Sincerely, Andy Rooney


By Andy Rooney

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Andy Rooney’s weekly commentaries on 60 Minutes and his twice-weekly syndicated newspaper columns-addressing everything from deceptive cereal packaging to the existence of God-have made him America’s best-known critic of the quotidian. As you might imagine, he gets a lot of letters in response to his often iconoclastic views. As you might not expect, he writes a lot of letters, too.

Now Rooney has collected the funniest, wisest, and most interesting of his letters, spanning several decades and addressing issues both momentous and trivial. He responds to complaints from viewers; he corresponds with old friends; and he writes to his children about the things he cares about most. Variously caustic, hilarious, and sage, these unfailingly entertaining letters reveal not only Rooney the iconoclast but Rooney the American Everyman. Sincerely, Andy Rooney is Andy Rooney at his best-and a wonderful gift book that will make readers chuckle and think twice.


ONE OF THE GOOD THINGS in life is getting a personal letter. Not many come in the mail anymore. They've been replaced by the telephone, the form letter and now, email. Too bad. There are not many little pleasures better than going to the mailbox and finding a real letter from a friend.
Most of the letters in this book were written in response to ones sent to me by readers or viewers who liked, disliked or had a comment to make about something I wrote in my newspaper column or said on television. Others are friendly letters to friends, angry letters to government functionaries or representatives of a business with which I've had some dealing—usually an unsatisfactory one.
There are a lot of letters having to do with my work as a writer for newspapers, magazines and television. I have worked for every president CBS News ever had.
While it was not my intention when I started this, I realized halfway through that I was writing—or assembling—a sort of striated autobiography. There's a lot of my life in this book but I say "striated" because there are whole strains of it that don't come up here because I never wrote letters about them. Still, a great many of the thoughts I've ever had about almost everything come up somewhere in a letter I wrote. They're here.
You don't need a detailed chronicle of events in a person's life to know almost everything about him. The smallest things we do often give away our whole character. We can't get away from being ourselves or sounding like ourselves all day long, all life long. Whatever we do, we do it the same way we did the last thing we did. The same things keep happening, good and bad, to the same people all their lives because of what they are like and how they do things.
After reading some of the letters I've written, I think less of myself than I did before. I have frequently been dumb, sometimes unnecessarily nasty or negative. Reading these letters, I've been an unpleasant surprise to myself sometimes and may be to you. On the other hand, if I don't come off as nice, I sound basically decent and, as far as my intellect goes, intellectually honest.
In my own view of myself, I am normal beyond the ability of anyone who knows me only as a public figure to believe. I am a middle-of-the-road, average, everyday American. I'm so normal and average (and normal, average people are so rare) that I'm practically one of a kind.
My life has divided itself into five major sections—childhood, school and college, World War II, marriage and a family and my work as a writer. I have a big appetite for both food and life and each of those divisions has been so satiating that I could not say which of them has been best, happiest or most satisfying. They have all been those things.
This book often concerns itself with things that came about as a result of my work as a writer, including those parts of my writing I did as a reporter for the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, between 1942 and 1945. That war was an incredible experience, many of the details of which won't go away. Sometimes I can't keep myself from repeating them even though I know that people who weren't there may be bored by them. I wrote hundreds of articles for the paper and almost daily I receive mail from someone who has been rummaging around the attic and came on a story I wrote about him or his unit. He wants to share it with me.
My childhood and youth was ecstatically happy. I've often thought I might have been a better writer if I had lived a tortured, miserably unhappy early life but I didn't and I haven't said much about that here.
Considering what a major part of my life my family has been, it doesn't come up much, either. You don't write letters to people you see every day.
A person is much less guarded about what he writes in a letter than what he says in public and there are a lot of unguarded comments I've made in these letters. There are some little bombs that may go off and I'm not sure which letters will cause the explosions. I'm doing this anyway—putting the letters in print anyway—because it's satisfying fun.
