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.