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Andy Rooney: Each Sunday he looked at the everyday
Question of the Day
He took notably bold stands on certain major issues. He was one of television’s few voices to strongly oppose the war in Iraq when it began.
But there were easy targets, too. “There are a lot of know-nothing boobs who don’t appreciate the modern art being put up in public places in all our cities,” he declared peevishly one week. “I know this is true, because I’m one of those know-nothing boobs.”
Then, occasionally, he strayed into areas beyond his understanding. For example, he dismissed Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide as, in effect, a selfish act. What did Cobain know about suffering? The 27-year-old rock star hadn’t suffered through a war or the Depression! (The next week, he apologized on the air.)
He could play rough.
“One of my major shortcomings _ I’m vindictive,” he pleasantly acknowledged in a 1998 interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t know why that is. Even in petty things in my life I tend to strike back. It’s a lot more pleasurable a sensation than feeling threatened.”
He summed up: “There’s no question I have a negative streak, which has served me well.”
Indeed. But if Rooney sometimes championed a get-off-my-lawn brand of crankiness, there was usually a twinkle in his eye and a “we’re-in-this-together” tone to his writing that gave comfort to his flock.
“I’ve done a lot of complaining here,” he acknowledged in his farewell commentary, and voiced a parting complaint: He doesn’t like being famous, nor does he like being bothered by fans. “I walk down the street now or go to a football game and people shout, `Hey, Andy!’ And I hate that.” No autographs, please.
“But of all the things I’ve complained about, I can’t complain about my life.” Without even being told, his fans always knew that beneath Rooney’s grumbling was gratitude for all the good things _ his family, his job, his country _ that life had given him. His fans identified with that, too.
Oh, sure, there were viewers who grew weary of his act, of his comments on the fleeting and the mundane (which, in a popular parody of Rooney, would begin as “Didja ever notice …?” _ a phrase he insisted he had never used). Detractors thought he had long outstayed his welcome.
Even so, as he delivered his final essay _ which he titled “My Lucky Life” _ he spoke for much of the “60 Minutes” audience when he said, “This is a moment I have dreaded. I wish I could do this forever. I can’t though.”
Then he insisted he wasn’t retiring: “Writers don’t retire and I’ll always be a writer.”
For Rooney, it all came down to the writing, the words: simple, succinct, sometimes pungent, sometimes funny. And not many of them in a single serving.
His voice is stilled now, but never fear: If there are computers in heaven doing needless tasks, or forms containing fine print, or “the dullest” Olympic sport of curling, odds are Rooney is writing a cantankerous response.
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