AKA Myron Leon Wallace
Birthplace: Brookline, MA
Location of death: New Canaan, CT
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, West Chop Cemetery, Tisbury, MA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent
Military service: US Navy (1943-46)
Early in his career, Mike Wallace was a radio news-writer and broadcaster for the Chicago Sun, which had a radio station at the time. He hosted the game show Who Pays?, the talk show Mike and Buff with his then-wife Patrizia "Buff" Cobb, and All Around the Town, wherein Wallace interviewed random people he met at parties or on the street. He also worked as an actor, on radio dramas including The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, and as staff announcer for The Guiding Light when it was on radio. Wallace acted in early TV dramas like General Electric Theater and Studio One. He even played the lead in a Broadway comedy that ran for 2½ months, Reclining Figure.
His interview shows Nightbeat (1956-57) and The Mike Wallace Interview (1957-60) were among the first television programs where newsmaking guests were grilled on controversial topics. One of Wallace's early interviews was with a very old Margaret Sanger, famed pioneer of birth-control and founder of Planned Parenthood. He peppered her with questions about her religious beliefs, asked whether birth control should be available for unmarried women, and in the end got her to utter a half-hearted endorsement of the program's sponsor, Philip Morris. "Mr. Wallace, I've never smoked," she said, "but I'm going to begin and take up smoking and use Philip Morris as my -- the cigarette for me to take."
He was 50 when 60 Minutes started in 1968, with two reporters, Wallace and Harry Reasoner. During the show's long run Wallace earned a reputation as a tenacious interviewer and investigative reporter, winning 19 Emmys. But of course, the program's staff did any investigative work, found the facts of the matter, and told Wallace where to go and what to ask. With cameras rolling, Wallace was essentially still an actor, playing the role of tough reporter in "ambush" reports or sometimes haranguing Q-and-A.
In 1982, General William Westmoreland sued CBS and Wallace after the show reported that Westmoreland had fudged his estimates of enemy troop strength during the Vietnam war. CBS apologized just before the case was to be heard in court, and Westmoreland dropped his suit, but Wallace fell into depression and reportedly considered suicide.
In 1995, Wallace anchored a dynamite exposé of the cigarette industry for 60 Minutes, and had the first report that tobacco giant Brown & Williamson had increased nicotine levels in cigarettes to push sales, and that company execs had lied about it to Congress. But Brown & Williamson threatened to sue, so CBS ordered the report shelved, and by all accounts except Wallace's, he meekly went along. The allegations were later proven true, and the network's spinelessness was dramatized in The Insider, with Christopher Plummer playing Wallace. During that controversy, Wallace and colleague Morley Safer were interviewed by Charlie Rose, who asked whether CBS had paid its tobacco insider, Jeffrey Wigand. Wallace said no, but in fact, CBS had paid the whistleblower $13,000.
Also in 1995, Wallace went ballistic at former White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater, with "a string of profanities a mile long", said Fitzwater. Wallace later said he had been angry at things Fitzwater had written about him in his book, Call the Briefing.
In 1997, Wallace reported for 60 Minutes that as a matter of policy, U.S. Customs officials were allowing drug smugglers to cross easily into the United States. As proof Wallace showed a memo signed by a Customs official in San Diego. Three years later it came out that the memo had been forged by a disgruntled Customs worker.
In 2004, Wallace was arrested for disorderly conduct when he argued with a New York Taxi and Limousine Commission official who was hassling Wallace's double-parked limo driver.
His fourth wife made him sign a waiver regarding household furniture purchases: "Because I refused to go shopping with Mary, I promise not to complain, no matter what she brings home."
Father: Friedan Wallick ("Frank Wallace", insurance broker)
Wife: Norma Kaphan (m. 1940, div. 1948, later married to CBS News President William Leonard)
Wife: Patrizia Cobb ("Buff", talk show hostess, b. 1928, m. 1949, div. 1955)
Wife: Lorraine Perigord (m. 1955, div. 1983)
Wife: Mary Yates (reporter, m. 1986)
Son: Chris Wallace (reporter, b. 1947)
Son: Peter Wallace (d. 1962 mountain climbing accident)
Daughter: Pauline Dora
Son: Eames Yates (stepson)
University: BA, University of Michigan (1939)
Academy of Achievement (1995)
Center for Investigative Reporting Advisory Board
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity
Golden Globe Best TV Show, for The Big Surprise (1955)
Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
Emmy 20 times, including Lifetime Achievement Award (2003)
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6263 Hollywood Blvd
Libel lawsuit filed by General William Westmoreland, case settled (1985)
Disorderly Conduct Arrested after argument with NYC Taxi commission inspectors (10-Aug-2004), charges later dropped
Suicide Attempt 1980s
Fainted aboard passenger jet (12-Mar-1991)
Wedding: George Stephanopoulos and Alexandra Wentworth (2001)
Funeral: Katharine Graham (2001)
Funeral: Henry Grunwald (2005) Honorary Pallbearer
Endorsement of Philip Morris Parliament
Ukrainian Ancestry Paternal
Risk Factors: Former Smoker, Depression, Insomnia, Pacemaker
60 Minutes (1968-2012)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (12-Sep-2009) · Himself
Toots (27-Apr-2006) · Himself
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1997) · Himself
Ilya Muromets (1956)
Author of books:
Close Encounters: Mike Wallace's Own Story (1984)
Between You And Me: A Memoir (2005)
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