Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit


By Andy Rooney

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Andy Rooney is a classic chronicler of America and her foibles. Over more than six decades of intrepid reporting and elegant essays, Rooney has told it to us straight and without a hint of sugar coating, but with more than a grain of truth and humor.

Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit brings together the best of more than a half-century of work (including long-out-of-print pieces from Rooney’s early years) in an unforgettable celebration of one of America’s funniest men. With selections from his beginnings as a correspondent for The Stars and Stripes during WWII to his arrival at CBS to his more than thirty-year stint on 60 Minutes, this book is a must-have for any Rooney fan.


Out of My Mind
Years of Minutes
Common Nonsense
Sincerely, Andy Rooney
My War
Sweet and Sour
Not That You Asked . . .
Word for Word
Pieces of My Mind
And More by Andy Rooney
A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney
The Fortunes of War
Conquerors’ Peace (with Bud Hutton)
The Story of The Stars and Stripes (with Bud Hutton)
Air Gunner (with Bud Hutton)

January 14, 1919Andrew Aitken Rooney is born in Albany, New York, to Walter Scott and Ellinor Rooney.
1932-1938attends The Albany Academy
writes for student magazine The Cue
1938-1941attends Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where he becomes editor of Colgate’s magazine The Banter
1941drafted into the Army, heads to training in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, followed by Camp Blanding, Florida
arrested outside St. Augustine, Florida, for sitting in the back of the Army bus alongside African American soldiers
1942marries Marguerite Howard
arrives in Perham Downs, England, with the 17th Field Artillery
joins the Armed Forces newspaper The Stars and Stripes in their London office
meets United Press reporter Walter Cronkite, Stars and Stripes correspondent Don Hewitt (who would become the executive of 60 Minutes), and Edward R. Murrow
1943flies with the Eighth Air Force on the second American bombing raid on Germany
1944lands on Utah Beach in Normandy, three days after D-day
encounters Ernest Hemingway at hotel outside Paris and finds him ill-mannered
enters Paris with the French Army the day the city is liberated from Germany
Air Gunner (written with Bud Hutton) is published
1945discharged from the Army
1946The Story of the Stars and Stripes (written with Bud Hutton) is published
MGM buys movie rights to The Story of the Stars and Stripes for $55,000 (Rooney and Hutton are hired by MGM to work on the script)
assigned by Cosmopolitan to cover postwar Europe with Bud Hutton in ten pieces
1947returns to Albany, New York, and embarks on a freelance career
Conquerors’ Peace: A Report to the American Stockholders (written with Bud Hutton), which derives from the Cosmopolitan assignment, is published
daughter Ellen Rooney is born
1949joins CBS as a writer for megawatt radio and TV personality Arthur Godfrey; writes for The Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts and Arthur Godfrey Time until 1955
1950daughters Emily and Martha Rooney are born
1951son Brian Rooney is born
1952begins his love affair with woodworking
1957adapts E. B. White’s essay “Here is New York” for TV
1959-1965writes for The Garry Moore Show, for Victor Borge, Herb Shriner, and Bob and Ray and contributes to CBS News’ “The Twentieth Century,” “Adventure,” “Calendar,” and The Morning Show
1962The Fortunes of War: Four Great Battles of World War II is published
begins work with CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Harry Reasoner on a series of TV specials that include pieces on bridges, hotels, and the English language
1964writes his first television essay, “An Essay on Doors”
1965writes television essay on Frank Sinatra narrated by Walter Cronkite and produced by Don Hewitt
1966receives Writers Guild of America Award for best TV documentary for The Great Love Affair
1968writes Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed, narrated by Bill Cosby, and is awarded a Writers Guild Award and an Emmy Award for his script
appears for the first time on television on the 60 Minutes broadcast “Digressions” with Palmer Williams
1970quits CBS after their refusal to air his “An Essay on War”
1971“An Essay on War” is aired on PBS’s The Great American Dream Machine and receives a Writers Guild Award; for the first time, narrates his own piece on air
joins ABC, following Harry Reasoner
1972returns to CBS to continue write, produce, and narrate full-length pieces for 60 Minutes and to write for various CBS broadcasts
1974writes and appears in his celebration of New York, “In Praise of New York City”
1975writes and stars in the CBS prime-time feature “Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington”
is awarded a Peabody for the piece, as well as a Writers Guild Award for best TV documentary
1976writes and stars in the CBS prime-time feature “Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner,” for which he receives a Writers Guild Award
1977writes and stars in the CBS prime-time feature “Mr. Rooney Goes to Work”
1978Don Hewitt airs Rooney’s humorous on-air segment “Three Minutes with Andy Rooney” as a summer fill-in for the “Point/Counterpoint” face-off between Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick
“A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” replaces “Point/Counterpoint”
receives an Emmy Award for “Who Owns What in America”
1979receives a Writers Guild Award for “Happiness: The Elusive Pursuit”
1979-presentsyndicated column is published and distributed through Tribune Media
1981A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney (the book) is published and quickly becomes a best seller
is awarded a News and Documentary Emmy for “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”
1982And More by Andy Rooney is published
receives a second Emmy award for “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”
1984Pieces of My Mind is published and becomes a best seller
Word for Word is published
1989Not That You Asked . . . is published
1990suspended by CBS for three months for remarks that were perceived as racist and homophobic; re-hired four weeks later (60 Minutes’ ratings fell 20 percent without “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”)
1992Sweet and Sour is published
1995My War is published
1999Sincerely, Andy Rooney is published
2000My War is reissued and becomes a best seller
2002Common Nonsense is published
2003Years of Minutes is published
awarded a Lifetime Achievement Emmy and the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award
2004wife Marguerite (Marge) dies
2006Out of My Mind is published

