By Alan Capper.
It was a bad moment when I spilled a full glass of water all over Mike Wallace at our first meeting. Given my pre-disposed view of him as a garrulous, aggressive and rather intimidating figure I expected a response of anger and expletives.
Not from him that night. He laughed, wiped the water away and, as he had been all evening, was extremely gracious. The occasion was the 2006 Foreign Press Association Student Awards Dinner, and Mike had agreed to be our keynote speaker. There had been much excitement among our members and our sponsors when this was announced. We felt honored to have such a media icon grace our event, and the speech he gave that evening was truly memorable, from a man in love with his profession.
Perhaps the surprise was how easy he was to be with. Our Director Suzanne Adams had already told me that he had been a pleasure to deal with when she was making the arrangements with him and that they had become friends. Although I was happy to introduce him to many of our guests he was more than happy to wander around and introduce himself to everyone. He particularly enjoyed meeting the winning students, and happily posed for pictures with them.
Just before I stood up to make my speech I asked him if I could refer to him as ‘Mike’
But in that moment experienced a frisson of anxiety. A scene from the excellent movie “The Insider” suddenly flashed into my mind. It was when the character played by Gina Gershon calls Mike, as played by Christopher Plummer, ‘Mike.’
“Mike?” “Mike?” screams Plummer. ”CALL ME MISTER WALLACE!”
Was I going to receive a similar response? “Sure Alan, Call me Mike,’’ was his reply.
So many accolades have already been given to this legendary journalist, and we will always remember our encounter with him, and honor his memory.