Over the years, on television and in articles for print, I have curbed myself from writing and saying some of the things that are in these letters. You have to choose your causes in public because you can't fight a battle on every front. My manner of dress is an example of that. I don't like neckties but I wear a necktie because I'm not interested in taking a stand there. Neckties are not a battle I want to fight. It often saves time to blend in with the crowd. I have never said much about religion or even politics because I wanted to blend in but I do say things about both of them here.
All the letters in this book were written by me. When someone writes a letter, the words remain the property of the person who put them down on paper. The paper itself belongs to the person the letter was sent to. For this reason, and because I have no interest in being really fair, I have not included letters written by anyone else in this book. Joyce Maynard sold the fourteen love letters written to her by the reclusive J.D. Salinger but, while she could sell the paper they were written on, she could not have included Salinger's words to her in a book without his permission.
Having almost no words but my own in the book gives me an advantage over the letter writers. I always win because there is no rebuttal and, except occasionally where I have paraphrased their point as an introduction to my own letter, they don't even get to present their original argument. My position is "Let them write their own book."
I have taken liberties with some of my original letters, editing many of them and even making a few word changes where it should have been said better or quicker in the first place. For an example, I often begin a letter with something like "Thank you for writing" or "I enjoyed your good letter." I took all of those out. I edited out whole paragraphs where they were too personal and had nothing to do with the basic point of the letter.
Saving a copy of a letter you've written is not a sign of humility but in most cases the letters I wrote and saved copies of were not so much ego as accident, the efficiency of an assistant or a matter of technology. Jane Bradford worked with me for years and she kept the original letters sent to me and copies of the ones I wrote in reply. After about 1989, when I started using a computer full time, I automatically stored away the letters I wrote on my hard drive. Susan Bieber, who works with me, did a lot of sorting things out.
I have removed such unnecessary details as dates, addresses and formal closings to my letters where they have no bearing on the content. The names of some of the people I wrote to are often without any further identification because I don't have any and where dates were of no significance, I've left those out.
Geoff Shandler is no doubt handsomely paid as chief among editors at PublicAffairs but I thank him in addition for his good work and for throwing out some letters I liked. Kate Darnton threw out some letters I liked, too. When anyone edited anything that Fred Allen wrote, he said "Where were they when the paper was blank?"
Peter Osnos, the publisher at PublicAffairs, decided to do this book but you don't thank publishers because it can only make things worse.

My Government, My Money
There was no logical order in which to assemble this disorderly book. It has not been laid out chronologically and, while there may be a logical place to end it, there was no obvious beginning. Starting it will be more like opening your refrigerator door.
I've always had a special talent for bookkeeping and financial transactions.
Lost Securities
First Chicago Trust Company of New York
SBC Communications, Inc.
Box 2506, Jersey City, New Jersey
I am missing 1700 shares of Exxon stock bought in May 1986. The certificate, issued 7/22/86 according to the broker's record, was number 648912.
I don't know whether or not the circumstances matter but I am certain that the stock was simply misplaced and is somewhere in my possession. It has been missing since I moved my office with hundreds of boxes, books and files four years ago.
Could you please advise me on how to proceed and what the procedure will cost? I am also missing an explanation of why your company is called The First Chicago Trust Company of New York in Jersey City.
Mr. Art Semione
Tax Technician II
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
Dear Mr. Semione,
Today I received your letter asking for more information, which you want in a hurry, about my 1987 New York State income tax . . . which I filed 210 days ago.
As a resident of Connecticut and frequent traveler, I filed for a rebate for tax deducted from my paycheck for days I worked out of New York State. That payment is still due me.
Your letter poses four questions.
You ask, for instance, for "the exact location where your services were performed and the nature of the services performed at each location."
This is a tough question for a writer to answer in a way that might satisfy a Tax Technician, Mr. Semione. You see, a writer is often working even when he isn't typing and the "nature" of his work is a little vague.
I don't know how to say this to a Tax Technician in a way that won't sound silly to him but sometimes a writer only watches. It probably wouldn't seem to a lot of people as though a person was working when he was merely watching but that's the way a writer works.
Years ago, a good writer named Morley Callaghan said "There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It's a kind of trick of mind and a writer is born with it."
