From producers to the make-up artist, almost everyone at 60 Minutes has a great Mike Wallace story...
From producers to the make-up artist, almost everyone at 60 Minutes has a great Mike Wallace story...
Longtime 60 Minutes producer Bob Anderson writes:
Twenty years ago, one of the first stories I produced for Mike was about the most respected man in New Mexico, Archbishop Robert Sanchez.
We'd found out that the Archbishop had been transferring pedophile priests from parish to parish, without warning the new parishes about the priest's past. Dozens of priests were involved, and hundreds of children were abused.
We went to New Mexico to surprise and confront the Archbishop, who we'd learned would be leading an annual pilgrimage down a mountain. We got to the mountain at dawn and found the procession, but no Archbishop.
We did find one of the alleged pedophile priests, but I didn't want to reveal our presence so that we still had the chance of confronting the Archbishop later at a local church where he'd be preaching.
Mike said I was completely wrong, that we had no guarantee that the Archbishop would be at the church, and, more importantly, we had one of the alleged pedophile priests right here walking down the mountain.
Mike was determined to approach him right away. That led to a memorable exchange between Mike and the priest, and included a burly man trying to push Mike away from the priest.
Later it turned out that the Archbishop didn't show up at the church, so Mike was absolutely right about playing the hand we were dealt and not holding off hoping for something better.
Bill Owens has been the executive editor of 60 Minutes since 2007.
Mike Wallace was still among the very first people into the 60 Minutes' office every morning, even though he was no longer working on a full time basis.
In fact, Mike knew he was in the twilight of his historic career and it was going to take a big "get" for him to do one more piece for the broadcast that he, along with Don Hewitt, created.
Most mornings he would throw himself down on my couch and tell me some of the great old yarns from his career, both behind the scenes stories from interviews and inside 60 Minute battles with his colleagues.
I looked forward to our conversations very much. Most people would have paid to listen to Mike uncensored, full of laughter and still a bit of mischief. But what I most remember is how he bounded into my office one morning in 2008 when he "got" Roger Clemens to sit down for the famous interview about the pitcher's alleged steroid use.
"The old man is going to get one more at bat!" Mike said. He was almost 90 and as competitive and happy as he'd probably ever been.
Josh Howard was at 60 Minutes for 13 years, six of them as a producer for Mike Wallace, and later as senior producer and then executive editor of the broadcast.
I was sitting at my desk one day when Mike walked into my office and said, "How about doing a piece about Willie Nelson?" At least, that's what I thought he had said. It wasn't the kind of story I usually produced, but I figured it would be a nice change from the more serious stuff. I said, "Sure, but what got you interested in Willie Nelson?"
He looked at me like I was a fly in his soup (one of his favorite expressions.) "WILLIE NELSON? WHY THE F--- WOULD I WANT TO DO WILLIE NELSON? WHAT I SAID WAS, 'WINNIE' AND 'NELSON.' YOU KNOW, MANDELA. POSSIBLY YOU HAVE HEARD OF THEM?"
He spun around and stalked out of my office, barking over his shoulder: "I hadn't realized I had wandered into the toy department!"
Great memories of producing for Mike Wallace. This is from a shoot in 1993. As usual, he wasn't paying any attention to me at all! But I sure paid attention to him. What a remarkable man. I am so lucky to have had the chance to rub shoulders with him for so many years. Truly one of a kind. Thank you, Mike, for everything.
Mike was always very happy to sign his name to just about anything, but if you were hoping to see something warm and fuzzy, it's likely you'd be disappointed.
"Broadcasting and Cable" magazine did a cover story about him with the headline: "This News Hound Still Hunts." He left a copy on my desk with the inscription: "And Josh -- you're a major target!"
Editor/producer Warren Lustig has been at CBS News since 1982, the last 13 years with 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II:
When Mike Wallace interviewed Vanessa Redgrave in 1979, her relationship with the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organization) made her a lightening rod -- which of course Mike loved, and so he was tough on her in that interview and really stirred up trouble.
Fast forward to 2007, and I'm supposed to produce an update on Vanessa Redgrave. She, Mike, and I met for lunch to convince her to do another story with us, and Mike was as charming as charming gets. But Ms. Redgrave was still apprehensive because of the first interview. She wasn't about to crawl into the lion's den and get chewed up again. I spent a lot of time assuring her how great the interview would be, and she told me, "I like you. Okay, I'll do it."
I went over the questions with Mike before the interview and repeatedly warned him that Vanessa had become famous for walking out on reporters. I told him that the PLO questions might set her off, so we should save them till the back end of the conversation.
Mike agreed with the plan and said, "Okay, Poopsie." (He rarely called me by name. Mike had nicknames for everybody: Poopsie, Chubby, Shorty -- you name it.)
