Mike Wallace, known to generations of TV viewers as a mainstay of
the television newsmagazine "60 Minutes," has enjoyed a long and
legendary career. Since his salad days as a news correspondent in
the medium's early days, and through the various incarnations of
his several shows, the often-acerbic Wallace developed a reputation
as a hard-hitting inquisitor. He has interviewed presidents and
potentates, musicians and murderers, rock stars and racists.
Wallace and co-author Gary Paul Gates, with whom he collaborated on
his 1984 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, are reunited for BETWEEN YOU AND ME, a
collection of some of these memorable interviews.
The personalities chosen for inclusion in BETWEEN YOU AND ME weigh
in at varying levels of interest. In his chapter on "Race in
America," Wallace recalls his meetings with Malcolm X and his
successor, Louis Farrakhan, who was accused of complicity in the
assassination of the leader of the Black Muslims. Farrakhan also
shares an emotional scene in the book as he seeks to reconcile with
Malcolm X's daughter, Betty Shabazz.
Wallace is at his best when he's up against establishment figures,
such as confronting General William C. Westmoreland on his
misrepresenting the number of enemy troops during the Vietnam
One of Wallace's best attributes is his sense of outrage, even when
it comes to complaining about his employers. He almost retired in
the face of CBS's refusal to air a segment on the tobacco industry
and had numerous, though less volcanic, other disagreements over
His coverage of Middle East topics fills a major portion of the
book. Wallace interviewed several top names in the conflict,
including Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat and Yasser Arafat, as well as
the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini, giving readers a
glimpse of the geopolitically plagued times.
Wallace's feature on Syrian Jews was one of his most controversial,
suggesting that the group might not have been as repressed by the
government as the world had been led to believe. His unbiased
reportage earned him the enmity of Jewish organizations around the
On the other hand, Wallace also could be viewed as a bully,
depending on the viewer's/reader's point of view. He brought Barbra
Streisand to tears by dredging up unhappy memories from her
childhood, and was known as one of the major proponents of "attack
journalism," suddenly confronting his subject on the street or at
Although the majority of his memoir considers his professional
life, he gives a few personal glimpses, none as intense as his
revelation of his clinical depression during the libel trial that
resulted from the Westmoreland story. The situation was so bad,
Wallace writes, that he contemplated suicide.
Whittling down the hundreds of people Wallace has grilled, chilled
and thrilled on the air to the handful who appear in BETWEEN YOU
AND ME is a daunting task. It would have been interesting to have
him explain how he arrived at his choices.
Many of the interviews are featured on an accompanying DVD. This is
a bad news/good news situation. The bad news is that the video
segments follow the text almost too closely; the publisher easily
could have fit more on the disc rather than excerpts. The good news
is that these brief examples enhance the text, showing the
subject's body language and vocal expressions.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan (RonK23@aol.com) on December 22, 2010