NEW YORK (AP) - It would be interesting to know what Andy Rooney would say now about the great beyond.
But if there’s a hereafter for the once lovably cantankerous commentator on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” he, even as a new arrival, would already have some pointed reactions _ and some bones to pick.
Sure, it’s Paradise. But who can sleep with all that harp-playing? Maybe he’s still miffed about the long line at the Pearly Gates. And, though he was never a fashion plate, he might have a beef with wearing white after Labor Day.
That was Rooney’s style during his 92-year life and remarkable career. He shrewdly observed the world he shared with the rest of us, and then gave voice to the everyday vexations and conundrums that afflict us all.
“I probably haven’t said anything here that you didn’t already know or have already thought,” he declared in his final “60 Minutes” essay _ his 1097th _ on Oct. 2, 2011. “That’s what a writer does.”
Despite his decades as a “60 Minutes” fixture, Rooney was a writer, not a talking head. Words, not vamping for the camera, were his stock in trade since his first “60 Minutes” essay in 1978, just as words were his business for more than 30 years before that.
Rooney, who died Friday, had been a champion of words on TV ever since he joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for the red-hot “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.” Within a few years he was also writing for such CBS News public-affairs such as “The Twentieth Century” and “Calendar.”
A World War II veteran who reported for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, he came from an ink-on-dead-trees brand of journalism that he never renounced. (During his CBS career, he had a syndicated newspaper column and published 16 books.) So it was logical that he would join “60 Minutes” with its inception in 1968. After all, the legendary creator of “60 Minutes,” Don Hewitt, is well remembered for insisting that, even on the visual medium of TV, the words should come first and the pictures follow. A decade later, Rooney was 59. At an age when many people might be pondering retirement, he took his seat before the camera to deliver his first “60 Minutes” essay.
Beetle-browed and rumpled, he wasn’t telegenic by conventional standards. But nobody minded, or even noticed. Viewers listened to his words and his wry delivery, and he caught on.
One reason is clear: He tapped into experiences common to his audience.
In his opinion pieces, he drew from a wellspring of random nuisances and absurdities, noting how life often doesn’t add up, especially in the modern day. This nettled him mightily, and his essays gave us license to be irked, too, as we tapped into our own inner fuddy-duddy.
One Sunday, for example, Rooney focused on motion-picture credits. There are too many of them. They take too long. Who cares, anyway? Things were better when he was a kid, without all those names cluttering the screen and wasting everybody’s time.
Another week, he marveled that, “If I’m so average American, how come I’ve never heard of most of the musical groups” _ such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Usher _ “that millions of other Americans apparently are listening to?”
He raised topics on which we all could readily agree: how packages misleadingly are bigger than the volume of product they contain, and how “computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.” Amen!
He validated things in his own wry style that everybody knows: Like, how air travel stinks and how “nothing in fine print is ever good news.”