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Andy Rooney of '60 Minutes' talked about life's absurdities, large and small

"60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney, who passed on Friday, won Emmy Awards for his commentaries targeting everything from politics to pennies in curmudgeonly three-minute essays.

By David BauderAssociated Press / November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" attends a memorial service for CBS newsman Walter Cronkite at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2009. Rooney, who won multiple Emmy awards, targeted everything from politics to pennies in curmudgeonly three-minute essays that concluded every edition of "60 Minutes," the longest running news magazine on US television.

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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.

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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 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.

He won one of his three 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, 1987. 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."

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.

He said he probably hadn't said anything on "60 Minutes" that most of his viewers didn't already know or hadn't thought. "That's what a writer does," he said. "A writer's job is to tell the truth."

True to his occasional crotchety nature, though, he complained about being famous or bothered by fans. His last wish from fans: If you see him in a restaurant, just let him eat his dinner.

Rooney wrote for CBS stars such as Arthur Godfrey and Garry Moore during the 1950s and early 1960s, before settling into a partnership with newsman Harry Reasoner. With Rooney as the writer, they collaborated on several news specials, including an Emmy-winning report on misrepresentations of black people in movies and history books. He wrote "An Essay on Doors" in 1964, and continued with contemplations on bridges, chairs and women.

"The best work I ever did," Rooney said. "But nobody knows I can do it or ever did it. Nobody knows that I'm a writer and producer. They think I'm this guy on television."

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