An era ended last night with the retirement of Andy Rooney from his 33-year, weekly, stint on CBS’ 60 Minutes. I grew up watching Andy Rooney and I always enjoyed his writing. He wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t good TV. He was a good writer who happened to be on television.
During his valedictory segment, Rooney thanked viewers for their good wishes, while admitting that he’s not comfortable with adulation. “I wasn’t always gracious about it,” he said. “I don’t say this often, but thank you. Although if you do see me in a restaurant, please, just let me eat my dinner.”
His “60 Minutes” tenure wasn’t without controversy. He was suspended without pay in 1990 over on-air remarks that were considered offensive to homosexuals, but quickly reinstated after the CBS show experienced a sizable dip in audience share. Four years later he apologized to viewers for comments about musician Kurt Cobain’s suicide that were deemed insensitive.
The greatest lesson the 92-year-old author taught us all was the value of persevering. Never give up. Never go along. Be there. Share the moment. Show up every week for work and your reward will be longevity and a prescience that cannot be had by the infrequent and the fallible.
Andy Rooney was a lot like the people I grew up with in the Midwest. He was cranky. He didn’t like to be bothered. He preferred his own company to the company of others — but that didn’t make him less human — his distance actually gave him an authenticity of experienced observing that allowed him to understand our warts and our warrants from the inside.
Andy Rooney wrote with great compassion and purpose and, in the end, he humanized us all and we can only hope that when his end reaches him, he will know how much his honesty and integrity meant to us.