5 Things You Didn’t Know About ’60 Minutes’ Correspondent Mike Wallace
Legendary ’60 Minutes’ journalist Mike Wallace died over the weekend at the age of 93. While he will best be remembered for his work on the longtime CBS newsmagazine, there are plenty of other fascinating facts about Wallace that you may not know:
1. He was a game show host
Wallace, a native of Massachusetts and graduate of the University of Michigan, got his start in broadcasting on the radio as a news reader and announcer, but made the jump to TV as the medium began to change. Despite his legacy of hard-edged journalism, he actually got his start in entertainment — primarily in game shows. His first appearance on television was in 1950 on the game show ‘Majority Rules.’ He followed that hosting gigs on game shows such as ‘Guess Again,’ ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘The Big Surprise.’
2. He was the announcer for the radio show ‘The Green Hornet’
Before he made the jump to TV, Wallace had an extensive career in radio as an actor and announcer. Fate may have made him a pop culture fixture as a gruff and tough broadcast journalist, but his earliest connection was on the superhero serial ‘The Green Hornet’ as the show’s omniscient announcer. His voice was in high demand and his ’60 Minutes’ colleague Morley Safer called him “the hardest-working announcer in broadcasting.”
3. He made the jump to news because of the death of his son, Peter
Wallace started to move towards news and the type of interviews he would ultimately become known for around the start of the 1960s with news documentaries, such as his groundbreaking look at the Nation of Islam in ‘The Hate That Hate Produced’ and his one-on-one interview program ‘The Mike Wallace Interview.’ However, a personal tragedy prompted him to devote his efforts to reporting and broadcast journalism full-time. Wallace’s son, Peter Jon Wallace, died in 1964 in the age of 19 after a fatal fall while hiking in Greece. Peter had aspirations to be a writer and a journalist while studying at Yale and Wallace was moved to continue his legacy in own career. His other son, Fox News journalist Chris Wallace, also continued in the family business.
4. The man who helped blow the lid off the tobacco industry once did commercials for cigarettes
One of Wallace’s most legendary stories for ’60 Minutes’ took on the world of big tobacco when former Brown and Williamson executive Jeffrey Wigand went public with damning information on the company’s attempt to manipulate nicotine levels in their product and dangerous use of chemicals and compounds that were known carcinogens to the company’s executives. Early in his career, however, Wallace served as a pitchman for cigarettes in commercials for television and even some of his interview shows. Former CBS anchor Harry Smith said that Wallace felt guilty for doing those ads later in his career and often implored those around him to quit smoking.
5. His favorite interview was with composer Vladimir Horowitz
For all his tough pieces, Wallace had some equally hard-hitting interviews with notable artists, thespians and musicians. Even though he relished being the guy who asked the difficult questions of corrupt officials and seedy businessmen, his favorite piece was in 1977 with the equally stubborn and gleefully ego-centric Vladimir Horowitz, a Russian born composer who famously transcribed John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ for piano to celebrate his American citizenship. Safer recalled that when Wallace got a stubborn Horowitz to play the iconic patriotic song for the first time in more than 30 years, “It almost brought tears to the toughest guy on television.”