(CBS News) "Oh c'mon!" That was just one of the phrases that Mike Wallace would use in an interview if he didn't think he was getting the whole story. "Over the years Mike developed his own short-hand vocabulary for dragging information out of people," says Steve Kroft of television's most celebrated interviewer. Mike died on April 7, 2012, at age 93. In this tribute, "60 Minutes" correspondents recall the best moments from Mike's 800-plus pieces for the broadcast, and reminisce about both the man and the reporter.
The following is a script of "Mike Wallace" which originally aired on April 15, 2012 and was rebroadcast on July 8, 2012. Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl and Morley Safer are the correspondents. David Browning and Warren Lustig, producers.
Tonight, we remember Mike Wallace, one of the founders of this broadcast and its most public face, who died in April at the age of 93. For 40 years, it was the sound of the stopwatch and Mike's voice that signaled the start of another edition of "60 Minutes." That voice has been silenced, but he was one of the true giants of television. His reporting style and interviewing technique influenced generations of journalists, and set the style and tone of this program. What better way to honor and remember Mike, than to look back at some of the highlights of his extraordinary career.
[Mike Wallace montage: He was doing what? With you. Why? Why? Why? Really? When you boil it down to low gravy...You demanded special treatment. You needed money. It's almost an embarrassment, sir, to hear this from you. What? What did they want you to do? What is it?]
I sat down with Mike in the spring of 2006 on the occasion of his semi-retirement from "60 Minutes." In the studio where the show is put together every week, we watched some notable people get put through the Mike Wallace meat-grinder.
[Mike Wallace: Wait, wait, wait. What are you saying?]
For instance: there he was with Vladimir Putin who, at the time was the president of Russia. But it's clear from this interview, that Mike was the one in charge.
[Mike Wallace: Corruption is everyplace in Russia. Agreed? Why? To get anything done: money.]
Steve Kroft: I've never seen the situation or seen an interview that you did not dominate, in terms of personality, in terms of force of personality.
Mike Wallace: That's very flattering, I guess, but, but...
Steve Kroft: How do you do it?
Mike Wallace: I'm nosy and insistent and not to be pushed aside.
Steve Kroft: And confident.
Mike Wallace: Confident in the material that I have and the questions that I have. Confident that when I ask a question, there's a reason for its being asked, that I have the specifics in research to warrant the asking of a q....it's not a question picked out of the air.
[Mike Wallace: You are the last major communist dictatorship in the world.]
Mike was always an equal opportunity offender. Here with Jiang Zemin, then president of China.
[Mike Wallace: Am I wrong?
Jiang Zemin: Of course. This is big mistake.
Mike Wallace: You are.
Jiang Zemin: Very frank speaking, I don't agree with your point I'm dictator.
Mike Wallace: I know you don't. I know that you don't. But there's an old American phrase about if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and so forth, it's a duck.]
Steve Kroft: To me, that's a classic Mike Wallace interrogation.
[Mike Wallace: Father knows best.]
Steve Kroft: He said very little, except react. And you could tell a lot from the reaction.
[Mike Wallace: And if you get in the way of father, father will take care of you.]
That kind of audacity is something that Mike perfected long before "60 Minutes."
[Mike Wallace, on set of "Night Beat": Really.]
It began 50 years ago, with a local New York interview show called "Night Beat."
[Mike Wallace: Good evening. I'm Mike Wallace, the show is "Night Beat."]
Mike Wallace: Up to "Night Beat," I was utterly anonymous. "Night Beat" was the one.
[Mike Wallace, montage: What do you know about that? Who in the United States is qualified? What kind of people are your friends?]
"Night Beat" -- and the spinoffs Mike did for ABC -- revolutionized TV talk. Here he is with another Mike: Labor Leader Mike Quill.
[Mike Wallace: What about statements you made in your own paper...]
Mike Wallace: We were doing the kinda show that had never been done before. Nasty questions, abrasive questions, confrontational questions.
[Mike Quill: And you have no right to sit in judgment of me.
Mike Wallace: I'm not sitting in judgment, I'm simply asking a question.
Mike Quill: I'm ready anytime you want to repeat the stupid question.]
The similarities with "60 Minutes" are striking. Mobster Mickey Cohen with Mike in 1957.
[Mike Wallace: You've killed at least one man, or how many more?
Mickey Cohen: Well -
Mike Wallace: How many more, Mickey?
