There’s a story over at LA’s tony Hillcrest Country Club that some say is apocryphal but I suspect is true. About a decade ago, I discussed the episode with an octogenarian member, but even then the episode was apparently still too raw, too personal, for him to give me a straight answer.
p> Seems that, a while back, the club decided that one of their members, known to the public as Bugsy Siegel, should no longer be a member. The sticky question was “who’s gonna tell Ben?” The story goes that they recruited the oldest member of the club on the theory that he had the fewest years to lose.
Watching Mike Wallace interview Iranian President Ahmadinejad last week, I thought of the Bugsy story and the opportunity missed. What if, instead of doing the kind of celebrity suck-up interviews on which he built his career, Mike had instead dropped into his mid-career bunco squad prosecutorial mode. You know, how with dripping condescension he asks “Mr. Phillips, are we to believe that this white colored water your dairy has been selling to the government is really low fat milk??”
What if the 88-year-old Wallace had really gone on the attack, with surprise evidence, personal questions, and a second hidden film crew to record the President stalking off the set?
Sure, the interview might have devolved into the first celebrity snuff film. But, hey, Mike would have earned himself a statue at the Museum of Broadcasting. And he would have been bigger than Morrow.