Superstars and Celebrities

The Best Moments And Most Unforgettable Characters

Over the past 35 years, 60 Minutes has profiled many people who are at the top of their field. Some of them have changed the world without necessarily gaining any public attention. Others were famous before the 60 Minutes crew ever met them.

This included Katharine Hepburn. For honesty, talent and sheer vitality, no one compared to her.

"Well, all my contemporaries have died off, so I'm all that's left," said Hepburn. "I'm in a safe group. I haven't gotten this romantic feeling about age. I think we rot away, and it's too goddamn bad we do."

And then there was The Great One, Jackie Gleason, who was completely at home with that title.

"Well, Orson Wells called me The Great One first and then Lucy started to call me that," says Gleason. "I'm really not offended by it."

He's the portrait of a 68-year-old hustler. And he has some memories.

"Sure you haven't got any money," asks Gleason, at the pool table with Morley Safer. "We'll play for fun."

Gleason may have been called The Great One. But Mohammed Ali was indeed The Greatest. And not only as a boxer. He reigns supreme among the practical jokers on the program.

When Ed Bradley went along with him on a trip to Cuba seven years ago, Ali, suffering from the effects of Parkinson's Syndrome, had trouble speaking.

But he had no trouble at all enlisting his wife, Lonnie, to rope-a-dope a 60 Minutes correspondent.

"Ever since the Frazier fight in Manila, Mohammed will - it's sort of like – like narcolepsy. He'll just start sleeping, but he'll have these flashbacks," says Lonnie Ali.

"And he'll have - it's like nightmares. And his face will twist up, like he's boxing, and he'll throw punches at people. And he does it at night sometimes. Sometimes - I figured out the bed. Whenever he starts snoring heavily, I have to get out of the bed because I know it's going to start."

"And the doctor told us not to really try to wake him if that does happen, because he might end up with a heart attack because it might frighten him. So I don't. I get up and move."
Not long after Bob Simon joined 60 Minutes as a regular contributor, he introduced us to Francisco Ordonez, Spain's best matador.

"He dominated what someone called a half-ton of angry pot roast with a flick of a wrist, with the grace of a ballet dancer, with the agility of a gymnast," says Simon.

But what he didn't show you at the time was the worst bullfighter in Spain, a man named Simon whose agility and grace left a lot to be desired. And who was lucky to escape with his dignity nearly intact.

Simon could have benefited from a few pet obedience lessons from the BBC's Barbara Woodhouse. She was to dog training what Ali was to boxing.

"You might have thought that man praising dog is the most natural, most ordinary thing to do," says Morley Safer. "Mrs. Woodhouse tells us there's only one way to do it - her way."

"You use one finger only for scratching the chest," says Woodhouse. "And you say 'What a good boy.' And you scratch the chest like that."

"I have a very wide range. You know, a, a voice...that is cross. You know, 'What a good dog,' 'Walkies,' 'Pippie down,' 'What a clever girl,' or 'What a clever boy.' 'Naught-tee dog.'"
There aren't too many things in pop culture that have been around as long and as successfully as 60 Minutes. But the Rolling Stones is one of them. The group began its recording career five years before 60 Minutes came on the scene.

And when they began a new tour last year, skeptics asked if the Stones aren't too old to rock and roll. But then, they were asking the same thing nine years ago.

"Each time, they come back to the stage, they do it more successfully than anyone before," says Ed Bradley.

Yet what initially created the most attention this time was not the size of their show or the quality of their music; it was their age.

The cliché that was, that was associated with the band for, for so many years - sex, drugs and rock and roll is...

"Well, some of that's still in there, I think. I'm, I'm afraid that's still in there ,I think," says lead singer Mick Jagger. "I mean, I think rock and roll is still very much about sexuality and rock and roll. You have to deliver."

"When their tour reached New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, Jagger joined a traditional New Orleans jazz parade, and he was right at home in the second line," says Bradley.
There have not been many stories on 60 Minutes where the main character is a work of fiction. But that's just what happened when Harry Reasoner went in search of the best movie ever made. Here's an excerpt from that show:

Harry Reasoner: Anyone who doesn't know that that movie is "Casablanca" may be excused from class and please don't come back without a note from your mother.

