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It premiered September 24th, 1968 on a Tuesday night-- and it's filled with surprises.
The ticking stopwatch was nowhere to be found in our first episode, but Mike Wallace was there, sporting a "Mad Men" suit and a hairdo to match. Andy Rooney was there, too, but only in silhouette.
Although it seems dated and a bit of a hodge-podge, the first broadcast also shows that 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt-- and his first two correspondents Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner-- had an idea that would work.
Besides being his wry, charming self, Johnny Carson made his 60 Minutes interview memorable by having a fun at Mike Wallace's expense.By 1979, Mike had become known for exposing the misdeeds of con men and hucksters. Carson, who was an avid viewer of the 60 Minutes broadcast, asked why Mike had decided to turn his sights on a TV host:
"I'm not running a boiler-room operation. I have no phony real-estate scam. I'm not taking any kickbacks," Carson told Mike. "I did steal a ring from Woolworth's once when I was twelve years old, and I think that's why you're here."
Later in the story, when Carson shows how he plays the drums to blow off steam, he shouts to Mike over the music that he oughta try it, to get rid of all that "hostility."
Mike retorts, "I'd rather beat on you!"
Part 2 of "Here's...Johnny" aired on September, 23 1979. (Producer: David Lowe, Jr.)
One of Mike Wallace's most famous stories was about a former secret service agent named Clint Hill, who shielded Jackie Kennedy seconds after JFK was shot in 1963.
Hill was positioned on the left-side running board of the car behind the president's convertible, and he says he was the only agent close enough to take a bullet for the president-- if only he'd reacted faster.
By the time Mike Wallace interviewed him 12 years later, Agent Hill was a tormented man, blaming himself for the death of a president.
Immediately following the assassination, Agent Hill remained on Secret Service detail, protecting Mrs. Kennedy and her children, but he began suffering from depression and was granted early retirement in 1975 at the age of 43. That year, he agreed to an interview with Mike Wallace.
"Little did I know," Hill told us recently, "that it would turn out the way it turned out."
Remorse poured out of Hill during the interview, astonishing Wallace and Don Hewitt, who was then executive producer of the "60 Minutes" broadcast.
"I had no idea what was coming," Mike later said. The correspondent welled up with tears several times during the interview and tried to reassure Hill that no one blamed him for JFK's death. Mike called it the saddest interview of his career.
"Secret Service Agent #9" aired December 7, 1975. (Producer: Paul Loewenwarter)
In the late 1970s, Mike Wallace became known for busting rogues and swindlers of every stripe, but neither he nor the 60 Minutes broadcast started out that way.
When the show launched in 1968, it was modeled after "Life" magazine, which featured human interest stories and compelling visuals. The Watergate scandal changed all that.
Mike wrote in his 2005 memoir: "Watergate sparked a wave of enthusiasm for investigative reporting, and as the infectious fever spread through newsrooms across America, we were among those who caught the bug." 60 Minutes set out to bring more aggressive gumshoe reporting to the broadcast, and Mike spent a two-year period, from 1976 until 1978, focusing his attention almost entirely on chasing down con men and scoundrels.
This piece, about a hot springs spa that sold expensive "miracle cures" to the sick and elderly, is straight from Mike's heyday in the investigative realm. It made this list of our favorites because of the scene that shows R.J. Rudd, the spa owner, boasting to Mike that he held Ph.D.s from colleges that we'd never heard of and Rudd had trouble remembering the names of. This scene led to a later 60 Minutes report called "A Matter of Degrees," about illegal diploma mills that aired several months later.
Although Mike and the broadcast decided to take a less zealous approach to investigative journalism in the 1980s, we think this story shows how seriously Mike took his mission to expose corruption and fraud in the post-Watergate '70s.
"This Year at Murrieta" aired on January 1, 1978. (Producer: Marion Goldin)
In 1979, when Mike Wallace arrived in Iran to interview the Ayatollah Khomeini, he was the first reporter the Iranian leader had agreed to talk to since the Iran hostage crisis had begun two weeks earlier. Mike was required to submit his interview questions to Khomeini's aides in advance. Several questions were rejected as unacceptable.
