On Thursday evening, near a window in a banquet hall overlooking the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square, Andy Rooney sidled up to a makeshift bar and asked for a bourbon.
No bourbon, explained the bartender. Wine?
Mr. Rooney shook his head no, furled his massive white eyebrows, and shuffled off into the crowd. The barkeep, having just witnessed the potential genesis of a future Andy Rooney rant on 60 Minutes (“The problem with cocktails parties today, is that there are no cocktails…) kept a straight face.
A few minutes later, Mr. Rooney stood nearby a plate of cured meats and talked with The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta about football. “We’re both Giants fans,” explained Mr. Auletta. NYTV, who sports a terrycloth Redskins bathrobe at home, looked for conversation elsewhere.
We had gathered on the second floor of Disney’s Times Square Studios at 44th and Broadway to celebrate the newly published book “Peter Jennings: A Reporter’s Life,” which bills itslef as “an intimate portrait of the late, legendary journalist and news anchor, in the words of his family, friends, and collagues.” It was edited by Lynn Sherr, a former ABC News correspondent, Kate Darnton, a contributing editor of PublicAffairs, and Kayce Freed Jennings, co-founder of the Documentary Group and the late anchor’s wife.
The mood was bittersweet. Photographs of the late newsman flashed on screens across the room. Mr. Jennings delivering the evening news. Mr. Jennings sporting a tuxedo. Mr. Jennings paddling a canoe.
Here and there, ABC talent mixed with members of the Jennings clan. Barbara Walters, looking radiant, stood nearby Christopher Jennings, tall and handsome like his late father. ABC News President David Westin spoke with Peter’s sister Sarah. Elsewhere, Charlie Gibson was deep in conversation with Fox News interloper Bill O’Reilly, who once worked for the late Mr. Jennings at ABC.
Eventually, Mr. Westin, dressed in a dark suit, yellow tie and blue dress shirt, stepped to a microphone in one corner of the room.
“It’s a terrific book, I’ll tell you right now,” said Mr. Westin. “Those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with Peter, knew not only how valuable he was but also, I think, how complicated he was….I think all of us at one point or another probably described him as ‘complicated.’ I’ll be honest, and say, some of the time we said that, it was sort of code for saying, he could be difficult.”
“This book, in my view, shows Peter as complicated, in a much truer and fuller way,” said Mr. Westin. “Peter had a lot of facets.”
Mr. Westin then ceded the spotlight to Peter Osnos, the dapper head of PublicAffairs.
“I think Peter would be pleased by this turnout tonight,” said Mr. Osnos. “Peter’s legacy remains very strong. Whenever you think about what is good and what can be good about broadcast news, Peter is right up there.”
Ms. Jennings, dressed in a dark sports coat over a black knee-length skirt, stepped to the fore. She thanked her colleagues, ABC News, and PublicAffairs.
“Finally, I have to thank Peter,” said Ms. Jennings. “What a life he had. For those of us who have to move on…even for a while, how lucky we were.”
Her voice cracked slightly. She paused. “Peter is getting restless now,” she said. “He’d want me to shut up and for you all to have another glass of wine.”
She walked off into the crowd, where she was greeted by well wishers. Mr. Rooney leaned in and said congratulations.
“Very nice,” said Mr. Rooney. “Not perfect. But very nice.”