Mickey Cohen: I have killed no men that, in the first place, didn't deserve killing.]
Mobster Jimmy Fratianno on "60 Minutes" In 1981.
[Mike Wallace: Jimmy, who was the first person you killed?
Jimmy Fratianno: Frankie Niccoli.
Mike Wallace: Where'd you kill him?
Jimmy Fratianno: In my house.
Mike Wallace: How'd you kill him?
Jimmy Fratianno: We strangled him. But I think it would bother me if I killed an innocent person.
Mike Wallace: What do you mean by innocent person?
Jimmy Fratianno: Well, you're an innocent person.
Mike Wallace: I'm glad to hear you, you don't have designs...
Jimmy Fratianno: I mean, somebody innocent, you know.]
Mike Wallace: They're fascinating characters, aren't they?
Steve Kroft: Yes. Do you like doing Mafia guys?
Mike Wallace: Of course.
Steve Kroft: Never felt scared?
Mike Wallace: Pshaw. I'm a pro. What happens is you try to establish, or I do, a kind of chemistry of confidentiality.
Steve Kroft: Even though there are cameras running?
Mike Wallace: Yeah. And you can. After a while the interviewee is so persuaded that you've done a lot of work and that you know a lot about him or her, and he says, "Look, I'm here. I'm gonna be asked some questions so why don't we look at each other and talk to each other." And that-- and all of a sudden you can see, they forget the cameras, they forget the lights and they begin to answer accurately and in a strange way, comfortably.
[Mike Wallace : Come on out. You don't want to talk to me? ]
He also went, with great relish, after smalltime crooks, cons and miscreants of all sorts.
[Mike Wallace: I don't understand. They must be ashamed of something.
Mike Wallace: Why are you so reluctant, why are you so reluctant...
Man, pushing Mike: You wanna get over here, Mike, you wanna just get right over here...]
Steve Kroft: You got roughed up a little bit there.
Mike Wallace: A little bit yeah. He just didn't want to answer the question.
Steve Kroft: Mmmhmm.
[Mike Wallace: Father, I want to read you some things...]
Steve Kroft: I mean, you ride up like the Lone Ranger saving the day.
[Mike Wallace : She lost her virginity that day. Now why would she say that about you, Father Kirsch, if it were not so?]
Mike Wallace: And the audience obviously just loved it.
[Mike Wallace: How are you sir?
Man in office: What is this?
Mike Wallace: This is "60 Minutes."
Man in office: Wow.]
Mike Wallace: Here was a reporter who was willing to go in and make a damn fool of himself sometimes.
[Mike Wallace: No, I have no intention of leaving until you tell me what's on your mind. (Slams door on cameraman)]
[Mike Wallace: We gave you forty dollars, you gave us...]
Porn peddlers, scammers, confidence men...
[Man: I don't know, he put over there. These is my films... ]
[Man: You're contemptible. I mean this, not for the camera, I'd like you to get outta here.]
For a few years, they were staples on "60 Minutes."
[Man: I hope you got it and I hope you have the guts to use it.]
Steve Kroft: If you had so much fun, and the audience loved it, why did you stop doing it?
Mike Wallace: Because it became a caricature of itself. And we realized we weren't getting information, we were getting drama.
Steve Kroft: Mike, you have something against drama?
Mike Wallace: Oh, no. But if it is legitimate drama, if you really are after, by asking a tough question, or a difficult question, nothing wrong with it. Because you're in search of the truth, you hope. Accuracy, understanding. But to do it just to make somebody look like a fool or embarrass them or whatever, after a while, uh-uh.
[Mike Wallace: Alright...]
Over the years, Mike developed his own special shorthand vocabulary for dragging information out of people.
Steve Kroft: You have a couple of stock phrases. Come on.
[Mike Wallace, montage: Come on. Come on. Come on. Oh, come on! Come on!]
Steve Kroft: Look. Like, "Look!"
[Mike Wallace, montage: Look. Look. Look.]
Mike Wallace: You don't do it on purpose, it's in conversation.
Steve Kroft: Forgive me.
[Mike Wallace, montage: Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.]
In Mike-speak, "forgive me" always meant a really nasty question was coming. Here's the famous encounter during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 when Mike asked the Ayatollah Khomeini if he was nuts.
[Mike Wallace: Imam, President Sadat of Egypt says what you are doing is quote a disgrace to Islam. And he calls you, Imam, forgive me, his words, not mine, "a lunatic."]
Mike Wallace: I figured, what the hell are they going to do, make me a hostage too, if I ask -
Steve Kroft: Put you in prison.
Mike Wallace: Yeah.
[Mike Wallace, translator: That's, yes, that's what I heard President Sadat say...]
Mike Wallace: The guy that was translating, he looked over at me and said, "You're the lunatic if you think I'm gonna translate that question to the Ayatollah."
[Mike Wallace, to translator: And he used the word, a lunatic.
Ayatollah Khomeini: Sadat...]
Mike Wallace: And it got the Ayatollah's attention for the first time.
But the classic Mike question -- or non-question -- is the damning list of White House crimes he read to presidential aide John Ehrlichman in 1973, at the height of the Watergate scandal.
[Mike Wallace: Laundering money in Mexico. Payoffs to silence witnesses. Perjury. Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Theft of psychiatric records. Spying by undercover agents. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the law and order administration of Richard Nixon.
John Ehrlichman: Is there a question in there somewhere?]
Steve Kroft: Did you ask a follow-up?
Mike Wallace: I didn't need to. What you've done is the bill of particulars about the law and order of Richard Nixon.
Steve Kroft: And a plea of no contest.
Mike Wallace: Basically, that's correct.
[Tina Tuurner: You just remember one thing, in our first meeting. You must be good to me.
Mike Wallace: Why would I be otherwise?]
In many ways, Tina Turner's gentle plea to Mike before their interview a dozen years ago spoke volumes about his talents and reputation. He was nice to her. But soon he went right back to his not so nice ways, here with Charlton Heston.
[Mike Wallace: It sounds to me a little bit like the language of the quintessential, forgive me, nut case, right-wing zealot.]
In the spirit of fair play, we asked Mike a final, classic Mike question.
Steve Kroft: This is what some people say about you.
Mike Wallace: Uh-huh.
Steve Kroft: That you're a grandstander. That you're the most important person in the story. That you're more important than the story sometimes. That you're egotistical, occasionally cruel. And for many people, well-mannered people, the embodiment of everything that they hate about reporters.
Mike Wallace: I've gotta plead guilty, I suppose. You know, but it comes with the territory. Or it certainly has come with my territory.
Mike helped create 60 Minutes in 1968 at the age of 50. No one could have known that he was just starting the biggest part of his career and launching, with Don Hewitt, the most successful program in the history of primetime television. His interviews were like no others. Interviews that -- he once told Ed Bradley -- were based on one simple idea.
Mike Wallace: Let's ask the questions that might be on the minds of the people looking in. They would love to feel that if I were there in that chair where Wallace is, here's what I would want to know.
[ Mike Wallace: Who wants to kill you?
Mike Wallace: What the dickens are you doing?
Mike Wallace: Mr. Ferguson, it's quite apparent that something's going on there.]
He went after politicians.
[Mike Wallace: Why'd you take the money?
Mr. Ferguson: My taking the money had nothing to do with the legislation.
Mike Wallace: I mean, you're a crook.]
[Mike Wallace: And a murderer.
Danny Faries: That's what they say. Doggone, I wish they didn't say that, though.]
Dictators, like Panama's Manuel Noriega.
[Mike Wallace: How much do you make? Hard question. Simple question.]
Even movie legends, like Bette Davis.
[Mike Wallace: It may just have been that you were difficult, Bette.
Bette Davis: No, no, no, no.
Michael Wallace: Not difficult, impossible.]
He was, in fact, the heart and soul of this broadcast. Showing us all time and again, how it's done.
[Mike Wallace: You don't trust the media, you've said so. You don't trust whites, you've said so. You don't trust Jews, you've said so. Well, here I am.]
His encounter with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was classic Mike.
[Louis Farrakhan: So what?]
Straight talk, no nonsense, and fireworks when the subject turned to corruption in Nigeria.
[Louis Farrakhan: No, I will not allow America or you, Mr. Wallace, to condemn them as the most corrupt nation on Earth. How dare you put yourself in that position as a moral judge. I think you should keep quiet.
Louis Farrakhan: I didn't mean to be so fired up.
Mike Wallace: No, no. That was good. That was good.]
By our rough count, since the birth of this broadcast, Mike did over 800 reports involving literally thousands of interviews, from the hilarious to the heartbreaking.
[Mike Wallace: Can I take you back to November 22nd in 1963...]
