<B>Reporter's notebook</B> Mike Wallace may not have interviewed <I>every</I> mover, shaker and cultural innovator of the past 60 years, but he's come close. In <B>Between You and Me</B> his second autobiographical foray with co-author Gary Paul Gates the 87-year-old newsman revisits a few dozen of his more memorable on-camera encounters, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Yasir Arafat, the Shah of Iran, Tina Turner and Mel Brooks. In the course of his narration, he touches on some of the great issues of our time. Primarily, though, the book is as informal and chatty as its title.
From the start, Wallace moved among the mighty. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, he went to grade school with John F. Kennedy and attended college with playwright Arthur Miller. One of his close friends in 1940s Chicago when he worked in radio was actress Edie Davis, whose daughter Nancy would go on to marry Ronald Reagan. Wallace's passion for engaging controversial figures, he explains, often got him into hot water. The two interviews that caused him the most grief were those with Gen. William Westmoreland, whom he had met and befriended early in the Vietnam War, and Jeffrey Wigand, the research chemist who blew the whistle on the tobacco industry. In the Westmoreland encounter, Wallace hosted a documentary that said the general had deliberately under-reported the number of enemy forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland sued CBS for libel. Although he eventually withdrew the suit, the rancor it generated plunged Wallace into a deep and near-suicidal depression.
The Wigand affair was a blow of a different sort. Fearing a crippling lawsuit from the tobacco companies just as the owners were trying to sell CBS, the network forbade "60 Minutes" from running the Wigand interview, although it did permit Wallace to voice his dissent against that decision. The quarrel put an end to Wallace's longtime friendly relationship with "60 Minutes" producer Don Hewitt, who sided with the network. It also caused a rift with the segment's producer, Lowell Bergman, who viewed Wallace as being too accommodating to the network.