The interview was at the lush and legendary Cafe des Artists in Manhattan. We built a gorgeous set, with flowers and lights. Mike looked great, Vanessa looked great. The two of them traded hellos and niceties, and then they both sat down facing each other. Mike was in his corner of the ring, ready for action. He turned and said to the cameraman, "OK, we rolling?" and then he turned over his other shoulder and said to me, "You ready, "Poopsie?"
And then he began: "Vanessa, how are you?" She said, "Fine," and then he said, right out of the gate: "When I told various New Yorkers that I would be sitting down with you, you would be fascinated by the various reactions." Some people, he told her, were in awe. Others said, "What? That woman who hates Jews?"
I'm just off camera, sweating. I can't believe he led with that question. But she didn't walk out. Actually, she was very gracious and charming.
They finished the interview, and later on the car ride back to CBS News, I said, "Mike, I gotta ask: Why'd you do it? I thought you were going to save the PLO questions for last." And he said, "I needed to control that interview to get her to stay. So, when the bell rang, I came out swinging and landed the first punch. And you know what? She stayed and she was mine."
Marley Klaus was a 60 Minutes producer from 1986 to 1994. She recalls a trip she and Mike took to Nigeria in 1994 to report on financial fraud for the piece "Corruption Inc."
Nigeria might have been the one corner of the world where Mike wasn't famous. He was giddy that he could actually wear a hidden camera and walk into a government office to apply for a fake birth certificate, which enabled him to also get a fake passport saying he was 38 years old (he was 77 at the time) and a farmer.
I don't think I'd ever seen him happier than that moment when the government official told Mike that he'd have to lie on his application.
Mike wasn't just an unforgettable presence on the air, he was an unforgettable presence in the office. He was playful, irreverent in the extreme and driven beyond the extreme.
Mike made every single person in that office better at what we did because, if you weren't on top of your game -- and sometimes even if you were -- he would make sure you and everyone else in the office knew it. Somehow, he did it with a twinkle that (mostly) made it fun. Mike always preferred people who didn't crumble under his ribbing . . . and that ribbing made all of us tougher and more driven, no doubt.
For as long as 60 Minutes has been on the air, Riccie Johnson has been our makeup artist. Riccie recalls a story from 1994 when Mike was interviewing two former governors: Ann Richards of Texas and Mario Cuomo of New York.
After I made up the two governors, Mike came in to be made up and asked me how they were. He'd always ask me about interviewees: How are they, what mood are they in? I said they were fine, but casually mentioned that I thought it undignified that two former governors would make a television commercial for Doritos chips.
During the live interview, Mike - to my huge surprise -- asked them about the commercial. He said, "Riccie Johnson, our makeup artist, thought it was undignified." I was mortified. I got a very cool nod from the governors afterwards.
I vowed to Mike that I'd never tell him anything again . . . but of course I did.
Mike could be very mischievous, and he could be very kind. In 1999, when my husband of 46 years died, Mike - along with the other 60 Minutes correspondents - came to the funeral home. Mike took my hands in his and asked me what I was going to do. I said I didn't know. He looked in my eyes and said, very firmly: "You are coming back to work." He repeated it reassuringly, and it gave me strength.
Harry Moses was a 60 Minutes producer for Mike Wallace for four years.
Mike and I worked together non-stop for four frantic years. It was an exhilarating and emotionally exhausting experience. I ended up with an ulcer named Myron and a shrink, with whom I spent hundreds of hours discussing Mike.
When the therapy produced no notable results and the ulcer grew worse, I realized that I had to sever the relationship. Citing my gastrointestinal tract, I begged Don Hewitt, the executive producer of "60 Minutes," to assign me to another correspondent. Don had another solution. He would tell him that job pressures (caused by you know who) were sending me to the hospital for exploratory stomach surgery and an uncertain return. This would give Don time to effect a change without confronting Mike head on. Although the plan had undeniable flair, it lacked practicality. So I screwed up my courage, walked into Mike's office and asked for a divorce.
'No problem,' he said, managing to look surprised, betrayed and innocent all at once. 'We can probably use a rest from each other. Why don't we call it quits after the next story?'
'Mike,' I said, my voice rising several octaves, 'I need to leave now!'
'But it's a story we've been planning for a year,' he said, lying with complete conviction.
'It's yours,' I said, 'I'll find another one.'
Mike finally realized I meant business. 'Okay, kid,' he said, flashing his most dazzling smile. 'You'll be back.'
He was right, of course. A year later, I was.
60 Minutes associate producer Rachael Kun was Mike's assistant from 2007 to 2008.
I remember the first time I heard Mike's voice. It was summer 2007 and, straight out of journalism grad school, my first job was as assistant to the legend. Mike was in Martha's Vineyard and called to introduce himself, and I recall being stunned when I heard him speak - it was him, Mike Wallace, with that resounding, iconic voice that would make you do a double take.
Mike was 88 years old and officially retired when I started working for him, but Mike wasn't your normal 88 year old. Mike Wallace would always be Mike Wallace and no retirement could ever change that. Mike loved getting a rise out of people -- loved picking fights, pulling pranks, and commenting on people's appearance, and I wasn't spared. But it was worth enduring, because just being around Mike was the experience of a lifetime for a young journalist.
One of my fondest memories is sitting with Mike in his office one day, watching a tape of his legendary interview with the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. This was thirty years after Mike essentially told the Ayatollah that he was "a lunatic" -- one of the gutsiest interviews of all time.
I remember looking over at Mike, who seemed lost in the moment, re-living his past. In that instant, he was still the same man as thirty years ago - a fearless reporter taking a huge gamble in a risky situation, and doing so with such panache and confidence. It was a moment I'll never forget.
Miram Weintraub worked at 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II from 1993 to 2005. She recalls an incident when she was working with Mike and 60 Minutes producers Paul and Holly Fine on the story, "Did He Do It?"
One of my favorite Mike memories took place about 17 years ago when I was driving Mike to an interview in Hartford, CT. Paul Fine and the crew had gone on ahead and my sole job was to get Mike to the interview on time.
I'd been warned more than once by Paul to get good directions because, he said, Mike was pretty unforgiving about stupid mistakes like getting lost.
Needless to say, I got completely and hopelessly lost, having to stop at two different gas stations for directions. By the time, we got to the interview, we were at least an hour late. I thought Paul was going to kill me and that I'd lose my job for sure.
Just as we were about to go intside, Mike winked at me and said, "I've got this covered." He then proceeded to make up a convincing story about a great lead we'd been following, which had unfortunately fallen through, making us late.
Mike never told Paul about my screwup and never reprimanded me. I loved him from that moment on.
60 Minutes producer David Browning writes:
When I worked with Mike on the "People of the Century" series, Mike came to L.A. to interview Steven Spielberg at his office on the Universal lot. Spielberg was in a meeting, running late.
Mike was in a foul mood over something or other. So he sat down at Spielberg's desk, put his feet up, called New York and started chewing somebody out. Naturally Spielberg walked in at that moment. As Mike continued cussing and carrying on, I made what small talk I could with Spielberg, assuring him he'd have his desk back in a moment.
Mike wound up the call with a final "screw you too" and rose from the desk, all smiles. "Steven! Please have a seat."
Richard Buddenhagen has been an editor at 60 Minutes since 1989.
In 2004, when Mike was 85 years old, he and I were heading to Nashville to shoot a story about Loretta Lynn and Jack White - two unlikely musicians working together on an album.
I told Mike that I'd booked us into a deluxe hotel in Nashville, but he felt it was too far from Loretta's house, where we'd be doing the interview.
Mike said, "There's nothing closer?"
I said, "Yeah, a dumpy Motel 6, about 15 minutes from her place."
He said, "We'll stay there."
That's when I first realized that Mike, for all his success and fame, was a no-frills guy. Mike proved it again later on that trip, when - hungry and ready for lunch - he sat on the curb outside the airport and ate his bagel while reading the New York Times.
A few years after the Lynn/White story, I was talking to Jack White, discussing a band he'd formed called "The Raconteurs." Jack told me the name was inspired by meeting Mike - who he called a true raconteur.
Philip Scheffler worked at CBS News for 52 years, the last 23 as Executive Editor of 60 Minutes, retiring in 2003. Before that, Phil worked as a producer both in long-form and breaking news reporting at CBS News.
I met Mike in 1967. Dick Salant, the president of CBS News, wanted to show Mike in a prominent spot and he asked us to do a prime time documentary. Money was just beginning to make itself felt in politics so we decided to look at how money was affecting senate race in Ohio - Taft vs. Metzenbaum.
I mention this long-forgotten broadcast because it was during the filming that I learned the most important thing there was to learn about Mike Wallace: he was the best interviewer in broadcasting. Also the most provocative. And combative. And prepared. But mostly he was the best interviewer because he listened to the answers!
It's amazing how so many on-air reporters don't. They have a list of questions in their lap and while the subject is talking, they look down to see what the next question is.
Not Mike. He listened to the answer. And if he heard something that didn't square with what he knew about the topic the next words were, "Yes, but..." The next question could wait.
I was the Executive Editor of 60 Minutes from 1980 to 2003. I screened about 400 Mike Wallace segments. There was an argument during the screenings almost every time. Some were very noisy but our personal friendship didn't seem to suffer.
Before that I produced 60 Minutes stories for nine years, many of them with Mike. I could write about him for the next six months and never run out of stories. But here are just a few, not about the on-air man -- reams will be written about that -- but stories about him.
We had something called a blue-sheet at 60 Minutes. It was white, by the way. The blue-sheet spelled out, in two or three paragraphs, a story a correspondent and one of the producers on his team wanted to look into to see if it was worth producing. I was the gate-keeper, and my rule was whoever got the blue sheet to me first had "dibs" on the story.
About twice a week my bedside phone would ring at around 11:30 at night. It was Mike. "I want dibs on the ______ story! You'll get a blue sheet in the morning." End of phone call.
