Andy Rooney so dreaded the day he had to end his signature 60 Minutes commentaries about life’s large and small absurdities that he kept going until he was 92 years old.
Even then, he said he wasn’t retiring. Writers never retire. But his life after the end of “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney” was short: He died Friday night, according to CBS, only a month after delivering his 1,097th and final televised commentary.
Rooney had gone to the hospital for an undisclosed surgery, but major complications developed and he never recovered.
“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 talked on 60 Minutes about what was in the news, and his opinions occasionally got him in trouble. But he was just as likely to discuss the old clothes in his closet, why air travel had become unpleasant and why banks needed to have important-sounding names.
Rooney won one of his four Emmy Awards for a piece on whether there was a real Mrs. Smith who made Mrs. Smith’s Pies. As it turned out, there was no Mrs. Smith.
“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.”
Looking for something new to punctuate its weekly broadcast, 60 Minutes aired its first Rooney commentary on July 2, 1978. He complained about people who keep track of how many people die in car accidents on holiday weekends. In fact, he said, the Fourth of July is “one of the safest weekends of the year to be going someplace.”
More than three decades later, he was railing about how unpleasant air travel had become. “Let’s make a statement to the airlines just to get their attention,” he said. “We’ll pick a week next year and we’ll all agree not to go anywhere for seven days.”
In early 2009, as he was about to turn 90, Rooney looked ahead to President 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.”
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.