Saturday 01 October 2011

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Maggie Van Ostrand: Andy Rooney and Me


Andy Rooney’s last 60 Minutes broadcast will be this Sunday, October 2. Want to know what he’s really like? First, you have to know about Carol Burnett and John Foster Dulles.

When Carol Burnett was very young, she sang a song called, “I Made A Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles.” She sang her heart out about her infatuation with Dulles, who was not only the Secretary of State, but Time magazine’s Man Of The Year. The song ended with “… I’m simply on fire/with desire for John Foster Dulles.”

I remembered the song because I myself have found myself all fired up, not over John Foster Dulles but over Andy Rooney.

I don’t care if he’s married. I don’t care if he’s over 50. I don’t care if he’s a curmudgeon.

I don’t even care if his eyebrows enter a room five minutes before the rest of him. He’s the guy for me.

Want to know why? He called me up. I’m not kidding. He called me up. He did. I simply flipped out and got all warm and fuzzy at the sound of his gravely voice in my ear.

And I don’t understand why. After all, I’ve been around the block a time or two. I actually met Cary Grant at a premiere once and it hardly fazed me. I didn’t get overly excited about racing my Mustang against Paul Newman in his battered old red VW bug down Sunset Boulevard at midnight. He cheated. It had a Porsche engine.

And I didn’t get this excited when Wilford Brimley scooped me up and plopped me onto the rear of the horse he was galloping on without even slowing down. (I’ve always regretted that he didn’t use a saddle; I was picking horse hairs out of my butt for a week.)

And nothing happened when I danced with Jimmy Stewart. Well, I didn’t exactly dance with him but I was at a charity ball, saw him dancing with his wife and pretended it was me.

I’ve had phone calls at home from ageless hunks like Michael Douglas and Bob Barker, but nothing prepared me for a call from Andy Rooney. Never mind that he was returning my call, I’m counting it anyway.

What happened to lead up to this? A reader of my column had emailed me several Andy Rooney jokes he got from the internet which he thought I’d like to use for a story. Here are a couple of samples of what he sent:

“Have you noticed that they put advertisements in with your bills now?

Like bills aren’t distasteful enough, they have to stuff junk mail there with them. I get back at them. I put garbage in with my check when I mail it in. Coffee grinds, banana peels. I write, Could you throw this away for me? Thank You.”


“My wife is from the Midwest. Very nice people there. Very wholesome. They use words like Cripes. ‘For Cripes sake.’ who would that be, Jesus Cripes? The son of Gosh or the church of Holy Moly? I’m not making fun of it. You think I wanna burn in Heck?”

When you repeat somebody’s words in a media piece, you’d better be sure everything is correctly quoted and credited to the right person.

So I sent the jokes to the 60 Minutes public relations guy, said I’d like to do a piece about Andy Rooney’s sense of humor, and wanted to be know for sure if Andy Rooney had written these humorous bits himself. (It’s responsible journalism to check everything out before publishing.)

Mr. P/R sighed and said alleged Rooneyisms appear to be a cottage industry which Rooney himself has nothing to do with. He went on to say the ones I sent, however, did sound enough like Rooney to be checked out at the very top.

He forwarded everything to Rooney, who subsequently called me. He’ll never know, since I managed to sound sophisticated on the phone, that his little old call resulted in a resurgence of my teenage emotions. I acted as though the call was no big deal. But it was.

I didn’t want him to know that his call made me feel all warm and fuzzy with out-of-focus eyes. It’s none of his business. Besides, it was for his own protection.

I particularly liked that he had a different opening on the phone than other people have. Most of us, when the person we’re calling says, “Hello?” reply, “Hi, this is So-and-So.” Not Andy Rooney. No sir.

He only uses the important words and dispenses with the junky, unnecessary stuff. I say, “Hello?” and he says emphatically, “Andy Rooney!” — and he says it like he means it.

He says it like he knows how good he is but he’s humble at the same time. He doesn’t have a staff member call you back, he does it himself. It’s very American, the way he does that.

This country should give him a medal: Andy Rooney, Gruff American.

Turns out that Andy Rooney had nothing to do with any of the bits my reader had sent me, and he pondered why people would take the time to sit down and write such good jokes and then not take the credit themselves but instead, credit him for their work.

He said the ones I sent are better than the ones he usually sees. Gee, Andy Rooney thinks mine are better than theirs. (sigh) I am immediately uplifted.

John Foster Dulles never even phoned Carol Burnett at all that I know of, and she may still be all hot and bothered over him even though he’s dead and gone for over 50 years. One never knows how long these infatuations can last.

Was it just this morning that I asked Andy Rooney if it was okay to use the alleged Andy Rooneyisms in a story? There are those who may think that “I love you” are the best words to hear, but I maintain that the best words were Andy Rooney’s, when he growled, “Go ahead and use ‘em.

I choose to think the gruff-but-kindly way he spoke those closing words was really his version of affection. And the fact that he doesn’t say “goodbye,” but grunts instead, well, I call that a real turn-on.


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