It took me several months to figure out that Mike had the early edition of the New York Times delivered to his apartment door at about 11 p.m. each night, and if he saw anything that had even a chance of being a 60 Minutes story, he would reach for his bedside phone and call me. I think he had it on a demon dialer. So then I knew who was calling at that hour.
The next morning two or three similar blue-sheets would land on my desk, but I had to admit that Mike had "dibs."
Mike was a passionate alum of the University of Michigan, and when it announced a multibillion dollar fund drive, he agreed to be the chairman. And he went to work. One afternoon he stormed into my office waving some papers. "You cheap S.O.B." he shouted at me, his nose about three inches from mine. "Your wife got her Ph.D. from Michigan and you only gave a measly 500 bucks!"
Given the vast difference in our salary I could have pointed out that my 500 was the equivalent of his 50,000. But I didn't, and eventually he left to beard another victim.
Then there was tennis. A group from 60 Minutes used to play early Monday mornings, and Mike would show up when he was in town. He had a system, when he was serving and had faulted on the first serve, to send the second serve off in about one second, flustering the opponent who was receiving. When I was the receiver and his first serve went out, I would immediately turn my back to the court. His second serve would whiz past and I would turn and say, "Sorry, Mike. I wasn't ready." This drove him nuts and he invariable double faulted as a result. He didn't care much about losing.
Just one more. Back in 1977 or so the whole 60 Minutes hour was given over to one subject, heroin, and Mike and I did the third part - the distribution and sale in New York. We decided to do an on-camera section at JFK airport in the customs hall where incoming luggage is inspected. I somehow convinced the DEA people at the airport to lend us a one-pound bag of pure heroin packed in a plastic sac, and Mike held it in his hands as we started to film the segment. Well, he blew his lines and in frustration heaved the bag of heroin straight up in the air - at lease 20 feet. As they say, my career, if not my life, passed in front of my eyes. If that bag hit the ground and broke spreading heroin all over the customs hall I was sure to be arrested or worse; the bosses back at CBS would surely fire me. I watched that bag come back down and in some miraculous fashion Mike caught the thing. I was shaking but he went on as if nothing in the world had happened.
Allan Maraynes was a 60 Minutes producer for 12 years, seven of them with Mike Wallace.
In 1978, I brought Mike and his producer the story of the Ford Pinto. No one had broken the story on television, and we had to shoot, edit, and get it on the air in a couple of weeks. That's when I first witnessed the genius Mike had for zeroing in on the weakness of his interview subject.
Mike was grilling a rep for the Ford Motor Company, and with an instinctive command of the information I'd given him, he had the guy cornered in minutes, had him totally flummoxed. For me, this was a crash course in the art of the interview. He taught me that it was more than just the questions. It's the timing of the questions and the ability to make what's happening a real conversation, something that's true.
When Mike read my scripts in the tracking booth, he used that baritone voice perfectly. He knew how to inflect, how to express the information emotionally, what words worked for television and what words didn't sound right for television.
And then there was the Mike interview face. There was the "don't-bullshit-me" look. The "curious and perplexed" look. The "cmon-you-can-tell-me" look. He made my pieces better than they were simply by being in the chair.
On the road, Mike was always an adventurer. I recall we got a flat tire once on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to an interview in the dead of winter. The jack didn't work, so I said, "You wait here, I'll go for help."
I took the keys with me because I knew that if I didn't, he'd be gone. I eventually got a tow truck, but by the time I came back, Mike was gone. He'd gotten out of the car and hitched a ride to the interview. That was Mike. Eventually he'd just leave you in the dust.
Patrick Harris was a researcher at 60 Minutes from 1994 to 2001. Patrick loved journalism, but his first love was music. Patrick is famous at 60 Minutes for having gotten Mike Wallace out of the TV studio . . . and into the recording studio.
Mike Wallace loved to sing. As I'd be logging tape and researching articles in the 60 Minutes offices, I'd hear him humming in the hallways, which is how I got up the courage in 1998 to ask Mr. Wallace to duet with me on my next record.
But not any song would do. I told Mr. Wallace that I did "funky folk music," and he clearly didn't want any part of that. I offered a classic - "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" - and he said: "Oh that would be corny, and it's been done before."
An original needed an original, so I set out to write one - a swing tune, a big band song - and Mr. Wallace was pleased. "Now you're talkin'," he said.
Once I'd written "The Girl (She's Mine)," I sang it to Mike a capella in his office, and he loved it! A composer friend arranged the music for a 15-piece band, and once that was laid down, it was my turn for a duet with Mr. Wallace. He came to the studios in a great mood, and we recorded the vocals in two takes! The Talented Mr. Wallace later told Rosie O'Donnell that it was one of the most fun things he'd done in his life.
Long after I left 60 Minutes, Mike and I stayed in touch. I visited him in November 2010 on a sunny Saturday afternoon. He was in bed, alert, talkative. He told me that I looked better and younger without the dreadlocks. I played our song for him, and Mike started singing and snapping his fingers! And that smile! What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man!