In terms of power and poignancy, his interview with former Secret Service Agent Clint Hill has no equal. That's Hill, climbing aboard John Kennedy's car in Dallas, risking his own life seconds after the president was shot. For years, Hill blamed himself for Kennedy's death, and he talked about it publicly for the first time with Mike.
[Clint Hill: It was my fault.
Mike Wallace: Oh. No one has ever suggested that for an instant. What you did was show great bravery and great presence of mind. What was on the citation that was given you for your work on November 22nd, 1963?
Clint Hill: I don't care about that, Mike.
Mike Wallace: Extraordinary courage and heroic effort in the face of maximum danger...
Clint Hill: Mike, I don't care about that. If I had reacted just a little bit quicker. And I could have, I guess. And I'll live with that to my grave.]
[Ronald Reagan: I came here with the belief....]
Mike interviewed his friends the Reagans many times.
[Mike Wallace: Why hasn't this job weighed as heavily on you as it has on some other occupants of this Oval Office?
Ronald Reagan: Well, Mike, I don't know what the answer to that would be. Well. maybe none of them had a Nancy. ]
Reporting on them from the sunny days at the California ranch, to the White House, to the long goodbye.
[Mike Wallace: Do you think he knows you still?
Nancy Reagan: I don't know.
Mike Wallace: Have you said goodbye?
Nancy Reagan: No. Not really. He's there. He's there.]
Mike was at it so long, he'd interviewed presidents and first ladies going all the way back to Eleanor Roosevelt in the 50s.
[Mike Wallace: A good many people hated your husband. They even hated you.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Oh yes. A great many do still.]
Matter of fact, you can take any historic moment in recent decades and there, somewhere in the frame, like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen's character Zelig -
[Walter Cronkite: Oh, they've shoved Mike down.]
You'll usually find Mike.
[Walter Cronkite: They sure gave you a rough shove...
Mike Wallace: I'm fine.]
[Mike Wallace: In our studios in Chicago is Dr. Martin Luther King.]
In the 1960s alone he interviewed Martin Luther King, Junior, JFK, and Malcolm X. Who, months before his death, confessed to Mike his fear that his enemies in the Black Muslim Movement were plotting his assassination.
[Mike Wallace: Are you not perhaps afraid of what might happen to you as a result of making these revelations?
Malcolm X: Oh yes. I probably am a dead man already.]
He roamed the world in search of provocative interviews.
[Mike Wallace: The Israelis could be persuaded...]
In the Mideast alone he spoke to Golda Meir. Menachem Begin. The shah of Iran. And, seven different times over the years --
[Yasir Arafat: Me?
Mike Wallace: Yes, you.]
[Mike Wallace: Mr. Chairman, there are Palestinians who would like to kill you.
Yasir Arafat: Maybe they are opposing me, but not to kill me.]
[Mike Wallace: Where do you inject it?
Jose Canseco: Into your gluteous maximus which is your butt muscle.
Mike Wallace: Your butt muscle.]
For years, Mike's unerring instinct for the hot button topic Sunday night had America buzzing on Monday morning.
[Mike Wallace: What you are saying is that the national pastime -
Jose Canseco: National pastime is juiced?
Mike Wallace: Is juiced.
Jose Canseco: Yeah, it is.]
His interview with Jose Canseco led Congress to investigate steroid use in Major League Baseball.
[Mike Wallace: You think that people are gonna believe you?]
A topic he revisited with Roger Clemens.
[Roger Clemens: 24, 25 years, Mike, you think I'd get an inch of respect...an inch. How can you prove your innocence?
Mike Wallace: Apparently you haven't done it yet.]
And another controversial newsmaker -- Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian -- went to prison after giving Mike this tape.
[Jack Kevorkian: We're gonna inject in your right arm.]
It shows Kevorkian administering a lethal injection to a gravely ill patient who wanted to die.
[Mike Wallace: Is he dead now?
Jack Kevorkian: He's dying now.
Mike Wallace: There is something almost ghoulish in your desire to see the deed done.
Jack Kevorkian: It appears that way to you I can't criticize you for that. But the main point is the last part of your statement: that the deed be done.]
But the most shocking interview Mike ever did is surely the one with Vietnam veteran Paul Meadlo on "60 Minutes" in 1969.
[Paul Meadlo: I might have killed about 10, 15 of them.]
Meadlo confessed his role in the My Lai massacre, the Vietnam atrocity by American troops that appalled the nation. Even Mike was surprised, as he told our late colleague, Ed Bradley.
