"Not many people in this world are as lucky as I have been. All this time I've been paid to say what is on my mind on television. You don't get any luckier in life than that."-Andy Rooney
As I sat down in my living room early last Saturday morning, a cup of tea in hand, I turned on the television and was very saddened to hear about the death of Andy Rooney. My heart sank. The journalism world has lost an icon in my eyes. However, I have a feeling that if Mr. Rooney had read that last sentence, he probably would have called me an idiot for thinking so. He hid from the limelight and absolutely hated when people would notice him on the street and yell “Hey Andy!” He also never believed in signing autographs. “What kind of idiot wants my name on a piece of paper?” He asked during a recent interview with Morley Safer.
You just have to love Andy Rooney. So brass and raw at times, Andy was real. He said things that most would think but never say. He saw the ridiculous in everyday life. Most of all, he made us think; if only for a moment.
If you are not familiar with Andy Rooney, please allow me to summarize. Born January 14, 1919, in Albany N.Y., Andy graduated from Albany Academy High School and attended Colgate University until being drafted in the U.S. Army in 1941; in his junior year. He became a correspondent for The Stars and Stripes newspaper for three years and reported several missions on the second American bombing raid over Germany to the Far East. After writing about his war experience in three books, Rooney was hired by CBS in 1949 after a bold encounter with Arthur Godfrey. After writing for several other television programs and becoming well educated on the CBS news programs, Rooney convinced CBS executives that he could write on any subject when he wrote his first essay back in 1964. His first piece was a segment called “A Digression” seen on the “60 Minutes” premiere show back on January 24, 1968. By 1978, Andy became the Andy we know today as the opinionated, curmudgeon, humorous voice at the end of every show.
If you're still not familiar with his work, here's a taste of his personality; these are just a few of his more famous quotes:
“I didn't get old on purpose, it just happened, if you’re lucky, it could happen to you.”
“If you smile when no one else is around, you mean it.”
“The average dog is nicer than the average person.”
Lastly, one of my favorites, “The 50-50-90 rule; any time you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there is a 90 percent probability that you will get it wrong.”
They are words of wisdom in my eyes.
I looked forward to watching 60 Minutes every Sunday night just to hear what kind of ranting Mr. Rooney had for that particular week. Never censoring his thoughts from cotton in medicine bottles to his view on homosexuals; a view that landed him a three-month suspension from his job at CBS, Rooney consistently gave the audience his ‘last word’ with his signature sarcasm and curmudgeon attitude. If we were lucky, Mr. Rooney would occasionally bless us with his softer side.
I never realized how talented he was until I seriously began writing opinionated articles myself. To make the points he made in a matter of two minutes is a gift. Never mind continue to do it for over thirty years.
Rest in peace Mr. Rooney, you will be missed and 60 Minutes will never be the same.