Legendary news writer and famed 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney died Friday at age 92, after being hospitalized for complications from surgery last month. The curmudgeonly culture essayist is best known for his 33 years of kvetching on 60 Minutes' "A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney" segment, from which he stepped down in September after contributing 1,096 segments. Here, commentators reflect on Rooney's prolific career and legacy:
He was always a writer first: As a member of the U.S. Army, Rooney became a correspondent for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, says CBS News. He was hired by CBS in 1949 as a writer for several news programs, earning a reputation as "the most felicitous nonfiction writer in television." He wrote the Emmy-winning CBS news series "Of Black America" in 1968, and has written 16 books.
"Andy Rooney dead at 92"
He was "the greatest complainer of all time": Andy Rooney's penchant for complaining was unrivaled, says Mack Rawden at Cinema Blend. For many, "watching Rooney every week became a lovable tradition." His pointed words not only expressed his own views, but the "gripes many viewer had about everyday issues."
"Was Andy Rooney the best complainer in television history?"
He was "a breath of fresh air": At a time when people were taught to be as respectful as possible of others' opinions, "Rooney's old-school take on life — in which he refused to suffer fools and unapologetically stood behind his ideas — was seen by many as a breath of fresh air," says The Wall Street Journal. Perhaps he was afforded that privilege by his status as TV's elder statesman. "The committed contrarian was able to get away with saying things that other TV pundits couldn't."
"Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes commentator, dies at 92"
Occasionally, he liked things too: "With his jowls, bushy eyebrows, deeply circled eyes and advancing years," Rooney seemed "every inch the homespun philosopher," says Richard Severo and Peter Keepnews at The New York Times. Some of his best segments addressed mundane subjects from which he actually derived pleasure: Football, Christmas, tennis, and woodworking. "He also claimed to like shined shoes and properly pressed pants and had machines in his office to take care of those functions, although somehow he always managed to look rumpled."
"Andy Rooney, a cranky voice of CBS, dies at 92"
He sometimes went too far: Over his career, Rooney won six Writers Guild of America awards, a Peabody, and four Emmys, but he was also prone to controversy, says Moni Basu at CNN. In 1990, he was suspended for three months without pay for remarks offending homosexuals ("homosexual unions," he said, are "known to lead quite often to premature death") and African-Americans (whom he claimed are watering down their gene pool "because the less intelligent ones are the ones who have the most children"). In 2004, he came under fire again for calling Mel Gibson and Rev. Pat Robertson "wackos," reportedly provoking 30,000 letters and emails of complaint.
"CBS commentator Andy Rooney dies at 92"
He paved the way for today's media stars: Rooney's commentaries boasted a "news-writer's sure touch and directness," says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. Ironically, the trademark that eventually earned Rooney ridicule — "complaining in an articulate, often clever manner about the idiocies and inconveniences of modern life" — is the same quality that's treasured in today's "astute critics of the culture," such as Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly, or Rachel Maddow.
"Andy Rooney: He was more than just the great grump of 60 Minutes"
Bloggers also owe him: "Many writers who use snark as a weapon carry a little of his influence," says James Poniewozik at TIME. He may be remembered as the grouch constantly "telling the world to get off his televisual lawn," but one of his most astute observations was a "very unstereotypically-Rooney sentiment." Warning about how myopic it is for each generation to assume that things are always changing for the worse, he said, "It's just amazing how long this country has been going to hell without ever having got there." Food for thought for web writers?
"Andy Rooney dies at 92"