Reading Mike Wallace's obituary in the New York Times today, I was struck by the length and vigor of his remarkable journalism career, as well as his personal life. I was also reminded of an anecdote about him that I learned while researching my book.
In 1975, the year her husband, Aristotle Onassis, died and her daughter, Caroline, was graduating from high school, Jackie had a midlife crisis -- and decided to get a job. She eventually found one, as an editor at Viking, where a few weeks into her new position, her assistant received a phone call from Mike Wallace's secretary.
"I have Mr. Wallace on the phone for you," the woman told Jackie's young assistant, Rebecca Singleton.
Singleton was annoyed that he made his secretary call, and that the woman referred to her boss as "Mr. Wallace."
When his booming voice shot through the phone, he said: "Hi, Becky!"
Rebecca hated the diminutive version of her name.
"How are we gonna get Jackie on 60 Minutes?" Wallace asked.
Her response: You're not.
He had blown it at hello.