Wallace, Mike 1918–
Wallace, Mike 1918–
(Myron Leon Wallace)
PERSONAL: Born Myron Leon Wallace, May 9, 1918, in Brookline, MA; son of Frank (a grocer and insurance broker) and Zina Wallace; married Norma Kaphan, August 27, 1940 (divorced, 1948); married Patrizia "Buff" Cobb (a talk show hostess), 1949 (divorced, 1955); married Lorraine Perigord (an artist), August 21, 1955 (divorced, 1985); married Mary Yates (a reporter), June 28, 1986; children: Peter (deceased), Christopher, Pauline, Eames Yates (stepson). Education: University of Michigan, A.B., 1939. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Current affairs, reading, tennis.
CAREER: WOOD-WASH Radio, Grand Rapids, MI, newscaster, announcer, and continuity writer, 1939–40; WXYZ-Radio, Detroit, MI, newscaster and narrator for The Green Hornet, 1940–41; freelance radio personality, Chicago, IL, and announcer on soap opera Road of Life, 1941–42; Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, reporter on Air Edition, 1941–43 and 1946–48; American Broadcasting Co. (ABC), New York, NY, host of quiz show Majority Rules, 1949–50; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), New York, host of quiz shows Guess Again, 1951, I'll Buy That, 1953, and What's in a Word?, 1954; WABD-TV, New York, host with wife, Buff Cobb, of variety show Mike and Buff, 1951–54, news anchor and interviewer on Night-Beat, 1956–57; National Broadcasting Co. (NBC), New York, host of quiz shows The Big Surprise, 1956–57, and Who Pays?, 1959; ABC, host of The Mike Wallace Interview, 1957–59; WNTA-TV, New York, anchor for News Beat, 1959–61; host of syndicated shows P.M. East—P.M. West, 1961–62, and Biography, c. 1961–64; CBS, interviewer, All around the Town and Night Beat, 1950s, anchor, The CBS Morning News, 1963–66, staff correspondent, 1963–, correspondent and investigative reporter, 60 Minutes, 1968–2006, correspondent emeritus, 2006–; host of The Twentieth Century with Mike Wallace, History Channel, 1998. Actor in series Stand by for Crime, ABC, 1949, and Suspense, CBS, 1953; actor on Broadway in Reclining Figure, 1954; coproducer of Mary Drayton's comedy Debut, in Matunuck, RI, at Theatre-by-the-Sea, 1955. Host, narrator, panelist, and guest for numerous television shows, specials, and documentaries. Military service: U.S. Naval Reserve, 1943–46; submarine force communications officer, and later in charge of radio entertainment; served in Pacific theater; became lieutenant junior grade.
MEMBER: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (executive vice president, 1960–61), Society of Professional Journalists (fellow), Sigma Delta Chi (fellow).
AWARDS, HONORS: Boston Headliners award, 1957; recipient of nineteen Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, beginning 1957; Robert E. Sherwood Award, 1957; Golden Globe for best television show, 1958, for The Big Surprise; George Foster Peabody Awards, 1963, 1971, and 1998; three Alfred DuPont Journalism Awards, Columbia University; Carr Van Anda Award, 1977; Thomas Hart Benton Award, 1978; lifetime achievement award, Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications, 1989; inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, 1991; Paul White Award, Radio/Television News Directors Association, 1991; named Broadcaster of the Year, International Radio and Television Society, 1993; Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, grand prize and televi-sion first prize, 1996, for CBS Reports "In the Killing Fields of America"; Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Southern California School of Journalism. Honorary doctorates from the University of Massachusetts, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania; honored with a star on the Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA.
Mike Wallace Asks, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1958.
(With Gary Paul Gates) Close Encounters: Mike Wallace's Own Story (memoir), Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
(With Allen Mikaelian) Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Gary Paul Gates) Between You and Me: A Memoir (includes companion DVD), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
Writer of column "Mike Wallace Asks," New York Post, 1957–58. Author of foreword, How You Can Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout, by Anne Sheffield, Harmony Books, 1998, and Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues that Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, Gordon B. Hinckley, Three Rivers Press, 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Television news correspondent Mike Wallace began his career in radio broadcasting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, then moved to Detroit to be heard on WXYZ's The Green Hornet and other radio dramas, including Ned Jordan and Secret Agent. With the rise of television in the early 1950s, he became a familiar personality, hosting various news, quiz, and interview shows. Wallace was a spokesperson for Parliament cigarettes during the early 1960s, but returned to the news, specifically The CBS Morning News, which he hosted from 1963 to 1966, following the death of his elder son, who died in a mountain climbing accident. His endeavors were as varied as hosting a variety show with his second wife, Buff Cobb, and writing a column for the New York Post, which became the basis for his first book, Mike Wallace Asks. In 1968, already a veteran of television news shows, he teamed up with producer Don Hewitt to create a new kind of show—a weekly news magazine called 60 Minutes. Wallace quickly became known for his unflinching interview style in which hard-hitting questions were posed to subjects in a manner reminiscent of an interrogation. Wallace's reputation for ferreting out injustice and making the alleged perpetrators squirm led him and the show to widespread acclaim and high ratings that rarely faltered over more than thirty years. By the 1980s, as some pundits have noted, four of the most feared words in the English language were "Mike Wallace is here."
Wallace recounts his television career in his memoir, Close Encounters: Mike Wallace's Own Story, written with Gary Paul Gates. With Wallace and Gates writing alternating chapters, the book balances Wallace's first-person perspective of life on the front lines of the media with Gates's third-person take on the same events. Many of the events recounted in Close Encounters may already be familiar to readers who have followed Wallace's career, but the book gives Wallace an opportunity to comment on events in hindsight and give a behind-the-scenes look at some of the controversies with which he has been involved over the years.