My condolences to his family and the world of journalism.
Editor Stephanie Palewski Brumbach has been at CBS News for 20 years, 13 of them with 60 Minutes.
My first shoot with Mike was at the Waldorf Astoria where he interviewed Robin Morgan and Tom Hayden. Mike and I got into the elevator to leave, and the elevator operator started gushing. He couldn't believe it was Mike, and he gave him full star treatment. Mike was very kind, shook his hand and told him to keep watching 60 Minutes. Afterwards, I asked Mike how he felt about people doing that. He looked at me and said: "Are you kidding? I love it. Live for it!"
One of the most memorable pieces I worked on with Mike was a profile of the singer Barbara Cook, and it was one of Mike's absolute favorite pieces. He watched it countless times. In fact Mike and Don - famous for their awful fights in the screening room - were both mesmerized by her. Even after it aired, Mike would often come to my room and ask to see it again. Maybe it was remembering an era through music. I don't know, but he'd sit with his eyes closed and sometimes with tears rolling down his face. I never asked why.
Mike was usually enjoyable to work with, and always interesting. He kept you on your toes and you could never show your vulnerability. And while he liked a good fight and loved being the star, Mike could laugh, roll with the punches, and pulls pranks. I remember when Don received an envelope with white powder in it during the anthrax scare. Turned out it was Mike who sent it to Don with some kind of powdered sweetener in it. Mike laughed his head off.
Ever since Mike retired, I've been missing him - that amazing voice and smile. I hope he's giving them hell and having a good time wherever he might be.
When Ann Marie Mooney-Cossin worked at 60 Minutes, her desk was right on "correspondents' row," which means she saw Mike in action all the time.
Ann Marie writes:
I heard him before I met him. I was in a producer's office and I hear this deep, baritone voice, filling the hallway: "Baa daa dee, baa daa daaa . . ." It was the first time I met Mike Wallace, and I was in awe. Not because he was THE Mike Wallace -- the man who would strike fear and send shivers down your spine if he dare darkened your doorstep. It was because I could hardly believe that this slightly built, orange-tinted, string-bean of a man was the ferocious, intimidating Mike Wallace. To me, he was kindly, and polite. He shook my hand, welcomed me to the floor, and wished me good luck in my future endeavors at 60 Minutes.
My desk was located near Mike's office, and since I didn't work with him directly, we developed a relationship that was built on, well, making each other laugh. There were many times when I'd put him on the phone with my family and he would sing "Happy Birthday" or congratulate them on a birth. One time he called my mother and pretended to be my secretary! I was proud to call him my friend, and we had such good times over our years at 60 Minutes.
The last time I spoke to Mike was several years ago, when he had retired from 60 Minutes and I had also left the show and was busy raising a family. I'd heard Mike wasn't well, and when he came to the phone, I wasn't sure he remembered me, and for a moment, I felt my heart wince. Then he said, "Ah...Ann Marie Mooney! I can see your face, now. How are you, pussycat?"
Last Monday morning, I got a phone call from my sister, Patricia. "Mike Wallace is dead," she said. Everything froze. For a moment, it was quiet and I felt my heart wince again. I miss my friend, terribly.
Mike's former assistant Jay-Me Brown writes:
When I learned that Mike Wallace was looking for a new secretary, it sounded like the perfect job, but I felt intimated at the same time. All I'd ever done was report for a local newspaper chain in New Jersey, and Mike was a legend.
The day Mike offered me the job, my life changed. Working with Mike was phenomenal. He let me play on his team, and soon a wide range of new characters became part of my world: Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lawrence Taylor, Hillary Swank.
I felt that Mike's reporting was making the world better, exposing problems on issues of race, the economy, religion and politics. And I feel that he lifted some of my own social barriers. I know there have been people in my life who have only seen the color of my skin - black - but Mike saw more, and I learned from him how to really see people for who they are.
And one more Mike Wallace life lesson: enjoy yourself. Here's a typical exchange that I can still hear in my head:
Jay-Me: "Mike, why can't you stay out of trouble?"
Mike: "My dear, that's the only way to live."
Jay Kernis was a producer at 60 Minutes for 5 years and worked on many pieces with Mike Wallace.
Mike may have terrorized a few TV producers in his 40 years at 60 Minutes, and I was among them, but I also saw that he had a good heart.
On more than one occasion, I saw Mike walk up to people on the street and grab the cigarette out of their mouths. He would do this especially with very attractive women. And as he held the cigarette in front of them, he'd say, "You're so attractive. I thought you told me you were going to stop smoking!"
"Except for talking with beautiful women, why do you do that?" I asked him.
Mike said, "You've got to understand: in the early days of broadcasting, I spent a lot of time telling people to smoke, even saying it was beneficial to them. I smoked on TV and sold a lot of Parliaments."
