Andy Rooney, king of kvetch

By A. James Memmott

May 13, 2010 at 8:12am

Getting grumpy itself, Time magazine this week posted online its Top 10 Grumpiest Andy Rooney Segments.

The list’s compilers lead with the 91-year-old curmudgeon’s comments on “60 Minutes” last Sunday in which he reveals, perhaps not surprisingly, that he’s out of synch with today’s musical tastes.

“For some reason, this confuses and alarms him,” Claire Suddath of Time writes.

Actually, Rooney seems more amused than alarmed, interspersing his comments with self-deprecating chuckles. And he concludes by declaring a truce of sorts:

Andy Rooney
Andy Rooney

“I don’t know who Lady Gaga is, and kids today don’t know who Ella Fitzgerald was,” Rooney says. “Maybe we should call it even.”

Rooney has been sounding off on “60 Minutes” since 1978, venting more this 1,000 times, according to CBS statistics.

Included in Time’s Top Ten are segments in which Rooney admits:

That he can’t make sense of the ads in women’s magazines; that his typewriter was more reliable than his computers; that he’s not happy when consumer prices go up, and that he doesn’t understand (or like) modern art.

Time cheats a little by counting an interview with Rooney conducted by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in character as the obtuse and ungrammatical Ali G.

Rooney does not seem to be in on the joke and things go quickly from bad to worse.

Of course, piling on the proof that Andy Rooney is grumpy states and restates the obvious. It would be news if he got teary.

(Those of you find Rooney a little hard to take could play comedian Joe Mande’s Andy Rooney Game. He’s created videos that splice together the first and last sentences of a Rooney segment to form a few seconds of wisdom, sort of.)

But like it or not, Rooney’s “60 Minutes” persona may overshadow his very real credentials as a reporter and a television journalist.

A native of Albany, N.Y., he was a staff writer for Stars and Stripes during World War II and flew with the Eighth Force on bombing raids over Germany.

His stories, compiled on a Stars and Stripes website, are models of detail and modesty. He gives a sense of being in the planes and under attack without ever emphasizing his own bravery.

Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.”

He went on to work on several shows and he wrote and narrated broadcasts for CBS News. He continues to write syndicated newspaper columns.

Rooney’s daughter Emily Rooney is a former ABC News producer who now hosts a talk show on WGBH in Boston. His son, Brian Rooney, is a longtime broadcast reporter who was a victim of layoffs at ABC News in March.

Emily Rooney’s twin sister, Martha Rooney Fishel, is the head of the public service division at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. Her son Justin Fishel is a reporter for Fox News. Another son, Ben Fishel, a former radio producer at Media Matters, is now press secretary for Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, (D-NY).

Andy Rooney’s other daughter, Ellen Rooney, is a photographer in London.

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  • #1.   Anon 05.13.2010

    Ben Fishel is now Press Secretary for Rep. Anthony Weiner.

  • #2.   Jim Memmott 05.13.2010

    Thanks for the heads up on Ben Fishel.

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