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A final few words with Andy Rooney

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Column by Jim Clark

It seems that it’s becoming a regular occurrence to have something happen that makes me feel old. Of course, maybe that’s because I am old. But that’s another story.
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes, the long-running series, said goodbye to one of its most identifiable personalities, as Andy Rooney signed off for the last time as a regular contributor. Of course, the world “regular” is vital here. He’ll probably be back from time to time.
At age 92, he said he wasn’t retiring. “Writers never retire,” he said. And that’s a key. He considers himself a writer, which he has done most of his adult life, and not a television personality.
He was described as a curmudgeon and the nation’s grouch-in-chief, and admitted he lived up to that. He said he “never signs autographs,” and wondered why people would want his name on a piece of paper.
He also said that he doesn’t like being recognized, and told people if they saw him in a restaurant, just let him “eat my dinner.”
He added that he gets a lot of mail, but answers very few of the letters he receives.
Rooney first hit the 60 Minutes airwaves in 1978. His opinions, usually produced in the final few minutes of the show, took on all sorts of causes with no sacred cows. In a clip shown on Sunday’s show, he wondered out loud about why there was so much cotton placed in the top of pill bottles, and he had the props to prove it.
He also took a box of cereal, and compared the size of what was inside to the oversized photos on the outside of the box.
The show also displayed some of his more serious moments, including the weekend after the Challenger shuttle disaster, and the show after the Oklahoma City bombing, in which he didn’t mince words about what he would do to the bombers.
For me, he was the highlight of the show. There were many times I tuned in the first two minutes to see what was coming up, and quite often it didn’t impress me. But if the announcer said “all this and Andy Rooney,” I made sure I watched or taped those last few minutes of the show, just to see what he had to say.
CBS never figured out that they were alienating people who like this show by not properly scheduling it when the program wouldn’t be delayed by football. So how ironic was it that this final goodbye from Andy Rooney started late, because the Dolphins-Chargers game ran over into the time slot. One last time, it was hard to set the DVR to record Andy Rooney because of football.
It will be interesting to follow the ratings course of 60 Minutes, to see if the departure of Andy Rooney will have an effect. I know that for me, it clearly will make a difference.
Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986, or editor@smcitizen.com