Mike also felt it was important to help people with depression, with which he had done battle. I was once in his office when he took a call. Mike listened and then said, "But you're depressed. You've got to go see a doctor. I'm going to give you a name and a phone number and I'm going to check with him that you've made an appointment."
Another time an EMT literally leapt out of an ambulance when he saw Mike walking in New York City to thank Mike for talking with him years earlier about his depression. "You insisted that I go see a doctor and take care of myself," the EMT recalled. "Well, I did and I'm better now and I've always wanted to thank you."
My overwhelming memory of Mike is of the energy that he brought to work every day. He had the curiosity of a cub reporter, hungry for the next story, and it wasn't unusual for me to get a call from this octogenarian at 5:30 a.m., barking out, "Jay, did you see what's in the paper today?"
60 Minutes producer Ira Rosen worked with Mike Wallace for nine years.
I began working with Mike as a producer when I was 26, and thought I was joining the greatest journalism unit on the planet. Instead, I soon discovered it was more of a MASH unit. One of Mike's producers had ulcers, another a chronic bad back.
The techniques he used on his interview subjects were the same he used on his producers. His genius was in getting information from a subject or a reaction from a producer.
Like a surgeon he would probe to find your weakness. He would ask you personal questions about your girl-friend, or what job you wanted after he fired you. At my wedding he went up to my future father in law and said, ''does your daughter know what she is getting into. I am so sorry.'' And then he walked away, leaving my father in law to wonder whether he should stop the ceremony.
But the payoff of the experience was spending quiet time alone with Mike and learning from him about what makes a great story and a great interview.
One time over dinner Mike asked me, ''What is the best question you can ask someone on camera?"
I thought for a moment and said: ''Why? As in, why did you kill that person?"
No, he said, the best question you can ask someone is ''because?" As in: ''You killed that person because?'' It will give you a more thoughtful response, Mike said.
But the best tip he taught me is that a Mike Wallace interview wasn't an interview but a conversation, like you might have if you struck up an interesting conversation with someone at a bar.
I was only four years removed from college when Mike made me one of his producers. He gave me a chance way before I was ready, but then he slowly taught me the business. And for that I owe him my career.
Paul and Holly Fine produced stories for 60 Minutes for 18 years, including many with Mike Wallace.
Paul Fine writes:
When we first started at 60 Minutes, we avoided working with Mike because we were scared of him. He had a reputation for being tough on his producers and subjects. He made many people nervous.
Mike noticed that we were avoiding him, and took this up with me one day while we were standing next to each other in the men's room urinals. "Give me a try," Mike said. Especially under such circumstances, you just don't say 'no' to Mike Wallace.
The first story we did together was about Mitch Snyder, who ran a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. The shelter was in a dilapidated, dirty building, and I asked Mike if he would mind doing the interview in a room where the men slept. "Why wouldn't I?" he said. "If they can sleep there, I sure as hell can do an interview there."
It was then we started to know the real Mike Wallace. During the interview, we learned more. Mike's questions were great, but his follow-up questions blew us away. He knew, and we soon learned, that this is where all the great answers would happen. He was also a good listener. Mike had real conversations with people.
Mike felt strongly about this story and pushed to get it on the air immediately because D.C. wanted to close the shelter down. The Monday after our piece aired, President Reagan caved in and gave the building to the homeless to use as a permanent shelter. We saw the power of Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes.
What we learned that day was that we could throw anything at Mike, and we did: we took Mike into Angola Prison, Rikers Island Jail, and many hell holes around this country. We did profiles of Kirk Douglas, Julie Andrews, and Barbra Streisand.
Along the way, we got to know each other well. We learned that he was insightful and compassionate. I will never forget the conversation we had when my father died, when Mike noticed how sad I was. His insights meant the world to me.
We will miss you Mr. Mike. Thanks so much for your wisdom and your love of people and life. As Holly said: things will never be the same in heaven again!
Rich Bonin has been at 60 Minutes since 1984, nine of those years with Mike Wallace.
When it came to our job, Mike was fearless. In 1987, while working on one of my first stories with him, he sat across from Roberto d'Aubuisson, the purported head of the death squads in El Salvador that were disappearing and killing people, and Mike asked him point-blank, "Are you a murderer? Are you the head of the death squads?" The translator was afraid to ask the question, but d'Aubuisson got Mike's drift. I wasn't sure if we would leave the country alive.
On another story in El Salvador, we flew helicopter gunships into the war zone there. I had never covered a war before, and I didn't want to go down in history as the producer who got Mike Wallace shot and killed. So, I told Mike to stay behind and we'd cover the battle. Mike completely ignored me.
Mike joined us as we went off in a convoy of helicopter gunships, three of them. Mike and I were in the middle helicopter. A bullet came through the belly of the chopper directly in front of us, hitting the soldier sitting in same exact seat as Mike, but one chopper in front of us. It was dumb luck that Mike wasn't hit.
