'The Man Who Made 60 Minutes'

A Salute To Creator And Broadcast Legend Don Hewitt

60 Minutes Correspondents Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft and Lesley Stahl talk with creator and broadcast legend Don Hewitt about some of the show's favorite stories.

Hewitt takes the spotlight to talk with his correspondents about his career and his creation in "Tell Me a Story: The Man Who Made 60 Minutes." He started 60 Minutes 36 years ago, and it's become the most successful broadcast in television history.
"You've had a lot of great moments on television," Hewitt tells Correspondent Mike Wallace. "I don't think there is one that will ever even approach your walking into the lion's den of the Ayatollah Khomeini right after he took 50 Americans hostage."

Wallace: Imam, President Sadat of Egypt, a devoutly religious man, he calls you, imam, forgive me, his words, not mine – "a lunatic."

Hewitt also recalls Correspondent Ed Bradley's first profile on Lena Horne, and getting her to share some secrets about her sex life.

"And all of these years later, I'd still say it's the best profile I've ever done," says Bradley. "She had this song in her show, 'Bewitched, Bothered – and Bewildered.' And she talked about being a rich, ripe, juicy plum again."

"You can't help your sexual nature," Horne said in her interview. "If a lady treats other people as she'd like to be treated, then she's allowed to go and roll in the grass if she wants to … Even if she's 64. Particularly then!"

Bradley says there was a connection there that was "rare," but admits that Horne never made a pass at him. "You know, she told me later, she said, 'You know, I don't like young guys,'" recalls Bradley, laughing.

Hewitt also remembered a second interview Bradley had with comedian George Burns – one where Burns took him up to Forest Lawn Cemetery to talk to his wife, Gracie.

"I didn't want to go there," recalls Bradley, who remembered what Burns said when they got to Gracie's tomb: "Hi Googie. This is Ed Bradley. We're going to be on 60 Minutes. We're working together again."

He also remembered one interview with Tina Turner that he was supposed to do. It was a story that was given to Wallace. "It wasn't supposed to be Mike," says Bradley. "Instead, Mike got to go onstage in the south of France with Tina Turner. And I'm in Burma."

Turner: You just remember one thing on our first meeting. You must be good to me.

Wallace: Oh, I'm gonna be good to you. Why would I be otherwise?

Turner: Just make sure you be good to me.
In an interview with Clint Eastwood, Correspondent Steve Kroft recalls asking the Hollywood star about having seven kids -- with five women.

"There comes a point in every profile when you've gotta ask a tough question," says Kroft. "The temperature in the room went down about 40 degrees."

But Kroft says that, after giving him the Dirty Harry look, Eastwood was fine after the interview: "I thought, 'Oh my God. You know, we've worn out our welcome here.' But he made my day."

Another tough interview took place between Correspondent Morley Safer and Katherine Hepburn.

"Remember that great transition from Katherine Hepburn riding a bike in a movie to riding her own bike through the streets of New York," says Hewitt.

"She had absolutely refused to be interviewed. She regarded television as kind of nonsensical, and she finally said, 'Well, I will entertain the idea,'" recalls Safer. "She said, 'It will be at noon on the 19th. If you are there at one minute after noon, there will be no interview.'"

On that day, Safer says there was a fire, but he was able to get to the interview a few seconds after noon. "As I walked in, she said, 'At my reckoning, you have 20 more seconds, Mr. Safer,'" says Safer, laughing.

"And she sat down and I was scared. I mean, she had a presence. I mean, this was Clint Eastwood with claws, and I found her so remarkably approachable that by the second roll of film, she was willing to talk about anything."

Safer: Do you feel like a legend? … Do you feel like Katherine Hepburn?

Hepburn: No. I don't think anyone feels like anything. Really. You feel like a bore. You know, don't you? Or do you feel fascinating?

Safer: No, I feel like a bore a good most of the time.

Hepburn: Like a bore. Like a bore. Then you think, "My God, they're going to find out what a bore I am and then that will be a terrible thing."

"My favorite line in that whole thing was when she was ranting and raving on about the movies and it was nothing but filth," says Hewitt.

Hepburn: Filth. Filth - being sold for too much. And now it's respectable to go and see them. And the critics, I think, have lost their minds. And how can it be stopped? They say, "Oh, no censorship. No, no…freedom of the press." The hell with that.

"Of all the great interviews that have been done on 60 Minutes," says Correspondent Lesley Stahl, "that's the one that was shot in the way that I thought was the best."

"Well, of course," says Safer. "She told us where the interview would be done, the chairs that we would be sitting in and where the lights would be."
How about some of the more difficult, sensitive interviews?

Wallace recalls an interview with Barbara Streisand where "She was Barbara Streisand to the nines."

"You handled her so well," says Hewitt. "I was making a speech … and they were asking me about 60 Minutes, and I said, 'Well, we may have done a lot of stories. But I think we've always been fair.' At which point in this dark auditorium, a woman gets up and said, 'You've always been fair?' And I looked. It was Barbara Streisand."

And in another interview, Stahl was able to get young Ron Reagan to admit that if it weren't for his mother, his father would never have been president.

Ron Reagan: I don't think he'd be where he is. I don't think he would have gotten to where he got to. … I doubt it. I think if left to his own devices he might have, you know, ended up hosting "Unsolved Mysteries" on TV or something.
There are times, however, when correspondents are able to connect with their subjects.

"When we did Gleason, there was something," recalls Safer. "Maybe because we both drink, we both smoke and both play pool. But we connected, and he really got into it."

Safer: Why is this show as successful now, practically, in reruns as it was the first time around. There were, what? There are only 39 shows or something.

Gleason: I could give you 20 academic answers to that. But the one is ... it's funny.

"That's the secret of this broadcast. It's the people," says Hewitt. "It is the ability to find people who can tell their own story better than you can. And your job is to bring it out of them, and that's why it works. And why I'm telling that to the other networks, I don't know. But that's the secret."
  • Rebecca Leung

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