Mike Wallace: How in the world do you shoot babies? Why in the world, I asked him?
[Mike Wallace: How do you shoot babies?
Paul Meadlo: I don't know, just one of them things.].
Mike Wallace: Just one of them things.
And 30 years later, Mike went back to My Lai with Hugh Thompson and Larry Colburn, the two soldiers who put a stop to the massacre.
[Mike Wallace: She wants to meet Mister Thompson. Well, here is Mr. Thompson.]
Mike Wallace: And it was such a moving experience...to see the people who had heard about them.
Mike Wallace: Astonishing what you learn and feel and see along the way. A reporter's job as you know is such a joy.
When you think of Mike, you might think of him barging in on bureaucrats and bad guys, loaded for bear. But over the years some of his most memorable interviews were with entertainers. It was just a couple of years ago we sat down with Mike to screen some of his greatest show biz hits, beginning with an example of almost every interviewer's nightmare: a performer so quick and so funny that right from the start, you're not sure who's interviewing whom. In this case, it's Mike and Mel Brooks.
[Mike Wallace: Tell me something. The show -
Mel Brooks: Is that a $100 watch? Let me see that watch.
Mike Walace: It's about a $40 watch.
Mel Brooks: It's a beautiful watch.
Mike Wallace: Isn't it? It's a $40 watch.
Mel Brooks: Really?
Mike Wallace: Yeah. Lights up in the dark.
Mel Brooks: What a cheap son of a bitch you are.
Mike Wallace: You got that right. You're a great judge of character.
Mel Brooks: Yeah.
Mike Wallace: Tell me this -
Mel Brooks: What did you pay for your jacket?
Mike Wallace: I don't know. This, this is hopsack.
Mel Brooks: Hopsack is like fancy burlap. Right?
Mike Wallace: That's exactly right. That's exactly right.
Mel Brooks: It's like burlap shrunk down. Do you know that six months ago that, your jacket carried coffee beans? Do you realize that? Wait a minute. It reeks of Colombian coffee, I gotta tell you.
Lesley Stahl: He's completely hijacked your interview. Clearly.
Mike Wallace: Good. That's not hijacking an interview.
Lesley Stahl: You didn't think, oh my god, I'm out of control here?
Mike Wallace: Oh, not for an instant. I was grateful to him for what he was doing.
[Mel Brooks: Make a noise! ]
Over the years he has matched wits with the best that Broadway, Hollywood and the music world have to offer. Long-hairs from Leonard Bernstein to Luciano Pavarotti and divas of all stripes, from Janis Joplin to Julie Andrews to Oprah.
[Mike Wallace: God.
Oprah Winfrey: God, yeah.
Mike Wallace: Important to you?
Oprah Winfrey: Oh yeah. I love her. I do!]
[Kirk Douglas: Come on, Mike...]
Here he is with actor Kirk Douglas in 1992.
[Mike Wallace: You had a reputation as a real horse's behind. Even your own kids said that you were very difficult.
Kirk Douglas: They didn't say I was a horse's ass, did they?
Mike Wallace: No, they did not.]
Lesley Stahl: Who besides Mike Wallace would start an interview by saying, "People say you're a horse's behind?" I mean, wow.
Mike Wallace: They know who I am and what kind of questions I might -
Lesley Stahl: They've walked into the den and they know it.
Mike Wallace: Oh, absolutely. Why do they do it?
Lesley Stahl: They think they can beat you.
Mike Wallace: That's correct.
Not many did. Mike got to hang out with Johnny Carson in 1979 for Carson's only in-depth television profile.
[Johnny Carson: Why are you doing this now? I'm not running a boiler room operation, I have no phony real estate scam, I'm not taking any kickbacks...]
It was pleasant and innocuous enough until Carson mentioned his rule about never joking on "The Tonight Show" about people's drinking problems.
[Mike Wallace: It takes one to know one.
Johnny Carson: Ahhhh. Cruel, you're cruel.
Mike Wallace: There was a time. Come on. There was a time when -
Johnny Carson: I used to have a little pop. I sure did.
Mike Wallace: That's right.
Johnny Carson: I don't handle it well.
Mike Wallace: Really, you don't?
Johnny Carson: I don't handle alcohol well at all, no. Really don't. And when I did drink, I ran into a lot of people who become fun-loving and gregarious and loved everybody, I would go the opposite, and it would happen just like that.]
Mike Wallace: I loved that man. I really did.
