What do Supreme Court Justices, Popes and Andy Rooney Have In Common?

By Gail Shister 

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Andy Rooney will work until he drops dead. Deal with it.

“How long am I going to work? How long am I going to live? That’s the question,” says the irascible Rooney, who turns 92 in January. “I will work until I drop, or until I lose my head. Until somebody tells me different, I’m not going to quit.”

Rooney, headed into his 34th season as “60 Minutes'” resident curmudgeon, joined CBS in 1949 (that’s not a typo) as a writer for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” (ditto.) Until a few years ago, he wrote his weekly commentaries on a manual typewriter from his World War II days (see above.)

Seven days a week, he goes to his office, which, in a manner befitting a true contrarian, is physically apart from those of the “60 Minutes” gang. When the “60” staff set up digs across the street from CBS News headquarters, Rooney stayed put.

Given the recent public flameout of 89-year-old Helen Thomas, some say Rooney should leave the party before he suffers the same fate.

Rooney’s musings “too often are the discomforting ramblings of an old man…,” writes TV critic Ed Bark. “Hanging on like this is unseemly. Rooney has made his mark and then some. He should give someone else a chance to end ’60 Minutes’ on their own terms.”

Not gonna happen, says Rooney, whose wry, two-minute sermonettes cover topics ranging from the amount of coffee in coffee cans to the demise of the “funny papers” (newspaper comic strips) to who is Lady Gaga.

“My work is as good as it ever was,” he says. “Nobody [at CBS] says I should step down. I know the producer [Jeff Fager] well. He’s a good guy, a friend of mine. Don Hewitt [the late creator/exec producer of “60”] was a lot tougher to work for than Jeff is. He was more critical of what I did.”

Fager did not return several calls and emails. Contract-wise, Rooney says he doesn’t even remember the last time he signed one, but he thinks it was five or six years ago.

“It doesn’t mean anything” he insists. “They [management] don’t even call me about it. They’re not changing the amount of money I make, which is plenty. I’m just here. I’ll be here until I die or get too sick to work.”

As for his health, “I suppose I’ve made some concessions to age, but I’m not aware of them,” Rooney says. “I seem to be feeling good, but I’ll probably say that on the day I die. I’d be the last one to know.”

FYI: Rooney comes from strong stock. His mother lived to 94. His maternal grandfather “was catching minnows in his 90s,” he says.

Besides, if Rooney weren’t working full-time, “What else would I do?” he says. “I get up in the morning, I have a great office, a place to go. I work for the best show on the air, and I have the best spot on it. This is as good as life gets.”

The good life also includes Rooney’s beloved New York Giants. He’s been a season ticket holder since 1947.

“It’s funny,” he says. “I suppose the Giants are the least important thing in my life that I’m most interested in. I always think they’re going to win the Super Bowl.”