975 “Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington”, whose light-hearted but serious look at government won him a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
His words sometimes landed Andy Rooney in hot water. CBS suspended him for three months in 1990 for making racist remarks in an interview, which he denied.
Gay rights groups were mad, during the AIDS epidemic, when Andy Rooney mentioned homosexual unions in saying “many of the ills which kill us are self-induced”.
Indians protested when Andy Rooney suggested Native Americans who made money from casinos weren’t doing enough to help their own people.
Andy Rooney was one of television’s few voices to strongly oppose the war in Iraq after the George W. Bush administration launched it in 2002. After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, he said he was chastened by its quick fall but didn’t regret his “60 Minutes” commentaries.
Andrew Aitken Rooney was born on Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y., and worked as a copy boy on the Albany Knickerbocker News while in high school. College at Colgate University was cut short by World War II, when Rooney worked for the wartime newspaper Stars and Stripes.
With another former Stars and Stripes staffer, Oram C. Hutton, Andy Rooney wrote four books about the war. They included the 1947 book, “Their Conqueror’s Peace: A Report to the American Stockholders”, documenting offences against the Germans by occupying forces.
Andy Rooney and his wife, Marguerite, were married for 62 years before she died of heart failure in 2004. They had four children and lived in Rowayton, Connecticut. Daughter Emily Rooney is a former executive producer of ABC’s “World News Tonight”.
CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager paid tribute to Andy Rooney long career saying: “There’s nobody like Andy, and there never will be. He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original.”
Before Andy Rooney delivered his final essay, Morley Safer – himself an 89-year-old journalist and a 60 Minutes staple since 1970 – interviewed him about his personal and professional life.
Andy Rooney admitted that he doesn’t sign autographs and rarely responds to fan mail, telling Morley Safer he didn’t “want to answer an idiot who would have the bad sense to write me a letter”.
Morley Safer described Andy Rooney as “America’s favourite grouch-in-chief”, saying he used his “loud whiny voice … speaking up for citizens fed up with everything”.