Lesley Stahl: He wasn't upset with this interview?
Mike Wallace: No, no. He loved it. And of course, the one thing that he did not like was that I beat him at tennis. That was very important to him.
Lesley Stahl: He was competitive.
[Johnny Carson: Whaddya waiting for, your pacemaker to start? I think it's gotta kick in just about when you serve.]
The chemistry between Mike and his interview subjects is sometimes complicated.
[Mike Wallace: You would love to control this piece.
Barbra Streisand: Absolutely. Are you kidding?]
He first met Barbra Streisand in the 1960s, when she was a guest on a talk show he hosted. Three decades later on "60 Minutes," they crossed swords in one of Mike's most controversial interviews.
[Mike Wallace: I really didn't like you back 30 years ago. And I don't think you liked me, either.
Barbra Streisand: I thought you were mean. I thought you were very mean.
Mike Wallace: You know something? Twenty or 30 years of psychoanalysis. I say to myself, what is it she's trying to find out that takes 20 to 30 years?
Barbra Streisand: I'm a slow learner. And why do you sound so accusatory, too?
Mike Wallace: I'm not accusing -
Barbra Streisand: Are you against psychotherapy?]
And then there's Shirley MacLaine. She got the full Wallace treatment in 1984.
[Mike Wallace: You really believe that you lived lives before.
Shirley MacLaine: Oh, yes, Mike. I do, there's no doubt in my mind about it.
Mike Wallace: And you really believe in extraterrestrial -- how, do they come visit you on the porch? Now you're being unpleasant, Wallace, is what you're saying.
Shirley MacLaine: Yes. This is what I was a little afraid of. But you don't have to be that unpleasant. It doesn't become you, you know?]
But dare we say it -- in his old age, a side of Mike emerged that was positively paternal. Here he is with actress Hilary Swank, whose rise to the top in Hollywood is a story to soften the heart of even the toughest old crank.
[Hilary Swank: My mom said to me that I could do anything that I wanted in life as long as I worked hard enough. And to this day it still makes me really emotional.
Mike Wallace: Yup.
Hilary Swank: Because I just never questioned it, you know? She just always believed in me.]
Mike Wallace: She was the genuine article.
But his all-time favorite interview -- not just among the performers, but of all of them -- was with piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz in 1977.
Mike Wallace: I was in awe of this guy. He comes into the orchestra hall in Chicago. And I say, "Oh, maestro." "Mike Wallace! I watch you every Sunday night!" Come on.
[Mike Wallace: You know what I'm going to ask you...
Vladimir Horowitz: Yes, I know because they ask me all the time.]
Mike Wallace: And when I asked him to play what he had played in Central Park in 1945, the "Stars and Stripes Forever"...
[Vladimir Horowitz: No, I forgot that!
Mike Wallace: You, come on, you haven't forgotten.
Vladimir Horowitz: I tell you I don't know it!]
Mike Wallace: I don't know, how, I don't, forget it, he was going...
[Vladimir Horowitz: I have to remember, it's too difficult!]
Mike Wallace: And his wife Wanda said, "Play it."
[Wanda Horowitz: Go on from there.]
Mike Wallace: And he did.
Lesley Stahl: Why was that your favorite? Why? Because you were -
Mike Wallace: Because you got the unvarnished -- this was the first time he had ever done anything like this.
We thought of another reason. Because in a lot of ways, Vladimir Horowitz was just like Mike Wallace. Brilliant, temperamental, a holy terror.
When Horowitz was growing up in Russia, people who heard his astonishing playing thought he was possessed by the devil. Just like Mike.
[Mike Wallace, montage: Rolling? Now, wait just a moment! Come on, goddamn it, Mike! Get out of the way, will you please kid. ]
When Mike Wallace was born 93 years ago in Brookline, Mass., he was named Myron. A name he never really liked and, as soon as he could, he changed it to what he felt was the punchier Mike, and he spent the best part of a century living up to that combative moniker.
As you've seen our tribute has consisted of equal parts roast and testimonial. Since I've known him, shared a great deal with him and even fought with him longer than anybody else still around "60 Minutes," it falls to me to add a little armchair analysis. It's not easy to figure out a friend at a time like this. A man who at times was as decent a person as anyone would want to know. And at times, well, something else.
[Mike Wallace, on phone: Hello. When did you get back from Tehran?]
Morley Safer: Do you feel that it's time to maybe pack it in and reflect or -
Mike Wallace: Reflect about what?
