Never retire: almost six weeks to the day after delivering his last cranky essay on 60 Minutes, writer and commentator Andy Rooney is dead of complications following minor surgery. He was 92, and had delivered exactly 1,097 of his trademark on-air bitch sessions.
It's hard to think of a television correspondent more American than Rooney: interminably cranky, perpetually confused, stubbornly opinionated, slightly bigoted, usually wrong, and strangely likable. Rooney wrote his first "television essay"—"Essay on Doors," natch—in 1964. (It was delivered by CBS correspondent Harry Reasoner). He joined 60 Minutes in 1977, and by 1979 had established himself at the end of every show with what CBS News describes as "wry, humorous and contentious television essays," more often than not just about whatever was annoying Andy Rooney that particular week. Sometimes, this was a good—even noble—thing:
No group was off limits for Rooney, especially CBS management and his own colleagues. Rooney poked fun at the "60 Minutes" correspondents on a regular basis in his essays, while he questioned CBS management on issues, such as layoffs and strikes, sometimes in his "60 Minutes" essays, but more often in his syndicated newspaper column for Tribune Media Services or in media interviews. During a Writers Guild of America strike against CBS, Rooney, though not in the union, supported it by not writing any "60 Minutes" pieces until the strike was settled. He publicly blamed CBS's troubles of the early 1990s on Chairman Laurence Tisch's cutbacks, daring Tisch to fire him.
And sometimes it was just Rooney being—in that supremely American way of his—a prick. This was, naturally, our favorite side of him:
When Associated Press television critic Frazier Moore wrote that Rooney should quit because his material was getting old, Rooney took Moore to task by broadcasting the newswire's New York phone number, exhorting his "60 Minutes" viewers to tell the writer what they thought of his opinion. The Associated Press logged over 7,000 calls in 48 hours, the vast majority in favor of Rooney.
Rooney's survived by four children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and about three dozen terrible essays, incorrectly attributed to him, that your aunt will be forwarding to you over and over again, forever.