“Randy Moody, meet Andy Rooney.”
Say that out loud a few times and you may catch the humor of the moment when I first met the recently deceased “60 Minutes” commentator and CBS News icon.
It was at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit where I was in charge of the News Media Operations Center, which supplied logistical support to the thousands of radio, TV and newspaper reporters covering the nomination of Ronald Reagan, who would win over the incumbent Jimmy Carter.
Rooney was there apparently gathering material for his newly launched gig as resident curmudgeon on the Sunday night news show that made him a household name and “60 Minutes” a television ratings giant. We were standing in front of a long table in the convention newsroom that held multitudes of news releases, biographies, copies of speeches and other reams of paper that my operation produced for the reporters and others that wondered through there day and night. One of the politicos who was rifling through the handouts and who knew both of us did the introduction.
Honestly, after we laughed a little bit about our name similarities, I don’t remember what we talked about, but I am fairly certain it was nothing substantive. We shook hands again and went our separate ways. I don’t remember seeing him again at the convention.
Now, I’ve told that story many times over the years to colleagues, relatives, friends and others as his name came up in conversation or if someone commented on an essay he delivered that Sunday. Frankly, I have never been a regular viewer of “60 Minutes,” but from time to time I would catch a show and stay tuned to listen to Andy Rooney’s musings about whatever aggravated him that week.
But here’s the rest of the story: More than two decades later, I had a chance to meet him again. My wife and I were in New York City attending a fundraising dinner for the Women’s Campaign Forum, an advocacy group for women in politics. The event was in a restored carriage house in Manhattan, very upscale, very tony, with lots of glasses, knives and forks.
At a nearby table I spied Andy Rooney. I couldn’t resist. My wife grabbed my arm. “Don’t,” she said. I broke free and headed to his table. Now, in some of the obits I have read, it says he didn’t like to be bothered or confronted, all in keeping with his gruff image. That reputation didn’t bother me.
“Andy Rooney,” I said, “I’m Randy Moody.” I’m sure he had no recollection of our first encounter so many years before, but he smiled and was gracious as I explained about our first meeting and the punch line about our names I had been using for 20-plus years.
I returned to my table satisfied that I had completed the circle. Andy and Randy won’t meet again, but I still will have my story.