From 1978 to 2011 on the CBS News magazine 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney could be counted on to offer his mercilessly frank opinions on everything. From the cotton in pill bottles to baseball players to modern art, the journalist was never at a loss for words.
Rooney, who died in 2011, infamously spouted his points of view with a brand of forthrightness that did not typically take his targets’ feelings into account.
In a later honest moment, he admitted there was one viewpoint he wished he hadn’t expressed so openly.
Rooney wasn’t a fan of Miss America competitions
The essayist’s segments on 60 Minutes took place at the end of the news program each week, during which Rooney would speak on an area of society or consumer products or culture that irked him. One such area was the annual Miss America competition.
“I don’t know what got into me, but years ago I always thought that Miss America contests were sort of ridiculous,” Rooney told the Television Academy Foundation in 1999.
“You know, a woman getting up and parading around in a bathing suit to have guys decide which one of them was the best looking. And, you know, the women’s movement never approved of it much, either. I agreed with them, and then they added all these other elements to Miss America, but it’s always seemed silly.”
Rooney wanted to make a point against the Miss America contest
There clearly weren’t many pieces that Rooney taped for the news magazine that he would have not done. But as he stated, there was one that made him later wish he hadn’t.
The segment in question involved the wife of former comedian Phil Silvers, best known for his 1950s program The Phil Silvers Show on which he played Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko.
Rooney described his decision to illustrate on 60 Minutes those winners of the competition that he considered “homely.”
“I set out to pick a bunch of homely Miss Americas,” he said. “I mean, if you look at all the Miss America pictures there have ever been, there’s some homely women who get in.”
Rooney’s tirade angered this famous comedian
The journalist’s satisfaction in drawing attention to the competition was short-lived after he “ran across a letter I got from Phil Silvers, the great comedian, Sergeant Bilko from the early days of television.”
Silvers had seen the piece Rooney had done and apparently did not find it amusing in the least. The comedian sent Rooney “this plaintive, sad letter.”
With a bit of a chuckle, Rooney recalled that one of the Miss America winners whom he had labeled as unattractive on national television was Silvers’ ex-wife, Jo-Carroll Dennison, who was crowned Miss America in 1942.
“Turned out, one of them I had picked, he had married and she was a sweet girl and had been so nice, and I had picked her as a homely Miss America. Made me feel terrible,” Rooney revealed. “I wished I hadn’t done it.”
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