In view of this, how exact do you want me to be about the location and nature of my work? If I answered that question by saying "Watching in Philadelphia" would that be exact enough?
To be honest with you, Art—can I call you Art?—I wander a lot when I'm working and wandering is just the opposite from being at an "exact location." I'm almost certain you wouldn't accept "Watching and Wandering outside New York" for the nature of my work and its exact location but that's the truth of it.
No days "worked at home" were included in my days worked outside NYS because, while I did actually work at home for my company on at least ten days of the year, I know that it is considered a suspicious activity by you IRS people so I thought it wise not to claim them. I worked at home on some of those days because the railroad I use to get to work on in New York was shut down and getting to work would have taken more time than my work was worth.
On other days I worked at home because it was the efficient thing to do under the circumstances although I use the word "efficient" reluctantly because when it comes to efficiency I rank right alongside your Department of Taxation and Finance.
Your question #4 asks for "the date of each non-working day other than Saturdays and Sundays." I take exception to your always excluding Saturdays and Sundays from the work week. We are not all government workers. I do some of my best work Sundays.
You're welcome to come to my home and see the work areas I have. There are eight file cabinets, several hundred reference books, seventeen typewriters and two computers in my office.
In conclusion, let me ask you four questions:
1. Your letter came the day the newspapers carried the story saying New York State is two billion dollars over budget. Is New York State trying to help make up that deficit by being deliberately slow in paying me what it owes?
2. How much interest has the State made on the money it owes me?
3. You ask that I reply "within 20 days so that this matter may be handled promptly." Having delayed handling this matter for seven months, why is the State tax department now in such a hurry?
4. Could you tell me what the average payment is for someone in my tax bracket and also whether anyone in my tax bracket paid more taxes than I did? Just a general statement. I wouldn't ask you for names.
If you come to my home to see my office there, bring your own coffee because I wouldn't want to be accused of trying to bribe a tax agent with a cup of that.
And, if it is in your power, please issue orders for me to be paid the amount due me within five days . . . to ensure that this matter is handled promptly.
Andrew Rooney
Mr. James SQRX QXZinn,
District Director
Hartford District
Internal Revenue Service
Dear Mr. X,
Because your name is illegible as signed in your form letter to me dated February 8, 1999, and because you failed to provide me with a legible, typed name I am unable to address you properly. I assume the signature was made illegible intentionally to preclude your getting angry letters from taxpayers like myself. I would like to have sat in at the meeting in your office when the decision was made to obscure your signature. It accurately reflects the inept arrogance with which my case was handled by your Norwalk office.
James E. Quinn
Internal Revenue Service
Hartford, Connecticut
Dear Mr. Quinn,
Thank you for your restrained response to my testy letter. I did talk with Edward Connelly, of your Norwalk office, on the phone and told him I'd come up with something more in a month. I have not done that because I don't know what to come up with.
The matter is further complicated because New York State is also after me, charging that I'm a resident of that State. I am not. If I were a resident of both New York and Connecticut, I should have the right to vote in both States. Could you arrange that for me?
Thomas D. Ritter
House of Representatives
Hartford, Connecticut
Dear Mr. Ritter,
Thank you for your invitation to visit the State Capitol Building. There are a great many things I'd like to do and can't find time for and that's one of them. Having a reception there in my honor is a terrible idea. I'm at my worst at receptions for me.
It was nice to be put in a category of "notable Connecticut residents" but you should know that, in the eyes of New York State, I'm not a resident of Connecticut but of New York. I worked more than 183 days in New York in 1991 and anyone who does that is a resident on their books. I am not a resident of New York, of course. We've lived in the same house in Connecticut since 1951 and raised a family there. I pay Connecticut taxes but New York doesn't care about details. Can they tax me without allowing me to vote? I'm going to register to vote in New York next year with a Connecticut address and see what happens. I plan to vote in Connecticut, too.
Having paid my 1994 taxes on time after preparing it with the help of a good accountant who doesn't fudge the numbers, I was angered to get another letter signed by James E. Quinn, my IRS District Director.
"We selected your Federal Income Tax return for the year shown below for review to examine the items listed at the end of this letter" he wrote.
I went to the end of the letter to see what they wanted to examine. Among other items listed was:
"Log or diary showing job-hunting activity, and cancelled checks or receipts showing expenses paid for this activity, including payments to employment agencies."
Dear Mr. Quinn,
Before I come in for the review you demand, let me ask you some questions:
1. Does someone in as responsible a job as you have send out letters over his signature without reading them?
2. Are you reviewing a lot of returns needlessly to provide people in your office with work because you have more people working for you than you need?
3. When you signed the letter to me, did you look at my tax return before you decided to put me to all the trouble and angst of preparing for a review?
4. Did you see how much money I made last year? Did you note that at my age I get a pension from the Writers' Guild, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists and from Essay Productions? Did you see where I get $13,000 in Social Security? Did you know I've worked for the same company since 1949 and still work there? Do you ever watch television? Do you know I am well paid for doing a regular piece on one of the most popular shows? Do you read your local paper and note that they carry this column along with 150 other papers in the Country, each one of which pays me money? Have you ever read a book? I spent long hours writing my World War II memoir that's in bookstores now and for which the publisher paid me a handsome advance.
In view of all this, Mr. Quinn, how much time, money and effort do you think I spent looking for work or, as you say "job-hunting?" Do you really think I listed my name with an employment agency? Have you ever thought of looking for another job yourself?
The last item you want me to justify is "UNIFORMS, EQUIPMENT, AND TOOLS." You ask for "a description of the item."
It surprises me that you didn't already know this, Mr. Quinn, because I listed my occupation as "writer." Writers do not wear uniforms. I've known a lot of them and I don't think I ever recall seeing a writer in any kind of a uniform unless you call baggy corduroys and an L.L. Bean blue denim shirt a uniform. I wear those a lot but if you'll take the trouble of actually looking at my tax return, you'll see that I didn't even take the prorated cost of wear-and-tear on my ten-year old corduroys.
As for equipment, I don't remember what I put in for on my tax form and I don't have it on hand here, but it couldn't have been much. I have seventeen old Underwood #5 typewriters and, while I only use a couple of them, I think I have enough to last me to the end of my writing life so I won't be asking for a tax deduction there for "equipment."
I use a computer a lot now but I've had mine for several years and I don't think I applied for much of any equipment deduction. Maybe a few typewriter ribbons.
You ask about tools. I did get a new, very small, screwdriver to fix the handle on my laptop but that's all I can think of and I doubt if I put in for that screwdriver.
My basic question to you is this, Mr. Quinn, and I'd like an answer within ten days: Are the people in your IRS office stupid, inefficient or did someone there think it would be fun to have Andy Rooney come in so they could get his autograph?
Do you understand, Mr. Quinn, that sexual is not the only form of harassment?
E.B. Gurewitz
Dept. of Taxation & Finance
New York, New York
Dear Mr. Gurewitz,
This is to confirm our tax review date for January 7th, 1993.
I received your request asking me to sign an extension beyond the April 15, 1993 limit. This suggests you are busier than I am. It seems to me as though there's ample time to resolve this in the more than four months left before the statutory limit expires. I certainly would like to have it off my mind before then and I could be available at any time.
I was gratified to note that the person from your office who wrote the consent request letter is as bad with language as I am with numbers. Some of it borders on being illiterate. For example, this sentence: "Since failure to receive these Consent forms timely automatically results in the issuance of an assessment for tax due, plus penalty and interest, please be sure that the forms are completed properly and mailed promptly."
I thought we had resolved most of the issues at our first meeting. There is something wrong about any citizen paying taxes to both New York State and Connecticut unless he can vote in two States. I should pay non-resident taxes on my New York State income to New York. Tax on other income on work done in Connecticut where, for example, I write my newspaper column, should be paid to Connecticut. I am indeed, a resident of Connecticut, not New York. My doctor, my dentist, my stores are in Connecticut. I have a Connecticut driver's license. I vote there. I do not live in New York even though I spend several days a week working there.
