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APRIL 9, 2012 1:11PM

Mike Wallace Ruined My Childhood

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My dad was a news man. He didn't write for a newspaper or report it on T.V. --he just loved the news. He would plop a newspaper over my book and say, "Here, read this and find out what's going on the world!" I was not interested, my world consisted of books like Pardon Me, Your Stepping On My Eyeball and The Exorcist.

Let it be known, however my Dad wasn't just any news man. To be more specific, my Dad was strictly a CBS news man.  Huntley and Brinkley or Harry Reasoner were not welcome in our living room--but Walter Cronkite always was offered the place of honor, and everyone had to pay their due respect. No one and I mean no one could speak during the CBS Evening News. If you were so bold, Dad would glare at you wide-eyed and point and snap his fingers at you for your immediate silent compliance!

I never knew what was big deal. I would ususally try to sneak outside. Not a chance. For some reason, my Dad had it in his head that I was some Edna R. Murrow in training and expected me to sit with him and "watch the news find out what's going in the world!"

So while my five brothers and sisters were living it up, playing Freeze Tag or kickball, I'd be imprisoned on the couch doing NP (News Patrol) with Dad.  Walter would be talking about this girl named Karen would couldn't wake up or this other girl named Patty who wore this very cool Beret and on and on about something called Watergate. That last one I really didn't get. Why didn't they just let the water of the gate and be done with it already?

But soon the 30 minutes of mind-numbing torture would be over and I could escape back into my little world of playing Star Trek with my brother or writing stories about demon possessed cats. Soon though Sunday would roll around and I was captured again. SUNDAY! SUNDAY!! SUNDAY!!

Sunday may have been a day of rest according to God but according to Dad, it was the biggest news day ever. Sundays were the worst because I was stuck on that couch for 10,000 minutes! Okay, only 90 but it felt like 10,000.  Yes, Walter Cronkite talked for the first 30 but then Mike Wallace droned on for the next 60 Minutes! All those Sundays of childhood lost because Mike Wallace had to report in excruiating detail about the sleeping girl, the Beret girl and that dumb Watergate thing.

Now, never in a million years would I have fathomed being able to tell Mike Wallace face to face how he ruined my childhood. But low and behold, thirty years later, there I sat in Mike Wallace's office in the CBS Building in New York City.  I wasn't anyone of import, mind you, just a lucky flunky on a film crew but I didn't let that stop me.

I mean all I kept thinking of was my dad and how maybe I could make it up to him a little. Make it up to him for dropping out of high school journalism and never reading his great American novel and just being a stuck up English Lit major.

 So when a lull in the conversation presented itself I jumped in. "Mr. Wallace, I just want you to know that you ruined my childhood."

"Great!" the eighty-six news icon replied not missing a beat.

"My Dad loved the CBS Evening new and 60 minutes. Every Sunday, he would make me watch the news with Cronkite and then you on 60 minutes. My father is in the last stages of Parkinson's Disease and it would mean so much to him if you would say hello. His name is Hendrik."

Then Mr. Wallace looked straight into the camera and said, "Hendrik, thanks for watching CBS all these years, with Murrow, Cronkite and the rest, I know it wasn't easy with such a devil daughter. Good health to you, sir."

It was perfect. And the icing on the cake was the picture I sent standing between Mike Wallace and Morely Safer with the biggest, sappiest grin on my face.

My Mother said my Dad watched the whole demo reel and when it came to that last little bit with Wallace addressing him personally, he paused the tape and asked, "Did Mike Wallace just say  my name?" Mom said he played that part over and over and called his brothers and sisters too. From that day on, he kept that picture of me and the 60 minutes men on the table next to his easy chair.

Yes, Mike Wallace ruined my childhood but he made it up to me when he gave my Dad one of the biggest thrills of his life. Now, I'm sure my Dad and Mr. Wallace are in the next life enjoying their reward but still looking down on us to see what's going on in the world.

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memoir, mike wallace, dad

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Christine, that's a great story and what a huge surprise for your father to have that personal message recorded!!
I loved this story! A lot of memoir-type pieces leave me cold, but this was lovely...r
Now that was one cool thing to do. Very nice of him and you~
Very nice story!
Fantastic! I heard he had a great sense of humor. Congratulations on the EP!
Sweet story. I'm glad Mike Wallace came through for you and your Dad.
Oh this is wonderful. I love that M. Wallace did that for him (and you). My dad made me read US News & World Report magazine. Quizz on Sundays. I think I would have rather watched it on TV.
Gasp! You!

Revenge is best served sweet.
So sweet. Glad you went out on a limb and asked Wallace for that little gift for your dad. How nice of him to give it to you. I can't say I sympathize with the "ruining your childhood" part, however. I was such a bookish nerd that 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theatre were my favorite shows on television.
You made me laugh. And cry. That's a good thing. Great, great post.
I feel your Sunday pain!! Both my parents loved 60 minutes-- more than the Lawrence Welk Show!! Great story!! Thank you
Nice piece but some grammatical errors.

