I’ve always believed that each and every one of us is shaped and defined, not only by his or her own personal actions, but by those who’ve influenced, educated and – ultimately – inspired them throughout their individual lifetimes.
As a guitarist and musician, my influences are fairly easy to spot, musical geniuses with names like Clapton, Hendrix and Vaughan, to name just a few.
As a writer, however, there’s one particular individual, who goes by the name of Andy Rooney, who’s single-handedly helped me on my way to becoming the columnist and journalist I am today, such as it stands.
On Sunday, Mr. Rooney gave his final “official” broadcast for the long-running news institution that is 60 Minutes, and it was with no small amount of regret that I watched the notorious curmudgeon sign-off for the last time. In many ways, he’s unknowingly been a mentor to me throughout my first two years as an Evening Sun reporter, particularly when it comes to this, my weekly column.
What can I say? Whenever I’m having trouble coming up with something interesting to write, whether it be controversial, humorous or even silly, I always ask myself the same question ... what would Andy Rooney say?
What I most loved about Mr. Rooney’s final adieu? The fact that he’s always considered himself a writer first ... and never a television personality. On top of that, over the past three decades, you simply never knew what to expect from the man. No topic was off limits (which did get him in trouble a time or two) and no matter one’s political beliefs, Rooney always seemed so matter-of-fact, so down to earth and likable that every word, every sentence seemed based on pure, unfettered common sense.
Sometimes, Rooney would drop those unforgettable little philosophic tidbits, some of which I’ve gone back to hundreds of times over the years, such as ... “Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens” or, “If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.”
Other times, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud ... “I didn’t get old on purpose, it just happened. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you.”
Not to mention one of my personal favorites ... “If dogs could talk it would take a lot out of the fun of owning one.”
Politically (and philosophically, once again), Rooney just had a way of viewing the world that has always fascinated me, as when he said ... “People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe” and “the closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort – the opening, terror. Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing – the opening a wonderfully joyous moment.”
“I’ve done a lot of complaining here, but of all the things I’ve complained about, I can’t complain about my life,” said Mr. Rooney, as classy as ever during his final 60 Minutes monologue, adding at the end that “this is a moment I have dreaded ... I wish I could do this forever.”
Mr. Rooney, no matter what path your remaining years takes you down, I hope they’re as genuinely honest, forthcoming and exciting as all the years you’ve spent entertaining (and educating) the rest of us. Retirement, if that’s what this truly is, is an unworthy description when it comes to the end of an era, so to speak, for you deserve the highest of praise for your work. And for one like you, there’s no such thing ... retirement, that is.
To a one-of-a-kind writer, I say, thank you ... thank you so very, very much.
Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian.