Andy Rooney, the occasionally-lovable and often out-of-touch grump who shows up on TV every Sunday night for two minutes and thirty seconds, is retiring. Why should you care? I'll tell you why: because between all the Housewives, tiara-wearing toddlers, and pit-bull wranglers, there aren't many places on television for someone's great-grandfather to speculate on whether the Pope has any change in his pocket. Who else is going to come up with those sorts of small, weird observations that make you yell, "WHY ARE YOU PAID TO SAY THINGS LIKE THIS ON TV?"
It wasn't always so. Andy Rooney, who turns 93 in January, has had a long and rich career as a writer and producer. Here are 10 reasons why his work, if not necessarily his opinions on modern art, mattered.
- After flying with the Eighth Air Force on the first bombing raid over Germany in World War II, he was one of the first witnesses to report from a concentration camp and describe the horrors that had taken place there without much of the world's knowledge.
- He was arrested for sitting at the back of a segregated bus during a civil rights protest in the 1940s, and also participated in sit-ins with black soldiers during his military service.
- He's an unapologetic atheist. "I don't understand religion at all," said Rooney in a 2004 interview with The Tufts Daily. "I'm sure I'll offend a lot of people by saying this, but I think it's all nonsense."
- He wouldn't put up with Ali G's shenanigans.
- He apologized when he made mistakes. After saying that "too much alcohol, too much food, drugs, homosexual unions, cigarettes ... [are] all known to lead quite often to premature death," he came back on air and said that he felt badly about implying that gay men were self-destructive. He did not want to be known "as a racist bigot and as someone who had made life a little more difficult for homosexuals," Rooney said. "I felt terrible about that, and I've learned a lot."
- He built his own desk, and not out of a kit from IKEA, but from a giant slab of walnut. And it looks like he did a pretty nice job, too.
- He's nosy as all get-out. In one segment, he went out on the street and rifled through people's purses, backpacks, and shoulder bags, and no one complained. (At least not on camera.)
- He's actually kind of funny sometimes. "My grandmother has a bumper sticker on her car that says, 'Sexy Senior Citizen.' You don't want to think of your grandmother that way, do you? Out entering wet shawl contests. Makes you wonder where she got that dollar she gave you for your birthday."
- He loved his wife. He was married to his wife, Margie, for 62 years and together they had four children.
- He's the voice of a dying generation and there will never be another one quite like him.
Good luck, Andy! I hope you get some help moving that desk out of your office; it looks heavy.
Image via CBS