His latest book is called Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit. It is a compilation of writing done since his first book, Air Gunner (co-authored with Bud Hutton), was published in 1946. In a review in the New Yorker, Edmund Wilson, among the most respected literary critics of the era, said of Air Gunner: "The first piece of writing so far which has really given me any idea of what it is like to operate a bomber . . . full of intimate observation of how people speak, feel and behave." The selections for the new collection were made by Susan Bieber, Andy's gifted producer at 60 Minutes (really, his trusted aide-de-everything), and Morgen Van Vorst, a PublicAffairs editor. We asked Brian Rooney, Andy's son, who is an ABC correspondent, to write the introduction: "If your parents live long enough," he wrote, "you get to know them more as people than parents. I have come . . . to appreciate . . . that (my father) has stood for something all his life when so many people have not, and that while he became rich and famous, it could just as easily have gone the other way and he would not have done anything differently. I learned that a writer lives by his words."
Andy has written hundreds of thousands of words in his television essays and syndicated columns. The majority of them contain his opinions and impressions about the world around him. And yet, amazingly, outside the limelight, Andy's life has been very private, devoted to his family, some very close friends (his best friend was Walter Cronkite), and a few older colleagues. Aside from Brian, Andy has three daughters--Ellen and the twins, Emily and Martha. His first great grandchildren, also twins, were born this year. For 62 years, until she died in 2004, Andy was married to Marge. She was perfect: beautiful, practical, and droll. So is Andy's companion of recent years, Beryl Pfizer, whose career in television included a stint in the 1950s on NBC's Today show.
Maybe it is because Andy puts writing in a different category from performing that explains our business relationship. About the time PublicAffairs was founded in 1997, I ran into Andy on the street. Our first books together had been at Random House and it had been a while since I'd seen him. "Know any good publishers," he asked? "Let me think about it," I replied, "and get back to you." I did, with a proposition that Andy publish at our fledgling imprint. The deal was a joint venture. We'd split costs and proceeds 50-50. Our agreement was a single-page letter; no contract in the conventional sense; no agent or lawyers fees; a pact between friends. So every six months, as the royalty cycle concludes, a couple of us from PublicAffairs go to Andy's office on West 57th Street and bring him a check. The ritual is that he opens the envelope and examines the contents with a magnifying glass. I hope Andy will forgive this indiscretion: his earnings are now over the seven-figure mark.
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