Morley Safer: Whatever.
Mike Wallace: Give me a break. Reflect. What am I gonna reflect about?
We knew it would not be easy trying to get him to reflect on his life and times, his legacy and all that.
[Mike Wallace, in hallway: How do you do, sir.]
Reflection was never Mike's long suit.
[Mike Wallace, in studio: Alright, here we go.]
He liked to work, and argue.
[Mike Wallace, in studio: What really gets Andy Rooney worked up? He's about to tell you.
Director: Let's do that again.
Mike Wallace: Why? Why? That was good!]
[Mike Wallace: Just hold it a minute, goddamn it.]
This famous footage is of Mike arguing with Don Hewitt, the man who dreamed up "60 Minutes."
[Mike Wallace: You're gutting the piece.
Don Hewitt: Forget "60 Minutes," you're not getting on this week.]
Though their dustups were by far the loudest, Mike and I also had our moments.
Mike Wallace: I mean we were colleagues and competitors at the same time. When I wanted to do a story, and you wanted to do a story, and it's the same story...
Morley Safer: And I come into the office the next day and you're out of town doing the story. It's been a very bumpy and satisfying road, though.
Mike Wallace: That's exactly right.
Truth be told, Mike's story -- Myron's story -- is of the road not taken. If his parents had their way, young Myron probably would have become just what the world needed, one more lawyer.
Morley Safer: Were you a good kid? A hell raiser? What?
Mike Wallace: I was a pretty good kid. I was an overachiever. I worked very, played a hell of a fiddle.
[Mike Wallace, on radio: Grades are coming out soon...]
In college, he got interested in radio. And soon after, in 1941, he reached a kind of pinnacle: announcer on the Green Hornet.
[Mike Wallace, on radio: Ride with Britt Reed as he races to another thrilling adventure! The Green Hornet strikes again!]
And that was that. No lawyer for the Wallaces.
Mike Wallace: Whatever Myron wanted to do, Myron was gonna do.
[Mike Wallace: Hello! I'm Mike Wallace with real news...]
Myron -- Mike -- went on to do all kinds of early television. From variety shows to commercials.
[Mike Wallace: It's Proctor and Gamble's Golden Fluffo...]
[Mike Wallace: Darling at this point in our lives...]
From talk to soap.
[Mike Wallace, in soap opera: 'Cause I got it made.]
Mike Wallace: It was fine. It was honest work. But I was not especially proud of it.
And then in 1962, an event that would change his life. While sightseeing on a mountaintop in Greece -- Mike's 19-year-old son Peter was killed.
Mike Wallace: And we went over and found him. He had fallen off a cliff. He...you know what do you say? He was a glorious young man. The-
Morley Safer: I cannot think of anything worse -
Mike Wallace: Oh, yeah.
Morley Safer: Than losing a child. I mean, we are programmed so that they will outlive us.
Mike Wallace: Uh-huh. That's right.
To honor Peter's memory, Mike decided to concentrate on more meaningful work.
[Mike Wallace, on radio: Mike Wallace at large on the CBS radio network.]
CBS News became his professional home where he labored -- in the late 1960s and early 70s -- on a broadcast not too many people watched.
["60 Minutes" open: I'm Morley Safer. I'm Mike Wallace.]
"60 Minutes," the early years.
Mike Wallace: We finished regularly 85 out of 100 shows and so forth. But we got our act together during those years.
[Harry Reasoner: We'll also be switching to San Diego where the crew of the Pueblo is enjoying a Christmas Eve reunion with their families.]
Morley Safer: It was spring training.
Mike Wallace: That's exactly right.
[Montage of Mike openings on "60 Minutes": I'm Mike Wallace, I'm Mike Wallace...]
The rest, as they say, is history. On screen, of course, there was little evidence of the toll taken by the brutal hours and the arguments and the hundreds upon hundreds of airplane flights and hotel rooms.
[Airport security: Sir, do you have some piece of identification?]
But like all of us, Mike did not escape untouched. He passed out on a plane some years ago. Doctors implanted a pacemaker, and monitored his heart by long distance. Over the years, he became involved in some major embarrassments for CBS.
[Mike Wallace: What you're charging Brown & Williamson, with...]
There was his interview with whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand, who charged that despite its denials, the tobacco industry had known for years how harmful cigarettes were.
[Jeffery Wigand: It's a delivery device for nicotine.
