Mike Wallace had an absolutely amazing career as a game show host, actor, media personality and most importantly an American journalist, who became known as a provocative and merciless reporter. Mike Wallace spent the majority of his career making 60 Minutes the successful program that it was, since it debuted in 1968. During these four decades, Mike Wallace was not afraid to take on various corrupt politicians and scam artists and became known as “a one-man truth squad with a remarkable gift for getting to the very core of a story”, according to Morley Safer, Mike Wallace’s longtime colleague at 60 minutes.
When 60 Minutes began, Mike Wallace was already a well known veteran. Mike Wallace was born on May 9, 1918, Brookline, Massachusetts. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1939, he worked as an announcer and newscaster on radio, delving into various programs, including talk shows, game shows, the news and even some serials. Mike Wallace once said “I read rip-and-read news, but I wasn’t a reporter. I was reading the wire, and the other thing was, I was reading commercials — and I could do a hell of a commercial.”
Mike Wallace proudly served as a naval communications officer during World War II and was then subsequently hired as a radio reporter in Chicago. Mike Wallace began to work on television in the 1950s, making various commercials and hosting several television quiz shows. He joined CBS as a reporter in 1963 and became known through “CBS Morning news with Mike Wallace”, during which time he covered most of the major news stories of the 1960′s and also had several Vietnam assignments, which he eagerly took on. Did you happen to know that Mike Wallace was also the announcer voice for the Green Hornet? Perhaps before your time, or not.
Mike Wallace was always noted for his aggressive and bruising style, which led some of his guests to experience “Mike fright”. Mike Wallace traveled the world interviewing some of the most famous and powerful figures, and he won numerous Emmy Awards. When you watched an interview conducted by Mike Wallace, you knew it would be entertaining from the start, with to-the-point tough questions that would make the interviewee have to think on thier feet. Mike Wallace had a voice and gravitas like no other anchor, journalist or reporter that most have ever seen.
Mike Wallace’s Life and Career
There are so many aspects of Mike Wallace’s career one could focus on, although the most memorable moments in most people’s opinion would be those associated with his interviews of various 20th century icons. Who could forget his interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, when Mike Wallace asked him if he were crazy? Was anybody so bold as to lecture Vladimir Putin on corruption in Russia or Yasser Arafat on violence?
Did you happen to know that it was not Jack Paar, not Ed Sullivan and not Walter Cronkite, that scooped the story about the Beatles and introduced them to American television? It was Mike Wallace, who had produced a 5-minute short film about the Beatlemania phenomenon sweeping Britain Although nobody remembers that. Why, you ask? Well the day that the story aired was on Friday, November 22, 1963. Only a couple of hours after airing this news story, President Kennedy’s tragic assassination occurred and obviously became the focus of the nation for the days and weeks to come. Interestingly enough, 18 days later, when Walter Cronkite was looking for something light-hearted to lift the spirts of the American public, he recalled Mike Wallace’s piece on the Beatles and he re-aired the story. That film clip would trigger an incredible wild-fire-chain-reaction that kicked Bealtemania into gear in the United States.
Hu Jintao, China’s president for the last decade, is the first leader of China since the Empress Dowager Cixi (who died in 1908) to refuse to speak with foreign press. Mike Wallace’s 2000 interview with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin may have played a role in convincing Jiang’s successor of the value of keeping his mouth shut.
Mike Wallace’s last interview was in January 2008 with Roger Clemens, the former baseball star and slugger about his alleged steroid use. “How do you prove your innocence?” Clemens asked, to which Wallace responded, “Apparently you haven’t done it yet.”
Mike Wallace had an unbelievable knack to cozy up to those he was interviewing, allowing them to open up about topics that were untouchable by other journalists. Mike Wallace was fearless at what he did and “you could never…knock him down, he would bounce right back up”, Safer said. Mike Wallace circled the globe with his charm and wit, albeit sometimes barbed. Mike Wallace produced an overwelming number of documentaries that kept the world informed on a variety of interesting topics that no other journalists could conquer like Mike Wallace did.
Mike Wallace was one of the hardest working guys in the business and was self characterized as “nosy and insistent”. Mike Wallace’s style and approach were occasionally criticized by some bold critics. It is a fact that Mike Wallace and CBS were once sued by Gen. William Westmoreland in a $120 million libel lawsuit, which ended up being settled out of court with an apology. This event affected Mike Wallace and set off a depressive episode that he apparently would battle for the rest of his life. Mike Wallace made his diagnosis public in an interview with Bob Costas, in order to raise public awareness about clinical depression. On several occaisions, Mike Wallace talked openly about conversations with his psychiatrist, who he said taught him something about the art of interviewing. “You suddenly realize that if you can persuade somebody, as he persuaded me, to talk candidly,” he said, ” … it comes into play because it is useful, because it’s part of what you learn as you go. Come on, I’m nearing the end of the road and still learning.”
We will all certainly miss Mike Wallace. Wallace is survived by his wife, Mary; son Chris, host of “Fox News Sunday”; a stepdaughter, Pauline Dora; two stepsons, Eames and Angus Yates; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to CBS.
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace says his father Mike Wallace, who became his “best friend” in his final years, died surrounded by loved ones. “My dad was everything you saw on television: fascinating and funny, challenging and exasperating,” the younger Wallace said in a statement, after his father’s death Saturday at 93.
“He was the best reporter I have ever known. And while work often came first for him, over the last 20 years, he worked hard to make connections with his family. He became my best friend. And at the end, he was surrounded by children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. I already miss him terribly.”
Since the passing of Mike Wallace, there have been a number of really touching eulogies and heart-tugging tributes from a number of sources, including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CNN, and many others. Please take your time and explore these magnificant pieces put together in honor of Mike Wallace. Also, please check back often, as well be updating more posts as they become available.
(CBS News) The name Mike Wallace is synonymous with tough questions. He perfected the art on television. But those hard-hitting stories were not necessarily his favorites. “60 Minutes” colleagues Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl and Steve Kroft discussed Wallace’s favorite stories with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.
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