by Brian Rooney
It was not clear to me as a child what a writer does for a living. I thought my father just took the train to New York every morning before I was awake and came back in time for dinner. I was aware that he knew some famous people in radio and television, but he was not famous himself. I didn’t have a clue what he did.
I went through most of grade school in the 1950s and 1960s with a pair of high black Keds and one pair of blue jeans that I wore every day until they ripped out and my mother bought another pair. I didn’t know for many years that at the time it was about all my parents could afford.
My father made his living by the only thing he knew how to do, which was putting words on paper. He was blunt, outspoken, and opinionated. It turns out that he was paid money for being that way. But as a writer he lived by principles that often put his career and family at risk. Sometimes he was fired for what he said, and more than once he quit in disagreement with his bosses. He believes in thought, the written word, and that a person should stand for something more than his own good.
As a father he was the product of his time. He never said, “I love you,” and never asked about my feelings. He encouraged me to play football, because that’s what he had done, and tried to make it to as many games as he could.
He expected a certain amount of toughness in me. A broken finger was not an excuse to sit on the bench. When I was fourteen I ripped the cartilage in my left knee and came down with pneumonia the same week, but he woke me up one morning before catching the 6:02 to the city asking whether I would make it to play in the football game that day.
He gave me my first pocketknife and taught me how to use a hammer, a chisel, and a table saw. He’d tell me, “It doesn’t seem right, but it’s safer when your fingers are closest to the blade.” We both still have all our fingers. He also taught me basic cooking. He showed me how to make a roux to thicken a sauce and to grill a steak medium rare.
He was reckless in ways that were fun. One Halloween he lined me up with my three sisters in the kitchen, handed us each a bar of soap, and told us to get out there and soap some neighbors’ windows. He took us winter camping without a tent—we made our own igloo out of snow. It rained one night and as the igloo melted on my crew-cut head, I saw him standing over the fire trying to dry our clothes.
One year when there was a foot of snow on the ground, my father put my sisters and me on the toboggan, attached a rope to the bumper, and towed us around town with the Country Squire station wagon. He drove with his head hanging out the window, looking back to check on us. Going down steep hills when the toboggan started catching up with the rear wheels, he’d hit the gas and speed up.
He liked doing things with gasoline because during the war the army in Europe had done everything with gas: heating, cooking, even washing their jeeps to give them a low sheen. In the fall we piled up leaves for burning and my father would get out a jug of gasoline, sprinkle it on, step back, and throw in a match. It went whump and the leaves were instantly reduced to ashes. He’d say, “That’s the best thing since the ETO.” The ETO was the European Theater of Operations, bureaucratic jargon for the War, and he never ceased to be amused by the term.
For a man who’s been in the army and hung around newsrooms all his life, he, surprisingly, does not use profanity. The only time I ever heard a dirty word from him was when I asked about the racist joke that got Earl Butz fired from his position as Secretary of Agriculture. When my father repeated it to me I was more shocked to hear the words from his mouth than I was by the joke itself. I was in my twenties and had never heard him use words like that.
He is a ruthless negotiator. One Saturday he said to me, “Come on, kid, we have to go buy a new station wagon.” We drove over to the Ford dealer, where he identified the car he wanted, and made an offer a few hundred dollars below the sticker price, which at the time was a deep discount. The salesman said, “Sir, I can’t sell it for that. It’s the last car of its model in the whole New England sales district and I can get full price from someone else.”
My father kicked his toe in the dirt and said, “I wasn’t going to tell you this, but my wife and I wanted two of them exactly alike.” We went home, made hamburgers, and started to watch a football game. When the phone rang and my father answered, all I heard him say was, “Now we’re ready to talk.” The salesman had found an identical station wagon only a few miles away.
It barely does justice to the sight of it to say that my father keeps a messy garage. The wooden shelves he built are loaded with cans of paint that have turned solid, several C-rations he brought home from World War II, dead tennis balls, a pair of hickory skis with bear trap bindings, and the rubber rain boots I wore in sixth grade. I’m sure there’s a Brooks Brothers tie he tucked on the shelf after cleaning out his car in 1972. He has Ball jars filled with odd nuts and bolts, bottles of glue, and wooden tennis rackets. It’s a mixture of useful junk, memories, and things he just can’t stand to throw away.
He does not fuss about his looks. He buys good clothes but is permanently rumpled. You could put him in an Armani suit right off the rack and he would look as if he had slept in it. He is not inclined to ornamentation in his person, or in his writing. He is fond of quoting Thoreau that “if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.” He writes in simple declarative sentences that bear no excess. His clothes are wrinkled but his sentences are not.