Mike Wallace: A delivery device for nicotine. Put it in your mouth, light it up, and you're gonna get your fix.
Jeffery Wigand: Get your fix.]
CBS management first refused to air the interview. By the time it finally did run, the network had a very public black eye.
But it was a lawsuit over a Vietnam documentary that literally took him to the edge.
[William Westmoreland: And the facts prove that I was right. Now let's stop it.
Mike Wallace: Alright, sir.]
General William Westmoreland sued Mike and CBS for reporting that Westmoreland had deliberately falsified estimates of enemy troop strength in Vietnam. The suit was eventually dropped, and Mike talked many times about the deep depression that descended on him during the trial. What he did not talk about was something a few of us always suspected.
Morley Safer: Did you try to commit suicide at one point?
Mike Wallace: Uh, I've never said this before. Yeah. I tried. I don't know why the hell you asked me that question because I, other people have and I've -- it's the first time I've answered it honestly. I wrote a note. And Mary found it. And she found the pills that I was taking on the floor. I was asleep.
That was more than 25 years ago. Mike's wife Mary got him through it. And those intervening years were some of the most productive in his career.
Morley Safer: You've since become a kind of poster boy for dealing with depression.
Mike Wallace: Yes I have. Depression can be treated.
And he pulled no punches about his own depression in his memoirs.
[Woman, in bookstore: Thank you very much.]
And there were only so many awards to be had. As for retirement? That was never an option.
Mike Wallace: I've always thought, what the dickens would I do? You paint. You write. You do all kinds of things I don't. I -- I work.
"I work." That, in a way, summed up Mike's life. A restless man always chasing the next story. Ready to tweak his next victim -- even when the victim was himself.
[Itzhak Perlman: You're going to become a musician now, enough of this broadcasting stuff...]
In preparation for his retirement, we took him to the violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, whom Mike once profiled, to see if there was a second career in the old war horse.
Itzhak Perlman: Let me see your bow grip. Thumb a little bent. Nah, nah, nah, nah. This is a real challenge. That's it.
Itzhak Perlman: Do you remember songs you played when you were a kid?
Mike Wallace: Meditation from Thais. Play it. Come on.
(Perlman plays violin)
Mike Wallace: At Christmas celebration, the whole family was there and they got on the old man, to play Meditation from Thais. And I started to play it, and everybody began to laugh.
Itzhak Perlman: Cry.
Mike Wallace: No to laugh. I never have picked up the fiddle since. And you know what this morning has done...this? I am never going to pick up the fiddle again.
A few years back in what turned out to be Mike's last taped interview he talked with his grandson, Eames Yates. As you'll see Mike was relaxed and as always, very candid.
Mike Wallace: For some reason they decided to do a cover. I used to do a column here in New York in the Post. This-- I was being taken off the floor at the 1968 Democratic convention and I said, like this, "What are you getting so excited about?" to the cop.
Eames Yates: Oh god.
Mike Wallace: "You're under arrest." I mean it. I grabbed him.
Eames Yates: You've reached the highest level of success. What do you feel you've sacrificed to get to that position?
Mike Wallace: I was more interested in my work than in my family.
Eames Yates: In the sense of did you derive more happiness from work?
Mike Wallace: Apparently I did, yeah. 'Cause I - I've been married four times. Well, those marriages, those divorces I should say were casualties of preoccupation with work and insufficient attention to family relationships.
Eames Yates: Do you feel the same aside from all the experiences that you've had as you did when you were my age?
Mike Wallace: Well I, I-- when I was your age, and this colored my - I used to have a very bad case of acne. You wouldn't have believed what it used to be. As a result of which I grew up with a kind of chip on my shoulder and a sense of inferiority. And I think that to a certain degree I tried to make up for that, some of it good. I knew that I was going to have to work harder -- that marked me.
Eames Yates: So you're saying like kind of a lack of confidence made you so good?
Mike Wallace: A lack of confidence made me work harder, yeah.
No one ever questioned Mike's work ethic. I think it's fair to say that this broadcast, this studio was his life. But fairly late in life he found another passion, another home -- back where he started, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Here Myron Wallace, class of 1939, first stepped before a microphone and here there is a place that he founded called Wallace House, a place where working journalists, from round the country and the world can come to renew themselves, to study, to hone their craft to better serve the public interest.
"60 Minutes" and Wallace House -- not too bad a legacy for our old pal, for that cheeky kid from Brookline.
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