Throughout their hour-long interview, Khomeini refused to look at Mike-- except when Mike launched into this next question, which clearly hadn't been submitted in advance:
WALLACE: Imam, President Sadat of Egypt, a devoutly religious man, a Muslim, says that what you are doing now is, quote, "a disgrace to Islam". And he calls you-- Imam, forgive me, his words, not mine-- "a lunatic..."
"The Ayatollah" aired on November, 18, 1979. (Producer: Barry Lando)
Here's an oddity from the Mike Wallace archives. It's a short, amusing chat with "The Odd Couple" actor Walter Matthau and his precocious 11-year-old son, Charlie.
This isn't a classic Wallace story, but we liked it because it showed Mike's love of easy banter and the lighthearted ribbing he became known for around the "60 Minutes" offices.
"Matthau and Son" aired April 14, 1974. (Producer: Mike Wallace)
Instead of choosing just one of Mike Wallace's historic interviews with the nation's 40th President, we give you this compilation of five Wallace-Reagan interviews, as he evolved from failed candidate to outgoing two-term president.
Mike first interviewed Reagan in 1975 when he was the governor of California, launching a second bid for the Republican presidential nomination. You'll see rare footage of Reagan frolicking on his 640-acre Santa Barbara ranch at the tender age of 64 and explaining to Wallace why the American dream had gone sour. You'll also see a cameo by former California Governor Pat Brown, donning a peach suit as he attacked Reagan for his cruel social policies.
A year later, following Reagan's defeat by Gerald Ford, Wallace made another trip out to Ron and Nancy's Rancho Del Cielo, and this time, the failed candidate railed at the Republican party for its "bland" platforms and "lousy merchandising."
The next time "60 Minutes" viewers heard from Reagan, it was 1980, and he was about to be "crowned current king of the Republicans," as Wallace put it, finally securing the nomination on a third try.
Wallace takes him on for signing California's liberal abortion bill and for his lightweight, "Neanderthal" reputation. Reagan gives it right back, even defending his advanced age.
And in his final sit-down interview with Wallace in 1989, Reagan reflects on eight years in the White House and says farewell to the nation.
As you'll see, "the great communicator" lives up to his nickname in these conversations. So, does Wallace, the great "interrogator."
"Jimmy, who was the first person you killed?"
You had to be pretty brave to ask a Mafia hit man that kind of question. But Mike asked it in 1981, and Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno was more than happy to answer-- with a smile on his face.
"They didn't come any more authentic than Jimmy "The Weasel," Mike later wrote.
At the time of the interview, Fratianno was in the federal government's Witness Protection Program, and even Mike didn't know where their meeting took place. U.S. marshals picked up Mike and the 60 Minutes crew at the airport and took them through a meandering ride through the Virginia countryside to a government safe house, where Fratianno was waiting. As you'll see in the story, Fratianno was "disguised" for the cameras, so that he could speak freely of his many mob hits.
WALLACE: You were a good killer?
FRATIANNO: I just had the talent to do things like that. I never made any mistakes.
WALLACE: A matter of some pride?
FRATIANNO: ...some people are a little better than others.
Over the years, "60 Minutes" has interviewed many reputed mobsters, from Joe Bonanno to John Gotti, Jr., but Mike's secretive sit-down with "The Weasel" was our first.
"The Last Mafioso" aired January, 4 1981. (Producer: Marion Goldin)
Back in 1986, Oprah wasn't truly Oprah yet, which is what makes this Mike Wallace profile so interesting to watch. We caught up with Mike's producer on this piece, Grace Diekhaus. (She's selling real estate in Malibu if you're in the market.) Grace sent along these memories of working with Mike:
Mike and I decided to do a story on Oprah Winfrey early on in her career. They had just announced that her local show in Chicago was moving to the network-- a huge boost for her career. I went to Chicago several days before Mike came in and met Oprah, getting a feel for what her life was like. I knew she and Mike would hit it off.
