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A Short History of Mike Wallace, Broadcast Brawler

Photo of a wreath of white roses with a banner reading 'Mike Wallace,' over the Mike Wallace walk of fame star

“His icy intensity made him seem like an actor playing the role of TV newsman — which, in a sense, he was; before transitioning into the interviewing game in the late 1950s, Wallace was a stage actor, game show host, radio announcer, and commercial pitchman. Not even Edward R. Murrow had such hammy flair or such an exquisite sense of how to modulate it from one second to the next.”

NYMag notes that Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes were not always respected figures in journalism:

When I interviewed Wallace in the late 1990s for a TV column about a 60 Minutes commemorative special, I asked him if he ever thought he’d see the day when the program would be celebrated, even lionized as a bastion of old-school thoroughness and tact. He laughed and said, “What’s that line from Chinatown? Something about politicians, whores and buildings becoming respectable if they’re around long enough?” 

Not that he wasn’t good at his job:

He asked [Salvador] Dali about contemporaries, including Picasso, and about fear of death and Dali’s tenuous relationship with Roman Catholicism; it’s fantastic stuff.  

Here’s that Dali interview:

Thanks for the Parliaments, Mike!  And part two:

Wallace to Dali: “An article about you in Life magazine once said that you’re afraid of almost everything, from ocean liners to grasshoppers. The article said you won’t buy shoes because you don’t like to take off your shoes in public. And that when you go out you carry a little piece of Spanish driftwood which you keep to ward off evil spells.”  Heh!

See our biography of Mike Wallace »

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