As a writer, and as a man, he thinks he can create his own world. He doesn’t care much for reading, except the New York Times. He likes to say, “I’m a writer, not a reader.” He does not read fiction and I suspect he has read only a few books cover to cover since he was in college, and maybe not even then. His primary contribution to culture in the family was bringing home a 45 rpm copy of Del Shannon’s “Hats Off to Larry.” He says, “I am not interested in being diverted from my own thoughts.” He doesn’t like listening to music or going to the Broadway theater, although he has had season tickets to the New York Giants most of his adult life. His genius as a writer is not knowing much about what anyone else says or thinks. It’s knowing exactly what he thinks.
Like good writing, he also knows good furniture and food and has worked to make his own, with varying success. He has a collection of expensive tools and piles of beautiful wood. He makes furniture, but if he makes a four-legged table, one leg is likely to be a tad short. He is impatient with details so when he makes a mistake he doesn’t start over, he patches with glue, putty, and shims and keeps going. His pleasure is more in having the idea and doing the work than having the finished piece.
He is an excellent cook and rarely uses a recipe. His popovers may be the best anywhere in America: tall and hollow, crisp on the outside, buttery on the inside. He can grill a steak to the perfect pink, make Beef Stroganoff and curried shrimp. He believes there are few things that cannot be made better with salt, garlic, and butter. He makes his own ice cream because that’s what you did growing up during the Depression, and it’s always fun to lick the paddles when it’s done. He makes peppermint ice cream for Christmas.
He is absentminded. One night, back when $100 was serious money and he didn’t have much, he paid a taxi driver with a hundred dollar bill, thinking it was a single. Making chicken soup with the pressure cooker, he forgot about it until the top blew, spraying greasy broth all over the kitchen walls. He still refers to it as “The Great Chicken Soup Disaster.” One year he made wine and corked it in soda bottles. That winter we would wake up in the middle of the night to muffled explosions in the basement.
My father resists authority. He doesn’t like bosses or people in uniform. Sometimes in New York, just for fun, he’d hail a police car and when it stopped he would say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were a taxi.” Several times he has been arrested while standing up to cops who overstepped their authority, only to be kicked loose by the desk sergeant.
He has lived by a series of rules he set for himself and people around him. He says, “There are standards in this world.” His rules are a mixture of low-brow philosophy and simple maxims for an orderly life that have both literal and figurative meaning. When we were kids he’d instruct us: “The last one in at night turn out the light over the garage.” Anyone who didn’t would hear about it in the morning. Another rule was, “You meet the train, you don’t wait for it.” As a teenager I would deliver him to the rail station, and he would climb the steps and reach the platform just as the doors opened. He thought less of the guys who had stood there waiting, wasting their time. He laid down the rule that, “The keys to the car belong in the ignition.” He didn’t want to fumble around looking for the keys to four cars casually dropped somewhere in the kitchen by one of six drivers. That ended one summer night in 1969 when the Thunderbird was stolen out of the driveway. When the cops who returned the car asked how the thieves had gotten hold of the keys, my father said, “They were in the ignition, where they belong.”
My father likes to say “the same things keep happening to the same people.” This is his idea of fate as determined by personality. He was always impressed by the B-17 pilots who brought the plane back to base all shot up when everyone else on board was ready to give up and die. His theory was that whatever thing in that guy that had gotten him into Yale and made him a pilot would also drive him to success in later life. “The same things keep happening to the same people.” As a little boy I found this disturbing, particularly when I was cast as “third elf” in the Christmas play.
He can be a terror in a restaurant. If the food is not good, he says so to the waiter, the maitre’d, or anyone in the line of fire. The rule at work here: “If you want the attention of the chef, you have to start by being mean to the busboy.” My favorite of all was his rule for civic involvement. We lived in a small town with a volunteer fire department. When the fire horn blew, no matter the hour, my father would leave the dinner table, or pull everyone out of bed in their pajamas, pack us all into the Ford Country Squire wagon, and peel out of the driveway to speed toward the glow on the horizon. He said, “When your neighbor’s house is on fire, you have an obligation to go and watch it burn.”
But the rule above all rules was this: “If all the truth were known about everything, the world would be a better place.” He thinks governments should not have secrets and that there is no opinion or information too


On Sale
Oct 26, 2010
Page Count
320 pages

Andy Rooney

About the Author

Known to millions for his regular commentary on the television news magazine 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney is also the author of numerous bestselling books. His column appears in newspapers around the country. He lives in New York.

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