Several episodes in particular caught the attention of the book's reviewers. Wallace's 60 Minutes piece on Jews in Syria, aired in 1975, created a firestorm of controversy among Jews in the United States for its seemingly optimistic portrayal of Jewish life under Arabic rule. "One of the few deeper shades of the Wallace personality that is allowed to emerge in Close Encounters," wrote Herbert Dorfman in New Leader, "is his sensitivity to the matter of his Jewishness…. He deeply resented the mail that questioned why the Syrian report was done by a Jew." After the story aired, Wallace continued to research the issue, eventually returning to Syria to confirm his initial findings. The second time the story aired on 60 Minutes, it aroused little ire. "Thank God we were right," CBS Chairman William Paley is quoted as saying in the book, "and thank God our correspondent was Mike Wallace."
Two other issues that received attention in the book are Wallace's changing views on U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a war he initially supported but finally spoke out against in the 1982 CBS Reports documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, and his separate interviews with John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman about the Watergate scandal, which are notable in light of Wallace's previous longtime support of the Nixon administration. Dorfman commented that the book "does not tell us much about the private conflicts of Mike Wallace, but we do learn how concerned he is about his public image." Joseph G. Schaller, writing in Best Sellers, wrote on the contrary that Wallace "is quick to call himself on his mistakes, and his work stands as its own witness to his integrity as a journalist."
Wallace and Gates collaborated again for Between You and Me: A Memoir, in which Wallace recounts memorable moments in his career. He writes of interviews with Johnny Carson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malcolm X, Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, and others. The book comes with a ninety-minute DVD of clips. Library Journal reviewer Regina M. Beard wrote of the book: "The writing is informative, humorous, and laced with a journalist's passion for getting the story right."
Commenting on the success of 60 Minutes in Close Encounters, Wallace stated that "our pieces are constructed almost like morality plays." Despite its popularity, the show had its detractors over the years, many of whom accused Wallace of manipulating his subjects' responses in the interest of entertainment. Writing about the program in Choice, P.E. Kane observed that "the fundamental concern is showbiz and only secondarily news reporting, with dramatic confrontations and human interest bits edited to fit the perceived short attention span of the average television viewer." In an even larger sense, claimed Todd Gitlin in American Film, "60 Minutes and its ilk nab the petty crooks and leave the larger world of human injury and political crime largely unexamined." Yet Schaller wrote that "the more significant news events of the last two decades are revived in a refreshing manner through Wallace's text and commentary, represented with a healthy dose of hindsight and sense of humor."
In the late 1990s, Wallace went public about his battle with depression, an affliction he first experienced during General William Westmoreland's libel lawsuit against CBS in 1984. In 2006 he admitted that he once attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. Eventually overcoming the condition, Wallace has continued to be outspoken on the subject, appearing in the HBO documentary Dead Blue: Surviving Depression, and even writing the foreword to Anne Sheffield's How You Can Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout, a book designed to help family members cope with loved ones who are suffering from depression. Despite his battle with depression, Wallace has a reputation for being a workaholic, and he signed a four-year contract extension with CBS in 1994 at the age of seventy-six. As he told Gail Shister of Knight-Ridder: "I simply like to come to work every morning."
In early 2006, Wallace, at the age of eighty-seven, announced that he would retire from 60 Minutes in the spring of that year. By that time, he had cut his workload to six interviews a year, down considerably from the years when twenty was normal. Wallace remained part of the news division, however, as correspondent emeritus, with an office at CBS.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hewitt, Don, Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television, Public Affairs Press (Washington, DC), 2001.
Madsen, Axel, 60 Minutes: The Power and the Politics of America's Most Popular TV News Show, Dodd Mead (Newark, DE), 1984.
Wallace, Mike, and Gary Paul Gates, Close Encounters: Mike Wallace's Own Story, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
Wallace, Mike, and Gary Paul Gates, Between You and Me: A Memoir, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
American Film, January-February, 1985, Todd Gitlin, review of Close Encounters.
Best Sellers, November, 1984, Joseph G. Schaller, review of Close Encounters, p. 298.
Booklist, September 1, 2005, Vanessa Bush, review of Between You and Me, p. 4.
Choice, January, 1985, P.E. Kane, review of Close Encounters, p. 674.
Entertainment Weekly, November 4, 2005, Adam B. Vary, review of Between You and Me, p. 79.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Between You and Me, p. 965.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, April 8, 1994, Gail Shister, "Mike Wallace, 71, Says He Wishes He Knew How NOT to Work," interview with Wallace.
Library Journal, September 15, 2005, Regina M. Beard, review of Between You and Me, p. 74.
Miami Herald, November 9, 2005, Ike Seamans, review of Between You and Me.
New Leader, October 15, 1984, Herbert Dorfman, review of Close Encounters, pp. 15-16.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 2005, review of Between You and Me, p. 46.
Time, October 31, 2005, Jim Kelly, "10 Questions for Mike Wallace," interview with Wallace, p. 18.
USA Today, September 8, 2005, Carol Memmott, review of Between You and Me, p. 5D.
Vanity Fair, November, 2005, interview with Wallace, p. 394.
American Academy of Achievement Web site, http://www.achievement.org/ (April 8, 2006), biography of Mike Wallace.
CBS News Online, http://www.cbsnews.com/ (August 22, 2006), biography of Mike Wallace.
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (August 22, 2006), biography of Mike Wallace.
Dead Blue: Surviving Depression (documentary film), HBO, 1998.
Mike Wallace: Then and Now, a CBS News Special, CBS, 1990.