Monday, April 9, 2012

In Memoriam: Mike Wallace 1918-2012

Often called the Grand Inquisitor of interviewers, Mike Wallace, who once declared there was "no such thing as an indiscreet question," died on Saturday at the age of 93.

In almost 40 years on the ground-breaking investigative journalism program "60 Minutes," he worked on some 800 reports, won 21 Emmys and developed a relentless on-air style that was characterized as interrogation rather than interview. In fact, during once such interrogation of a stage and screen legend, Mike Wallace became the only interviewer to cause the diva to cry. That legend: Barbra Streisand.

Wallace interviewed every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy - with the exception of George W. Bush -- and dozens of other world leaders. He also interviewed everyone from Malcolm X to Janis Joplin, Martin Luther King Jr., Johnny Carson and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

But, after zillions of interviews, which was Mike Wallace's favorite? Surprisingly enough, Morley Safer wrote in a tribute on
"It's strange, but for such a tough guy, Mike's all-time favorite interview was the one with [legendary], pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The two of them, forces of nature both: Sly, manic, egos rampant. For Mike -- a red, white and blue kind of guy -- Horowitz played 'The Stars and Stripes Forever.' It almost brought tears to the toughest guy on television."
One of my favorite Mike Wallace interviews is one that he did with soprano Maria Callas in her Paris apartment. He aggressively goes after Callas in a way that 5 or 10 years prior to this interview, he would not have gotten away with. Callas would have had his head on a platter. But, in 1973, Callas was a different person ...

Mike Wallace, rest peacefully.

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