Andy Rooney Was a Class Act … Conan O’Brien, Not So Much

I tried to protect Rooney’s feelings when a dual interview, failed … now I’m telling it as it really was

 

I will always have fond memories of Andy Rooney. He offered to sit down for a dual interview with Conan O'Brien. I thought two cantankerous comedians would make a good, interesting interview.

I had interviewed Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer together for Esquire and went on to do Joseph Heller talking to Kurt Vonnegut for Playboy, then Erica Jong and Jay McInerney, followed by Jesse Jackson and Brooke Astor. This all began with Jerry Lieber chatting with Mike Stoller for Los Angeles Magazine. 

Well, Rooney was a class act. Not true with O’Brien, who initially agreed then kept stalling and stalling and with each excuse was insulting Rooney and me.

I got word that his PR person was planning a cover of New York magazine and did not want to foil this opportunity — but why O'Brien didn't just say “no” made me angry.

I find O'Brien to be self involved, and a comedian who takes himself seriously while treating others with disrespect. A photo in itself of O'Brien and Rooney would have been worth all of Conan's bloated ego and posturing.

I finally did throw in the pen and tell Rooney the interview wasn't going to happen. I tried to protect Rooney's feelings by blaming O'Brien's schedule. The last insult occurred when I ran into O'Brien at a press event and he said, "Oh, I didn't know you meant the interview was to be with Andy Rooney." He still could not say to my face that he had never wanted to do the interview. I mean just who does Conan O'Brien think he is to insult the charming, wise wit and curmudgeon Andy Rooney?

Rooney left "60 Minutes" Sunday night at 92, after delivering his 1,097th commentary – though he insists he's not actually retiring because he is a writer, and writers write. He also said his job as a writer is to tell the truth.

This is why I've written this piece. I was honored by his willingness to allow me the opportunity to interview him and wanted to apologize for O'Brien's bad manners and to try to thank Andy Rooney publicly.

Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash.