Most of us only saw for a few minutes on Sunday nights. Jeff Fager saw him nearly every day for the last 25 years. The New Canaan resident, who is chairman of and executive producer of worked along side Rooney and was his boss for the last eight years. When Fager got word of the famous curmudgeon's death, he was truly saddened.
"I loved Andy Rooney," Fager told Patch Saturday afternoon. "He was a great friend. It's going to be sad not having him around again. Rooney was a great guy in every way."
Rooney first appeared on "60 Minutes" in 1978 and after 1,097 essays, . For three decades the show ended with his brilliant and often funny commentary about the little things in life that we sometimes make a big deal of — and the big things in the world that are actually very trivial.
"Andy Rooney can never be replaced," said Fager."Our show is not the same without him. What he did can never be duplicated. He is the gold standard and an American original."
What Rooney did was make us laugh while making us think. He wasn't afraid to tell everybody what he was feeling and didn't care if he offended some people in the process. That was just Andy Rooney being Andy Rooney.
"People used to ask me all the time, 'what is Andy Rooney really like?' Andy Rooney in person was exactly what he was like on television. He was direct, honest, intelligent, and a straight shooter. But Morley Safer probably put it best when he said, 'Rooney's gruff exterior only masks a prickly interior.'"
Rooney could often be rude and harsh in public. He didn't like being asked for autographs and told celebrity chasers as much. Rooney wondered why anybody would want him to sign his name on a little piece of paper. Fager was around Rooney a lot in public and admitted there were times when things could get uncomfortable. Rooney didn't really care if you were someone on the street or a power broker at CBS, he always said what was on his mind.
"We were at a Super Bowl party a few years ago," Fager said, "and I introduced him to the CFO of CBS, Bruce Taub. I told Andy, 'he's the one who signs your check every week. He's the CFO of the television network, he's the one responsible for all that money.' Rooney just looked at him and said, "Well, nobody's perfect." Then turned and walked away."
Rooney may have walked away from his regular appearances on "60 Minutes" in early October, but he was still very much a part of CBS just as he had been for the last 50 years. Fager said he came to the office every day at 7 a.m. and continued to be part of the CBS Family.
"Andy loved CBS and he loved being around the office," Fager said. "He was a newsman through and through. Andy was a great writer and could put things together so brilliantly. He didn't have a big ego and never wanted to be singled out or treated differently. But he was a one-of-a-kind person and we're going to miss him."