June 2, 1999
Julianne Martinez
Chase Visa
Fraud Operations
Dear Ms. Martinez,
Your letter dated May 21, calling for my prompt attention to a possible fraudulent use of my Visa card, was postmarked May 24 and delivered June 2nd.
I will give it my prompt attention sometime soon.

A Funny Business
The world is divided between people who keep stuff and people who throw it out. I keep it.
For what reason I don't know but immediately after World War II, Communism appealed to a great many bright American intellectuals—there are dumb intellectuals.
Some of my friends from The Stars and Stripes and YANK magazine met regularly at Tim Costello's bar on Third Avenue in New York and were trying to organize to get Henry Wallace, the most liberal of the candidates, elected President. I went to Costello's occasionally and was surprised to find, later, that some of my friends had actually joined the American Communist Party. It didn't seem terrible to me, just dumb.
Later, when I worked at MGM in Hollywood, I made friends with a man named Lester Cole. He was one of their best screenwriters. I liked him and we had lunch together frequently and dinner occasionally. I don't ever recall talking politics or economics with Lester.
He invited us to an anti-Franco fund-raising dinner for what was called "the Barsovie Hospital" which I understood to be somewhere in the Basque region of Spain where wounded Spanish freedom-fighters were treated. We sat at a table in the banquet room and when the master of ceremonies started pointing at tables to ask how much we'd give, I didn't want to call attention to myself by being the only piker in the crowd and offered a table-low of $25.
It was months before I knew "the Barsovie Hospital" dinner was a Communist Party event. For some reason my name never surfaced and the $25 didn't buy me entrée to any list of "subversives."
By the time I went to work for Arthur Godfrey at CBS, in 1949, Senator Joseph McCarthy was on a vicious campaign to purge the news and entertainment business in both Hollywood and New York of all its communist, socialist or left-leaning members. A serious Democrat could easily have been swept up by McCarthy's broad broom and I was lucky it missed that $25 check of mine and my friendship with Lester Cole because Lester had been sent to prison as one of "The Hollywood Ten."
A great many Americans approved of McCarthy but a great many detested everything about his campaign. Unfortunately, even some of those who hated it knuckled under and submitted to McCarthy because they were afraid. He could ruin a person or a company by merely suggesting a communist connection. Executives of the Columbia Broadcasting System did not distinguish themselves in this regard.
Dr. Frank Stanton has been the object of a lot of criticism for his part in the corporate cave-in. While I know nothing about the part he played, he may have made a mistake. If he did, he more than made up for it in his subsequent years as president of the company with his brilliant and courageous defense of the network's First Amendment rights.
One of the things I never threw away is a collector's item today. It is the original memo from a CBS executive asking CBS employees to sign the non-communist oath.
Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
December 19, 1950
To: The Organization
From: Joseph Ream
In the last war, radio, and CBS, played a vital and important role. In some areas of our operations—short wave programming and transmitter operation, and laboratory developmental work—were under direct contract with the federal government. The value of broadcasting's contribution has been attested by high government officials and, even more significantly, by the many millions of listeners who depended on radio for information, inspiration and entertainment during the period of crisis.
Today, we are faced with a new crisis in our national life. The President of the United States has declared a national emergency. If we are to fulfill our obligations and responsibilities as radio and television broadcasters in this new crisis, we must do at least two things: First, we must make sure that our broadcasting operations in the public interest are not interrupted by sabotage or violence; second, we must make sure that the full confidence of our listeners and viewers is unimpaired.
To accomplish the first objective we will institute measures for physical security generally similar to those existing in the last war.
To accomplish the second objective we are asking each employee to answer the questions on the form attached, which we will keep confidential, unless at some future time the information is demanded by a governmental security agency. These questions are identical to those appearing in the Civil Service Commission application for federal government.
Because of the unique nature of broadcasting, it is most important that, for the good of both the country and our own organization, there be no question concerning loyalty to our country of any CBS employee. We are all aware that in the past year certain groups have raised questions concerning alleged subversive influences in broadcasting. It is important that the true facts—based on the statement of each employee—be established.


On Sale
Apr 28, 2009
Page Count
336 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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