When we landed, the soldier who was shot (and who later died) was carried out of the chopper on a stretcher. I was frozen by the sight of all the blood and a dying man. Mike, however, was totally unfazed, directing the camera crew to get the footage.
Another time we were in Las Vegas shooting a story on organized crime. Mike was doing a standup, but kept flubbing his lines. The more he tripped on his words, the bigger the crowd of spectators gathered around him. He loved that he could draw a crowd. Mike finally nailed the standup, everyone applauded, and somebody yelled: "Yay, go get em, Dan," as in Dan Rather. At that moment, Mike broke out in laughter. He loved to poke fun of himself.
On a more personal note, Mike was - to paraphrase Charles Dickens - the best of bosses and the toughest of bosses. He could really skin you alive if he didn't think you were giving your all. But he could also be very generous. He gave me my first break in network news, went to bat for me a number of times and even came to my wedding. He met my mother a couple of times and always asked about her. In that way, he couldn't have been more thoughtful.
Barry Lando was a 60 Minutes producer for 26 years, most of that time with Mike Wallace.
Mike brought so much to every story we did together: a sharp, penetrating mind and an uncanny ability to seize the essence of a story -- to sense an opening in a tense interview, then thrust with a rapier-like question.
A perfect example was Mike's interview with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who had once been a radical underground leader. Mike asked Begin: "What is the difference between the Yasser Arafat of today and the Menachem Begin of 1946?"
A famous moment: seated cross-legged on the floor in front of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 during the hostage crisis, Mike says, "President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt calls you, Imam -- forgive me, his words, not mine -- a lunatic." Khomeini's shocked interpreters refused to translate until Khomeini insisted.
Or to Yassir Arafat, in a back-street building in war-torn Beirut. After Arafat excoriated the U.S. for ignoring the human rights of the Palestinians, Mike leapt at the opening to ask the PLO chairman about a small article he'd read in which Arafat praised former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Mike asked a startled Arafat, "In other words, Mr. Chairman, Idi Amin, the butcher, you admire?"
Afterwards, Arafat's aide, Mahmoud Labadi, said to Mike: "Mike, you're not going to use that part about Idi Amin, are you?"
Mike smiled and said ever so quietly, "Mahmoud, do I tell you how to do your job?"
"No," said Labadi.
"Then please don't tell me how to do mine."
Mike had a flare for the dramatic, the ability to achieve almost instant rapport with interviewees, no matter their wealth, achievement, or background. He made them forget the camera, the lights. He was totally with them, fascinated by whatever they were saying -- from a famine-stricken mother in Ethiopia to crooks of all shapes and sizes.
Mike loved being the center of a story, seeing the sparks fly. He enjoyed controversy, confronting miscreants, catching an interviewee out. And it could all be done with a simple gesture, a raised eyebrow, and a single word, like "and?" or "but?"
I loved that man. My wife and I will miss him.
Andrew Lack worked at CBS News for 17 years, three of those years with Mike Wallace.
Mike Wallace changed my life. The day I met him in the spring of 1976 I felt like most of his interviewees. Nervous as hell. My heart was pounding -- not out of fear -- out of excitement. He was the man who was changing the game, who had gone toe to toe with John Ehrlichman at the height of Watergate in a way that set "60 Minutes" apart from every other news program before or since.
Mike, to me, was the TV version of what Woodward and Bernstein had unleashed in a generation of young aspiring journalists. Ask the tough questions, work the story, pound away at it. That's what reporters do. Mike, of course, had already been at it for a couple of decades, in his own inimitable way. The world didn't know yet that he would become a seminal figure, in the history of broadcast journalism.
I was producing television commercials that day, and a friend of a friend of mine, got me into Mike's office. "What can I do for you kiddo," he said with that killer smile. A year later, after pitching him dozens of "60 Minutes" story ideas and stalking him at his favorite Italian restaurant, the old Gino's across the street from Bloomingdales, I got a job as an associate producer at CBS News.
For the next 17 years I had the blessing of Mike's friendship and, interestingly, in 1992 we made a 90 minute "CBS Reports" together on the 20th anniversary of Watergate. I sat beside him one sunny afternoon when he asked Ben Bradlee to tell him -- "just between us" -- who was Deep Throat. "Nice try Wallace, not on your best day will you ever get that out of me," roared Bradlee - the two of them beaming at each other. Whatever the answer was, you knew Mike got the answers no one else could get and he did that relentlessly for half a century.
The last time we spent an evening together was in 2004. I threw a book party for Woodward's "Plan of Attack" and Mike came with his "last and future wife" as he was fond of saying, the magnificent Mary. He brought that killer smile and it made me want to hug him on the way out the door, which surprised both of us. "Thanks for a great night kiddo," he said, pinching my cheek.
Albert Kahwaty worked with Mike Wallace from 2004 to 2006 as an associate producer.
We were interviewing Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in 2004, and Mike hadn't had a lot of exposure to the NASCAR world. Mike was wide-eyed about it, particularly when Jr gave him a tour of the infield at Daytona, where fans were camped out for that weekend's race.
