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Andy Rooney's son on dad's private side

For 33 years, Andy Rooney was a guest in millions of homes every Sunday night as he read his weekly essays on "60 Minutes." The veteran television personality and writer died Friday. He was 92.

Andy Rooney dead at 92

As many look back at the career of the iconic broadcaster, many wonder what the man who loved his privacy was like off-camera.

Andy Rooney's son, Brian, said on "The Early Show" Monday that the man seen on-camera was very much the same when the cameras were switched off.

"I always tell people it's the same act that ran at the other end of the dinner table," Brian Rooney said. "He was amazingly in-character his entire life. ... I think there are so many people in television these days who have adapted this character in order to make themselves popular, and he became popular just by being himself."

Two of Rooney's children followed their father into broadcasting. Brian Rooney is a former longtime ABC News correspondent, and Emily Rooney is the longtime host of "Greater Boston," a local public affairs television program on PBS.

Brian Rooney said his father didn't "invite" his children into broadcasting, but was "very pleased" when they went into it. Brian Rooney said, "He was funny. He was not very instructive as a father. He didn't tell you to do things. He did it by leading and living an interesting life in front of us."

Andy Rooney, his son said, taught his children to do things on their own.

"He taught me how to use a chainsaw, he taught me how to use a power saw," Brian Rooney said. "To do things out(doors) -- to make a fire. In the fireplace. We had an indoor fireplace. I would build a fire every night. This sounds like 1800s, but I cooked the meat in the fireplace for dinner every night. And it was things like that that he taught me. He was a little like living with a mad scientist at times. One year, he made wine. And there were always flaws in everything he did. He made wine and then, late on winter nights at 2:00 in the morning, we'd hear bottles exploding in the basement."

"Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor asked, "But could he be self-critical? He made the bad wine and said, 'Oh, I really messed this up?'"

"Oh, he would own up to all his mistakes," Brian Rooney said. "He was fully aware of his mistakes. He knew how badly dressed he was. He knew, in his woodworking, he'd have these wonderful ideas and a perfect form in his mind, and then ended up having to use a lot of putty."

"Which a lot of people can relate to," co-anchor Erica Hill remarked, "just as they can relate to him every Sunday night, or even in reading so many of the things he wrote. (It) must have an incredibly difficult for him to decide that that final essay that he did on '60 Minutes' not very long ago was going to be his last one."

Brian Rooney said, "Yeah, he said, 'I am going to work until I die.' And now, his death is somewhat of a coincidence. There was nothing that we knew of so severely wrong with him back in September. But he didn't ever want to quit. He was his work. But it just reached a point where he really needed to say good-bye to a television audience. You have to know when to leave the stage. My father probably stayed a little bit too long. But with some encouraging, we said, 'Time for a graceful good-bye.'"

Glor said, "He was still very active. We all saw him in the building every day. I saw him up in our neighborhood walking into dinner just a few weeks ago."

"He went to dinner every night," Brian Rooney said, and then joked, "He wouldn't have won a turtle race walking."

Hill said, "There's a lot of discussion here at CBS about his legendary walks across 57th street and people would watch and think, 'Oh, pick up the pace a little. There's a cab coming!"'

Glor said, "I think we adjusted the timing of the lights at the crosswalk on 57th there. It was such a joy to see him walk in and out of the building and just to run into him."

Brian Rooney added, "He always had some wisecrack for you, didn't he? Something about your shoes or how you were dressed that day."

When asked about his father's most memorable work, Brian Rooney said Andy Rooney's World War II writings were some of his most poignant.

Brian Rooney said, "He was not a guy who lived in the past. But he certainly never forgot his experiences in World War II. And he lost a lot of friends. I watched -- there was all the coverage over the weekend. I watched something the other day that I even remembered the words to talking about his friend ... who carried apples for other soldiers and was shot on the beach at Normandy. And my father -- people thought of him as this curmudgeon and this character. But he was an excellent writer who left behind a body of written work. You pick it up and you read it. The man wrote with such a clarity, and I hope he's remembered for that -- (more) as a writer than this bushy eye-browed character on television."

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