08 April 2012

mike wallace, by morley safer

"At the University of Michigan, where his parents hoped he'd become a doctor or lawyer, he got hooked instead on radio. And by 1941, Mike was the announcer on "The Green Hornet."

"My family didn't know what to make of it - an announcer?" he recalled.

He was soon the hardest-working announcer in broadcasting.

When television arrived in the 1950s, Wallace was everywhere . . . variety shows, game shows, dramas, commercials.

But it was an interview show called "Nightbeat," first broadcast in 1956, that Wallace remembered fit him like custom-made brass knuckles. "We decided to ask the irreverent question, the abrasive question, the who-gives-a-damn question."

Some, like labor leader Mike Quill, had never been spoken to that way. "Go ahead and ask your stupid questions," he retorted.

Neither had mobster Mickey Cohen, whom Wallace asked, "How many men have you killed, Mickey?"

So when "60 Minutes" was born in 1968, Wallace brought with him his "Nightbeat" persona, and contributed 40 years' worth of nosiness, impertinence, and, of course, drama."

Morley Safer, on CBS NEWS (click to read the entire essay)

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