It was important that Mike connected with the person we were profiling. With a celebrity profile the main interview is very important. That sets the tone for the piece and really determines whether we capture the essence of the person. Mike's interview with Oprah was terrific. They really seemed to genuinely like each other, bantering back and forth-- two naturals doing what they did best.
"Oprah" aired December 14, 1986. (Producer: Grace Diekhaus)
From beginning to end, here's a fascinating and revealing Mike Wallace interview with Arthur Miller, who wrote "Death of a Salesman" and was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe.
"Arthur Miller" aired November 15, 1987. (Producer: Jim Jackson)
When asked why so many crooks and con men were willing to come on "60 Minutes," Morley Safer famously replied: "A crook doesn't believe he's a crook until he's been on "60 Minutes."
Meet Danny Faries, who managed to steal as much as two million dollars in merchandise, using just the telephone in his Miami jail cell. Imagine what this guy could have gotten away with on a computer!
The best exchange in this piece comes at the end:
WALLACE: You're a crook...
WALLACE: ...and a murderer.
FAIRES: That's what they say.
FAIRES: Doggone, I wish they didn't say that, though.
"1-800-Con-Man" aired September 29th, 1991. (Producer: David Rummel)
Imagine any other interviewer telling Barbra Streisand she was "totally self-absorbed." Watch this remarkable 1991 interview and take note of how little narration was needed: it's mostly just a conversation between Mike and Barbra. And what a conversation it is.
Wallace was throwing conversational bombs left and right, Barbra was throwing them right back. To say the least, this interview made for very good television back in 1991.
"You like this, that forty million people have to see me, like, do this," she said to Mike, after he'd made her cry with a line of questioning about her mother.
Later in life, Wallace made no apologies for this interview, but when he approached her for a second interview years later, Mike once wrote that "she made it clear that she was totally uninterested."
"Barbra" aired November 24, 1991. (Producers: Paul and Holly Fine)
This one is a must-watch in the annals of "60 Minutes," and the career of Mike Wallace: his controversial interview with Jeffrey Wigand. Wigand was the tobacco company insider who blew the whistle on Big Tobacco in the mid-1990s, exposing the lies we'd all been told for decades about cigarettes.
Formerly a research scientist for Brown & Williamson, Wigand was the first major tobacco insider to reveal that cigarette companies were consciously trying to get us hooked on nicotine, despite tobacco executives' public statements to the contrary. What's more, Wigand told Mike, his former colleagues had known all along that their tobacco products contained additives that were dangerous to smokers' health.
The two-part "60 Minutes" story that aired in 1996 inspired a Hollywood film ("The Insider," starring Russell Crowe), countless articles, university lectures, and a whole lot of contentious debate inside and outside the offices of CBS News.
"Jeffrey Wigand, Ph.D." aired on February 4, 1996. (Producer: Lowell Bergman)
Of all the interviews he conducted for 60 Minutes, Mike often said none had a greater impact than this one.
In 1998, Dr. Jack Kevorkian videotaped himself injecting Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, with a dose of lethal drugs. Two months later that videotape, along with Wallace's interview with Kevorkian, aired on "60 Minutes," sparking a national outcry. It wasn't long before Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison.
"Years later Mike and I visited Dr. Kevorkian in prison," says producer Bob Anderson, "and he emphasized that we should not feel guilty about his imprisonment." Did he and Mike feel guilty?
"Yes and no," says Bob. "Dr. Kevorkian showed us the tape, knowing he would then have to go to trial. We felt bad that the piece led to his conviction, but he went into our report with his eyes open, wanting a trial."
When Dr. Kevorkian was finally released in 2007, he greeted Mike with a hug when they met for his first post-prison interview.
"Death By Doctor" aired on November 22, 1998. (Producer: Robert G. Anderson)
Sunday night's telecast of the 67th annual Tony Awards was up 20 percent in viewership, earning the largest number of viewers since 2009
It might seem like a violation of privacy when employees learn what each other make, but it's really a blessing in disguise