In a July 21, 1980 profile, Time called Andy Rooney "the Boswell of stuff." Describing himself
for the story, Rooney said, among other things, "I have an unpleasant voice."
But his musings are the raw material of 60
Minutes legend. "Save $1,253 on a Saab," he once began in a report. "I mean,
if you bought eight or ten Saabs a year, you can save enough to buy a
Mr. Rooney passed away Nov. 4 at age 92 due to complicationsfrom minor surgery. Since Rooney was all about "stuff" and finding unexpected
kernels in places you don't always give enough attention to, we've compiled a
short group of Rooney fun facts, both about the man and some of the ideas his
reports have inspired.
In 1962, Rooney began teaming with Harry Reasoner at CBS,
writing essays Reasoner delivered, covering the mundane wonders for which he's
now well known. The first was called "An Essay on Doors."
In order to sell the idea to Jack Kiermaier, head of the CBS
News documentary unit, he wrote a lengthy memo detailing some of his thoughts.
Rooney reprinted the contents of the memo in Sincerely, Andy Rooney, one of his 15 books.
His listing of proposals for the report included the
"There will be fourteen working doors set up for the cameras
in the studio by CBS set designers. [A] Hospital door with two small, oval
glass windows. They lend drama to a door. [B] French doors. We will try to determine
why they are called French. . . [H] Revolving door. (Women never take the first
"[We'll have] a pantomime study of door manners, mannerisms
and problems. Franz Reynders, the pantomimist, will perform in the frame of a
"My intention is to make it apparent that the most ordinary
objects around us-doors in this case-hold extraordinary interest when viewed
from a good angle or from a sufficient number of different angles. There are a
great many things to be said about doors. . . There is something basically
dramatic about a door because our attitude toward one is markedly different if
we are outside, wanting to get in, than it is if we are inside, wanting to get
"This isn't very convincing, is it? Find it in your heart to
As Rooney remembers in the book, his "Essay" was produced
and broadcast, the first of many such essays that made it to the airways,
including "An Essay on Chairs" and "An Essay on Bridges." His "An Essay on
War," the first one he delivered himself, aired on public television, after a
conflict with CBS. The essay won Rooney a Writer's Guild Award.
A Master of His
Rooney was very familiar with that desk we always found him
behind, in part because he built it himself, according to CBS News. The topics
he covered ranged from the contents of that desk's drawers to whether God
exists. The "everything in between" included cotton in pill bottles, motor
scooters, faucets, the reduction in size of household cleaning products,
presidential campaigns and presidential vacations. In a segment that won him
the third of his four Emmys, he suggested a compromise to the then-grain
embargo against the Soviet Union: Selling them cereal. "Are they going to take
us seriously as an enemy if they think we eat Cap'n Crunch for breakfast?" he
Did You Ever Notice?
There have been many parodies of Rooney, and many other
video tributes or attempts at humor regarding his signature voice and style.
For a time, the most viewed YouTube video when searching "Andy Rooney" was Ali
G.'s infamous interview, which Rooney ended a minute and a half in. Among other
things, a clearly rattled Rooney asked the faux newsman-played by Borat star Sasha Baron Cohen-"Have you
ever done this before?" and "What is your basic language?" before informing Ali
G. that one can't actually report the news before it happens. Another somewhat
less viewed video promised "Andy Rooney in 60 Seconds," and pieced together
tangential lines from many reports. "What I always want to read is stories
about lottery losers," it began. It
ended, "Sometimes when I get up in the morning, I can't even remember where my socks are." And Joe Piscopo famously
parodied Rooney in several segments on Saturday
Night Live, his reports frequently beginning with the phrase, "Did you ever
notice . . ." Perhaps Piscopo never noticed that Rooney never once used that
phrase in any of his reports.
The Game's the Thing
Comedian Joe Mande created his own unique, somewhat
existential view of the man at the desk. "The Andy Rooney Game" removed all but
the first and last sentence of Rooney's segments. One segment on junk mail has
Andy saying, "A lot of friendly people send me things. It's nice of them I
guess, but most of it's junk that I don't want. . . so keep the stuff coming,"
without including the explanation of why they should "keep it coming." Other
abbreviated reports concern the Pope's visit, Mike Wallace's birthday and
trying to get folks to agree not to go anywhere on vacation. When Rooney
retired from 60 Minutes last month, a
sad Mande retired the game, but left his top five segments posted on his
The Wrong Number, but
the Right Party
In trying to accrue more facts for this story when first
filed in 2008, I called the direct dial of a CBS News publicist who worked
closely with Rooney. When I called, a heard a throat-clearing on the other end
and a muffled "Hello?" "Hello," I said, momentarily confused. "Is this Susie?"
"No," the suddenly very clear-and curmudgeonly-male voice on the other end
announced. "This is not Susie." The
voice was strong, curt, and equal parts angry and quizzical.
We were sorry to disturb, Mr. Rooney. And thanks once again.
We're sure going to miss the way you made the most out of everything.
Rob has written for Broadcasting+Cable since 2006, starting with his work on the magazine’s award-winning 75th-anniversary issue. He was born a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium … so of course he’s published three books on NASCAR, most notably, Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner. He’s currently the special projects editor at TV Guide Magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post and his origami art has been in The Wall Street Journal. He lives with his family in New Jersey and is writing a novel about the Wild West.
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