On the Daytona track, Mike and Dale got in a Corvette and took a few laps, stopping to talk about the infamous crash there in 2001, when Dale's father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., was killed. They stopped the car in Turn 4, where Sr. died, and talked about the accident.
The following month, Mike interviewed Dale again, and this was after Dale had had a fiery accident and almost died in a non-NASCAR race.
Mike was concerned about Jr. and said, "How are you doing kiddo? What happened? You almost killed yourself." It was Mike's warmth showing through, the warmth that those of us who worked with him knew well, but was not as prominent a part of his television persona. You hear about the tough interviewing, but Mike cared about this "kid" and it was nice.
When the piece aired, viewers saw Mike and Dale in the Corvette, going about 120-130 miles per hour without seatbelts on. A lot of people wrote in to 60 Minutes to complain about that. Ed Bradley later apologized about it on the air. We asked Mike to comment so Ed could include his response. Mike said, "I did it because I was stupid," but we changed it to: "Mike regrets not wearing his seatbelt."
David Rummel was a producer for Mike Wallace from 1988 to 1992.
The last time I saw Mike was in July 2006 at his house in Vineyard Haven, where we were preparing to shoot a "Last Word" video obit for the New York Times.
When we arrived at his house, Mike was nowhere to be found. Chris Wallace met us at the door, where we explained our mission. As we were unloading our gear, Chris came back and said, "Mike doesn't know anything about this."
I knew this wasn't true. I had spoken to Mike only days before.
Once we were all set up, there was still no sign of Mike. Finally I decided to go look for him. It's a pretty big house, with a guest house and a big yard. I finally found him upstairs in his bedroom reading a book. I told him that we were ready to go and we needed to go now, since we basically wanted to cover his whole life.
He looked at me and said, "What is this about again?" I was definitely annoyed and about to blurt out an obscenity, when he dropped his book and started to laugh. "Got you!" he said.
Then we went downstairs and, at age 88, he sat in the chair for nearly two hours and delivered, answering every question from his childhood down to his plans for an upcoming interview with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was a great interview and vintage Mike.
Morgan Hertzan was Mike Wallace's assistant from 1999-2001.
Most people know of Mike's very famous struggle with depression. What they don't know was how frequently Mike would personally help other folks wrestling with mental illness.
After Mike went public with his story, he was inundated with letters (back then people still wrote letters) from viewers reaching out to Mike, looking for direction and advice in dealing with their own mental health problems.
Every week, Mike would make time to call those folks and give them a shoulder to lean on. The recipients of these calls were often shocked to realize that Mike Wallace himself was on the phone, and sometimes he had to calm them down and tell them that, no, they weren't the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation.
Mike's outreach didn't stop there. He would sometimes help them find a doctor, and even call the doctor to make sure treatment was provided. Frequently, Mike would also call someone's boss or spouse to enlighten them on depression and ask them to be more sympathetic.
So many people knew and feared the words, "Mike Wallace is here to see you." I was fortunate to see a very special group who reveled in hearing that Mike Wallace was there to help.
It was truly remarkable to see the positive effect he had on people. He never asked for recognition or thanks, but he changed lives by being so open with his.
Cameraman Dave Marlin worked with Mike Wallace on stories for 60 Minutes and other CBS News broadcasts.
In 1968, shortly before 60 Minutes was launched, I was on the political beat with Mike Wallace covering Rockefeller, Romney (Mitt's father), McCarthy and Richard Nixon - all campaigning in the New Hampshire primary.
On February 2nd we filmed Nixon in a hushed Manchester Holiday Inn ballroom press conference, jammed with the media, where the future president was announcing his candidacy.
Filming from a camera position about a third of the way back in the room, I was rolling on a big close-up of Nixon, who was about half way through his opening remarks, when Mike turned to me and said that he was going to do his on-camera while Nixon was still speaking. Mike told me to focus on him, not Nixon. So, with the film still rolling, I pulled back to a wide shot and framed up Wallace with Nixon over his shoulder. Then, right in the middle of Nixon's remarks, I had my electrician turn the portable hot-bright Frezzi-Light on Mike as he stood up in the aisle about 15 yards from Nixon at the podium.
Everyone turned around a little shocked to watch Wallace upstaging Nixon, boldly doing his standup while Nixon continued to speak.
Interrupting a major political announcement in that fashion was a new one for me, but it didn't faze Mike. Most correspondents did their on-camera pieces when the speeches ended, but Wallace certainly had a flair for the dramatic and unusual.
As we drove to Boston through a snowstorm to feed the piece, Mike called CBS News in New York on my two-way car radiophone and told producer Sandy Socolow to make sure he was number one on the "clicker"-- the lineup of reporters and stories that used to lead off the CBS Evening News.
"Mike Wallace in Manchester, New Hampshire" was first all right, and Mike's bold standup was the most distinctive Nixon piece on the broadcast that night.