It’s the four words that struck fear in the hearts of miscreants who the legendary journalist exposed on 60 Minutes: Mike Wallace Is Here. It’s also the title of a new documentary that reveals the man behind his famous interrogations. “Mike knew how to be dramatic,” the documentary’s director, Avi Belkin, exclusively revealed to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “He became the first star journalism really had.”
Raised by Russian Jewish immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts, Mike served as a communications officer on a submarine during World War II. The documentary tells the story of how he segued into a career in radio and television as an actor and game show host. “It will introduce Mike Wallace to a generation that really doesn’t know who he is,” his son Chris Wallace, who’s followed his dad’s footsteps into TV journalism, recently told Variety. “He’s only been gone seven years, but in the world we live in now, that seems to be an eternity.”
That career change was triggered by a personal tragedy when his older son, Peter, 19, died in a mountain-climbing accident in Greece in 1962. “Mike asked himself, ‘What are you doing with your life?’’ Belkin said. “It made him into a serious reporter.”
Married four times, Mike put his career ahead of his family for decades. “He was not a bad father — he was an absentee father,” Chris told Closer. “But at one point in his early 70s, he said one of the joys of living a long life was he had time to make amends. In the last years of his life, we became very close.”
Mike didn’t just open up to his family in his later years; he helped millions by going public with his battles against depression. The stress of being sued by Gen. William Westmoreland for libel in the ’80s weighed on his mind (the suit was settled out of court). “I had done a story for 60 Minutes on depression previously, but I had no idea that I was now experiencing it,” Mike confessed. “Finally, I collapsed.”
But he bounced back. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re going through a depression,” he said. “If you get help, the chances of your licking it are really good.” Sadly, Mike died at age 93 in 2012 and left a lasting legacy. Belkin told Closer, “He wasn’t afraid to go after the truth.”
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