Wallace was kind to do that for your Dad. Sorry for your loss.
Just noticed this now Christine. What a great story. Thanks for telling it. And good for Mike.
Gosh that was great!!
Mark Wallace? This bit of editorial incompetence is a bit much even for OS.
The "Mark" error was not yours, but OS 's. I see that that's it's now been corrected.

Before you make snide remarks, I suggest you read comments more carefully. It's perfectly clear that I was commenting on OS, not you.
great story, you are a writer born! bravo --

and this follow up


RIP, Mike Wallace. But there's another part of Mike Wallace's life that needs examining and it has little to do with Mike, and much more to do with how in the Internet Age, false quotes spread like wildfire and become part of new urban legends, and in this case, a new urban newsroom legend.

And as this new urban newsroom legend has it, never fact-checked of course, which is par for the course, of course, beer magnate Joseph Coors reportedly originated the alleged maxim when he allegedly quipped, although there is no recording of him saying it: "The four most dreaded words in the English language -- 'Mike Wallace is here.' "

Most likely, Coors never said that.

True, there was a newspaper ad that Coors took out in 1983 that used that line as part of the ad copy, but Mr Coors himself never quipped those exact words, never said those words, never uttered those words. They were put in his mouth by a savvy team of Madison Avenue copywriters. Welcome to another faux quote making the rounds of the Internet in this Age of UnFactCheckable/UnFactChecked Facts.

Whoever actually first uttered that Coorsian phrase, it wasn't Jean-Paul Sartre, that for sure, nor was it Sartre-joker Jonathan Rauch, but you can bet that plenty of big shots believed it, and when Mike Wallace passed at 93 recently, newspapers and wire services and TV eulogies and websites and blogs were inundated with the faux Coors quote as if it was a real quote.

Joseph Coors never said that. When I asked a top newspaper editor, whose newspaper had also used that faux quote, he wrote back to me in a very nice way and said: "The editorial about Mike Wallace and Joseph Coors in our newspaper did not report that Mr.
Coors said it. It reported that 'as legend has it,' he originated the phrase. We also were diligent to note that "regardless of whoever actually first uttered it" -- clearly casting doubt on whether Coors was the first. So no, we didn't "fall for it.""

But hundreds of newspapers and blogs and Web sites did fall for the faux Coors quote and it's now part of urban newsroom legend, which no amount of digging or investigative legwork can undo. What's done is done. Coors said it, make no mistake about it. Mike Wallace knows the truth, but he aint talking now. Gone with the wind, Mike took the truth with him. Long live Mike Wallace!

Andrew Beaujon at the Poynter Institute asked in a headline: ''Who really said, 'The four most frightening words in the English language are 'Mike Wallace is here" '?

Beaujon asked in his short item on the faux quote, if faux it really is, and the jury is still out to a three-martini lunch on this one:

"[It's an] interesting question: Who really said "The four most frightening words in the English language are 'Mike Wallace is here'?''

The Los Angeles Times attributes it to Joseph Coors. "Wallace had such a fearsome reputation as an interviewer that 'Mike Wallace is here to see you' were among the most dreaded words a newsmaker could hear," writes David Bauder of the Associated Press.

In The Washington Post, Adam Bernstein wisely goes with the passive tense: "For anyone hiding a secret, it was often said, four of the most dreaded words in the English language were 'Mike Wallace is here.'" In an AP gallery:

"His reputation preceded him: 'The four most dreaded words in the English language: Mike Wallace is here,' as the saying goes." Someone get an investigative journalist on this pronto!"

Investigative journalists around the country are now looking into this tempest in a Coors can.

A top newspaperman in New York, well placed to know what he is talking about, tells me: ''A copy of the 1983 ad was on the wall in Mike Wallace's office. CBS aired another copy in its Wallace obituary on the evening news the other night.''

So the ad exists. The copywriters really did put those words in Joseph Coors' mouth. But he never really said it. Not in real life. Only on Madison Avenue. Coors is now credited with the famous faux quote, he is said to have quipped the quip, and whether we like it or not, in this Age of Internet Gullibility, the fake Coors quote is here to stay. And ''hell really is other people at breakfast,'' as John Paul Sartre once quipped in 2003. Not.

Dan Bloom is a journalist based in Taipei.
I was knew a cameraman for "60 minutes" who occasionally was assigned to shot a Wallace piece. He told me that Wallace was the most demanding of any of the outstanding stable of reporters on the show and could be terrifying if something wasn't going well. But he admitted Wallace broke more stories than anyone else and put the show on the map.

Great story telling, and you're a daughter who turned out right.

Other than "60 minutes" (I was actually on a segment related to 9/11--another story), "The Daily Show" is my only other source of TV news, which speaks volumes for the decline of broadcast "journalism" these days.