Much has been written about the life and career of Mike Wallace, the legendary CBS newsman who died on Saturday at the age of 93. Less explored have been the places around the city where the “60 Minutes” correspondent left his imprint.
This is a look at two places in whose walls his professional life was transformed, with an extra stop at a restaurant where you can pay tribute to Wallace by digging into some comfort food.
In fact, let’s start there, at Luke’s Bar & Grill, the Upper East Side restaurant whose meatloaf Wallace favored. Indeed, you can order the meatloaf named after him for $17.95. I may just do that this weekend. At any rate, it was here that Wallace famously got into a headline-grabbing scuffle outside the restaurant with two TLC agents in 2004.
And now onto our official tour.
1. Channel 5 building, 205 E. 67th St.
Our first of two stops is the old headquarters of the pioneering Dumont network, later Metropolitan Broadcasting, after that Metromedia, and, since March 1986, Fox Television.
205 E. 67th St. has during all that time been the home of Channel 5, and it was here in the mid 1950s that the Mike Wallace the world came to know — and if you were at the receiving end of his questioning, fear — truly came into being. Channel 5 was the birthplace of “Night Beat,” Wallace’s pioneering 11 p.m. interview show where his patented inquisitional technique was hatched.
It was simply Wallace and his guest, a dark background, intense lighting, and riveting questions and conversation. (He discusses the overnight success of “Night Beat” and the birth of his style in the short but fascinating video above. I could, by the way, listen to Mike Wallace read the phone book all day. What a voice.)
Wallace soon took his show to ABC, where it became “The Mike Wallace Interview,” but it was within these walls that Wallace crafted his career-defining form.
The building itself is clad in 1980s-style dark glass, and for others who share The Retrologist’s fascination with all things vintage, also features two cool anachronisms. One is the big logo on the side of the building, which is the original symbol of the Fox network, formed when Rupert Murdoch bought the Metromedia independent stations and turned them into the backbone of his Fox Network.
The second are these doorhandles, above, which feature two large Ms. Those Ms stand for Metromedia, the corporate predecessor of Fox television, and still remain some 26 years since Channel 5 was purchased by Murdoch.
2. CBS Broadcast Center
And now we’re across town, on West 57th Street off 10th Avenue, for our second and final stop. The importance of this stop goes without saying — it is the home of CBS News, and Mike Wallace’s professional home for the most memorable part of his career. For the casual visitor, access to the sacred halls of “60 Minutes” is off limits, but outside the building and in the lobby are a few accessible objects worth examining.
Here’s a display of CBS News memorabilia, which sits behind the security gate but is still visible to the public. It includes this canary-yellow Saarinen-style chair from the early days of “60 Minutes.” Click HERE to see Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace in such chairs in 1968, during the show’s first episode.
Right by the front door is an elegant plaque honoring the spiritual father of CBS News, Edward R. Murrow, who will forever be revered among television journalists. Murrow, himself a master interviewer and news host, didn’t live to see “60 Minutes” — he died in 1965, three years before its debut. Below is another tribute to Murrow.
Finally, let’s look at the plaque below, found outside the building, which marks the complex as the historic site of CBS News, already worthy of such reverential treatment when it was installed on Nov. 30, 1966. Murrow is mentioned on the plaque. It would seem, should a similar plaque be installed there today, that Wallace’s name would be prominently displayed on it. For as David Hinckley writes in the New York Daily News, “Wallace was hailed by admirers as a successor to famed CBS journalists like Edward R. Murrow.”
RIP Mike Wallace.
Mike Wallace discusses the birth of “60 Minutes”
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol