Monday, October 3, 2011



The most used word after Andy Rooney retired from the great U.S. news show 60 Minutes was that he was a curmudgeon.
The word seems invented just to describe him.
Yet he was a fair curmudgeon, I think, which makes it more honourable. He was not a cranky sour prejudiced jerk, which many curmudgeons are. He just wanted to be known for his words and please, please, don't bother me on the street.
I suspect any praise of Rooney is lost on many under 60. If you lived with parents or relatives wounded by the Great Depression, or you saved string in a ball, turned lights off as you left a room,  soaked uncancelled stamps off envelopes or thought three times before you bought anything over $100, then you were a Rooney fan or appreciated much of his commentary.
Like when he counted the cashews in mixed nuts to point out that there were too few to live up to the advertising on the can or grumped that a cereal box certainly exaggerated the contents shown in its illustration.
What grabbed me on his farewell - which we knew was coming because he was often missing in recent months - was how he stressed proudly he had supported himself for his entire life as a writer.
Since he's 92, that's a lot of writing. And he intends to keep on typing.
Did I ever identify with that since I made my first money in Sunday School essay contests in 1945 and have been earning my living through writing since 1957.
Rooney certainly had an illustrious career as war correspondent, gag man, ghost writer, author, TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He became really famous, however, when he wrote that signature farewell essay for each 60 Minutes show.
In a much humbler fashion, I've done just about everything possible as a writer too: Books, speeches, gags for roasts, advertising pamphlets, TV ads, radio and TV commentary and, oh yes, thousands of editorials and columns.
I even wrote advice-to-the-lovelorn columns and the horoscope when the syndicated material didn't show up. Oh yes, when you work on weeklies and three newspapers, you have to be able to write anything.
I understand from a woman who won an Emmy as a 60 Minutes producer that the regulars there conducted themselves like kings with fawning and expensive courts. Perhaps, but I love the results. When the program turns to rock climbing or the hot new musician, no expense is spared. Beautifully photographed, and well written. I watch even the repeats when similar shows on other networks often bore me the first time.
Rooney was quirky, right from those bushy eyebrows, which look as stupid as those that Hal Jackman flaunted as our lieutenant-governor, to some of his angles.
But as someone who savours fine commentary - as if it was a juicy steak with reeking garlic bread and a good red  -  I appreciated hearing original thoughts from an elf who must cringe at what passes for comment today on the Internet and some papers.
I used to tell aspiring columnists that there had to be something beyond a rant. If I want a rant, I would say, I can dash one off myself in a few minutes. There has to be insight, or a different view - now cursed by the expression of thinking outside the box - or  great metaphors. No need for crude flaming insults unless you to some surprise have actually invented a new one.
You often got that from Andy Rooney.  May he write for a century!

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