SAYONARA TO MIKE WALLACE AND THE NEWS ERA HE LED
By Danny Schechter
New York: Mike Wallace lived a long life and became one of America's best-known non-anchor news stars, whose frequent appearances stirred controversies and broke countless stories.
The picture in the New York Times obit showed his wall of Emmys--I am sure he had a museumfull--all thanks to his relentless drive and unlimited energy.
Later in life, he would acknowledge that he was a manic depressive, but it was that manic part that pushed him to interview a who's who of who was, and expose endless bad guys often with gimmicky confrontational interviews that showcased his considerable talents on 60 Minutes, for decades. America's most watched news magazine.
My earliest memory of him was not on CBS where he achieved iconic status but on a network that came and went called Dumont, where he did an interview show for many years before he went national.
The show was called Night Beat, and was shot in black and white in a darkened studio that Mike lit up with his questions and chain smoking, very much in the Edward R, Murrow tradition.
The episode that stuck with me was his interview with Michael J. Quill, the late president of New York's Transport Workers Union who liked to strike on New Year's Eve to get the best deals for his members.
The two Mikes were going mano a mano, when Wallace, with black hair slicked back, posed a simple question that I've never forgotten.
He asked: "How did you organize such a diverse group of workers into one union?
Quill smiled, and then responded with that Irish brogue of his, saying, "Well Michael, there was one issue that brought the men together."
And what was that?
"There was a lack of toilets for the subway workers."
"And not only that, Michael," he added, "where there were toilets, there was no toilet paper."
That was the issue: the lack of tissue.