Former ’60 Minutes’ commentator Andy Rooney dies at age 92
NEW YORK (AP) – Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly commentator who spent more than 30 years wryly talking about the oddities of life for “60 Minutes,” died Friday night, CBS said. He was 92.
Just a month ago, Rooney delivered his last regular essay on the CBS newsmagazine.
CBS said he died Friday night in New York from complications from a recent surgery.
Rooney, also a syndicated newspaper columnist, talked about what was in the news. But he was just as likely to use his weekly television essay to discuss the old clothes in his closet, why banks need to have important-sounding names or whether there was a real Mrs. Smith who made Mrs. Smith’s Pies.
He won three Emmy Awards, including one for his story revealing there was no Mrs. Smith.
Rooney began his “60 Minutes” commentaries in 1978 and was still at it three decades later, railing about how unpleasant air travel had become. “Let’s make a statement to the airlines just to get their attention. We’ll pick a week next year and we’ll all agree not to go anywhere for seven days,” he told viewers.
“I obviously have a knack for getting on paper what a lot of people have thought and didn’t realize they thought,” Rooney once said. “And they say, ‘Hey, yeah!’ And they like that.”
In early 2009, as he was about to turn 90, he looked ahead to 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.”
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. With Rooney as the writer, they collaborated on several news specials, including an Emmy-winning report on misrepresentations of black Americans in movies and history books. He wrote “An Essay on Doors” in 1964, and continued with contemplations on bridges, chairs and women.
“The best work I ever did,” Rooney said. “But nobody knows I can do it or ever did it. Nobody knows that I’m a writer and producer. They think I’m this guy on television.”
Rooney angrily left CBS in 1970 when it refused to air his heated 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.
He 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 lighthearted but serious look at government won him a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
“A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney” aired on “60 Minutes” for the first time on July 2, 1978.
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, where Rooney worked for the GI newspaper Stars and Stripes. With another former Stars and Stripes staffer, Oram C. Hutton, Rooney wrote four books about the war. They included the 1947 book, “Their Conqueror’s Peace: A Report to the American Stockholders,” documenting offenses against the Germans by occupying forces.
Rooney and his wife, Marguerite, had four children and lived in Rowayton, Conn. Daughter Emily Rooney is a former executive producer of ABC’s “World News Tonight.”