Saturday, November 05, 2011

Andy Rooney: The Last Curmudgeon?

curmudgeon — noun
a surly or miserly person
[of unknown origin]
cur'mudgeonly — adjective

Collins English Dictionary, 10th edition

Andy Rooney died yesterday.

And that is the sort of thing that I would usually discuss on my Freedom Writing blog. That is where I normally write about current events and journalists.

But this is the blog where I write on entertainment topics — and therein lies my dilemma.

Andy Rooney certainly was a journalist, but that is really too confining, given the pigeonholing to which most people seem to be inclined these days.

Rooney was a writer. That is what he called himself, and that is what he was. I've been writing most of my life, and it seems to me that one never really stops being a writer — at least, not until one is dead.

His writing was not limited to the printed page, though.

"After the war," he told his 60 Minutes viewers when he stepped down on October 2, "I went to work in radio and television because I didn't think anyone was paying enough attention to the written word."

But Rooney was a writer. He went on television as a writer, not as an entertainer. "I'm a writer who reads what he's written," he said.

There are all kinds of writing, and there are all kinds of journalists. Reporter is but a single type (pardon the pun) of journalist, and Rooney was a reporter in the early days of his career, writing for Stars and Stripes during World War II.

In his final broadcast on CBS last month, Rooney told viewers that a high school teacher had told him he had a flair for writing, and so he pursued it. He pursued it in many different directions, and reporting for Stars and Stripes was only one.

It affected his life and his writing in profound ways, but it wasn't the only direction he took in nearly a century of living. "I've done a lot of complaining here, but of all the things I've complained about, I can't complain about my life," he told the viewers who tuned in for his farewell.

He was a columnist, but he was also a humorist, and he shared many of his insights with his radio and TV audiences. His 60 Minutes audiences were treated to them for more than three decades.

"I’ve learned," Rooney told that audience near the end of his tenure, "that one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them."

We knew we were going to miss Andy Rooney when he retired. We shall miss him all the more knowing he is gone for good.