Remember a piano and a lamp and the lovely girl sitting at the table and both the memory of love and the foreshadowing of despair?

I don't suppose then or now young men wind up for good with the young women with whom they first saw "Casablanca." I didn't. The story seems to lead to bittersweet endings in real life, too. But you never forget who you first saw it with. I wonder if she remembers. If she does. Here's looking at you, kid.

When Lesley Stahl looked into a work of fiction, she found some interesting facts about the most successful writer working today. The woman behind Harry Potter, J.K.- Joanne - Rowling.

"What makes Jo Rowling's success all the more remarkable is what it followed," says Stahl. "In 1994, when her marriage to a Portuguese journalist collapsed, she moved here to Edinburgh, Scotland. She had few friends and fewer prospects and ended up on welfare."

"I was in worst straits than I've ever been before or since, yeah," says Rowling.

But she had been playing with the idea of Harry Potter for years by then. Long before she was published, Rowling had seven Harry Potter books meticulously plotted out on grids, one for each year Harry spends at Wizards school.
Over the years, 60 Minutes correspondents have had the opportunity to talk with some of the leading actors and actresses of their time.

From Bette Davis to Nicole Kidman.

"I would love to meet somebody," says Kidman. "I would love to be swept off my feet."

To the ever battling Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Richard Burton: When I insult Elizabeth, which I frequently do, I do not attack that soft spot in the underbelly.

Elizabeth Taylor: My double chin.

Richard Burton: She attacks me - double chins.

Elizabeth Taylor: You bloody well have.

Richard Burton: She's got a slightly fat belly. I never use those things.

Elizabeth Taylor: Your pockmarks, you know.

We've also met Sean Connery. "I don't like injustice. And I hate stupidity."

Sean Penn: "I want a perfect world. I want to choose all the winners."

Mel Brooks and Tom Hanks.

Steve Kroft asked Hanks if he had any faults.

"Oh yeah, I'm going to tell you? Yeah, you know what, if I made a comprehensive list of them," says Hanks. "Thank goodness, I'm on 60 Minutes now so I can finally get them off my chest."

And, speaking of superstars, Andy Rooney had some ideas on who is, and who isn't.

"A superstar is always a person who has something more than skill and talent that attracts the rest of us to him," says Rooney. "In this business, Walter Cronkite's a superstar. Of the four correspondents on 60 Minutes, two of them are, and two of them aren't."
But not all of the famous people we've talked with over the years have brought smiles to our faces. There may have been no more chilling interview in all time on the air than the Ed Bradley interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"Am I pure evil? Am I the face of terror, sitting here in front of you," McVeigh says to Bradley.

What was his reaction when he saw the pictures after the attack? "I think, like everyone else, I thought it was a tragic event. And that's all I really want to say. ... I thought it was terrible that there were children in the building."

Is there anything that McVeigh would do differently? "I think anybody in life says, 'I wish I could have gone back and done this differently, done that differently,'" he says. "There are moments, but no one that stands out."

Look over the list of national leaders and historic figures over the past 35 years, and you'll find that many of them appeared on 60 Minutes.

Richard Nixon was on our very first broadcast. And during an interview a few months later, he told Mike Wallace something that, in light of the Watergate scandal, may have provided the show with its most ironic moment: "Let me make this one point. Some public men are destined to be loved, and other public men are destined to be disliked. But the most important thing about a public man is not whether he is loved or disliked, but whether he's respected. And I hope to restore respect to the presidency."
One of the most controversial pieces ever aired on 60 Minutes was Wallace's interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who revealed that he had personally killed one of his patients -- and provided us with a tape of the death of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.

"It's not necessarily murder, but it doesn't bother me what you call it. I know what it is," says Kevorkian. "This could never be a crime in any society which deems itself enlightened."

But one person did a lot better after a 60 Minutes. It was on a special edition of the broadcast that ran after the Superbown in 1992. Steve Kroft interviewed then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who were attempting to save his candidacy from the Gennifer Flowers scandal.

"I think the American people, at least people that have been married for a long time, know what it means and know the whole range of things that it can mean," said Clinton.

What didn't air on that original broadcast was a frightening moment when, as Mrs. Clinton defended her husband, a light pole on the ceiling let go.
  • Rebecca Leung

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments