Newsmen gather at Rooney memorial

CBS' Safer, Kroft remember colleague

CBS News brass gathered with family and friends on Thursday to pay tribute to longtime “60 Minutes” contributor Andy Rooney, who passed away on Nov. 4 at age 92. At Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall, mourners filled the morning with funny, sometimes tearful memories of the late newsman, including video clips of his own interviews with colleagues as he looked back on his life.

Standing before a podium bearing the CBS eye logo, Rooney’s son Brian served as the morning’s host and started off the memorial with a few words of his own about the scope of his father’s life and personality. “He knew Ernest Hemingway and thought he was a jerk,” Rooney said. “He saw Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ hidden in a mushroom tunnel during the Second World War.”

The younger Rooney also offered personal recollections of his father, including of the time he threw a retired judge out of his house during a dinner party for using the word “nigra,” and spoke of his dad’s aversion to sunlight, police officers and other people’s opinions. “His contribution to family culture was bringing home a 45 of Del Shannon singing ‘Hats Off to Larry,'” Brian said fondly.

Morley Safer, whose interview with his colleague was featured between some of the speeches, said that, out of respect to Rooney’s late wife Margie, “we should call him Andrew. God, when he spoke to him, always called him Andrew. But (former ’60 Minutes’ producer) Don Hewitt, who outranks God, insisted on Andy, so Andy it is.”

Steve Kroft, too, had stories about his late friend, including a gem about Rooney’s 50th anniversary party, after which Kroft told Rooney he’d had a wonderful time. “I’m really glad you enjoyed yourself,” Rooney replied. “You barely made the cut.”

There were kind remembrances along with the funny stories — former CBSer Judith Hole told the aud about Rooney’s calls to her during her husband’s long illness. “He’d say, ‘How is he?’ and then ‘How are you?’ and then ‘Well, I’ll call again,'” Hole recalled. The daily calls came like clockwork between 7:30 and 8 in the morning.

The program for the ceremony included a quote from Andy Rooney on the cover: “I do not accept the inevitability of my own death. I secretly think there may be some other way out.”