Former '60 Minutes' commentator Andy Rooney dies

By David Bauder

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 5 2011 8:59 a.m. MDT

FILE - This Sept. 20, 2005 file photo shows "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney in New York. CBS says former "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney died Saturday Nov. 5, 2011 at age 92.

Bebeto Matthews, File, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly commentator who spent more than 30 years wryly talking about the oddities of life for the TV news magazine "60 Minutes," died Friday night, CBS said. He was 92.

Just a month ago, Rooney delivered his last regular essay on the CBS news magazine.

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 four 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."

For many years, "60 Minutes" improbably was the most popular program on U.S. television and a dose of Rooney was what Americans came to expect for a knowing smile on the night before they had to go back to work.

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."

"Words cannot adequately express Andy's contribution to the world of journalism and the impact he made — as a colleague and a friend — upon everybody at CBS," said Leslie Moonves, CBS Corp. president and CEO.

Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and "60 Minutes" executive producer, said "it's hard to imagine not having Andy around. He loved his life and he lived it on his own terms. We will miss him very much."

"60 Minutes" will end its broadcast Sunday with a tribute to Rooney by veteran correspondent Morley Safer.

For his final essay, Rooney said that he'd live a life luckier than most.

"I wish I could do this forever. I can't, though," he said.

He said he probably hadn't said anything on "60 Minutes" that most of his viewers didn't already know or hadn't thought. "That's what a writer does," he said. "A writer's job is to tell the truth."

True to his occasional crotchety nature, though, he complained about being famous or bothered by fans. His last wish from fans: If you see him in a restaurant, just let him eat his dinner.

"Andy always said he wanted to work until the day he died, and he managed to do it, save the last few weeks in the hospital," said his "60 Minutes" colleague, correspondent Steve Kroft.

Rooney was a freelance writer in 1949 when he encountered CBS radio star Arthur Godfrey in an elevator and — with the bluntness millions of people learned about later — told him his show could use better writing. Godfrey hired him and by 1953, when he moved to TV, Rooney was his only writer.

He wrote for CBS' Garry Moore during the early 1960s before settling into a partnership with Harry Reasoner at CBS News. Given a challenge to write on any topic, he wrote "An Essay on Doors" in 1964, and continued with contemplations on bridges, chairs and women.

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