Dick of Time and Mike of television shared the thought-compression characteristic
of both. "If it's about money you must have been talking with Clurman,"
Mike said when I got hold of him. Then, "What would you do with it?"
stupidly, I was flat-footed in my first direct "ask" as a
fund-raiser, so I guessed at a number and kept things simple: "Half a
million to endow a fellowship in your field, investigative reporting." It
was a Friday. 60 was in final
editing. There would be no discussion. If Mike delayed, it was imperceptible.
my accountant's number. Tell him half now, half when I die," he said. He was
off the phone so fast that I decided to wait until Monday and call Mike back
before talking with the accountant. Could so much money change hands in so few
seconds? I needed a reality check.
Monday, Mike said in the tone familiar to millions when the grand interrogator
lost patience on-camera, "Charles, you are a pain in the ass. I told you the man to call. I gave you
the number. If you can't get the money out of the account by noon I'll tell him
to not take it out at all." He was handing me a pound of caviar with orders
to chugalug it.
two conversations together lasted less than two minutes, but they introduced me
to the essential professional Mike and forced improvisation of a fund-raising
technique that resulted in a $50 million endowment for the fellowships program
we worked on together for 25 years.
|Above: A newspaper clipping from Costa Rica shows the wreckage of the Eisendraths' plane crash
essential Mike appeared later, coming into focus gradually until December 2000, when my whole family somehow survived a plane crash and I realized that
this remarkable journalist had insights of equal measure in the unrelated field
of counseling. I know of several examples of this, and there were probably
dozens, but he never talked about them. One, however, I witnessed.
rarely missed the opportunity to tease me about how little I deserved my wife Julia,
and how much better she could have done.
I always argued; Julia never did. It became a riff for
three. Since Mike's death, I've been realizing how amazing it was that he
sensed that even in her new sick-room setting, the best medicine involved changing
in the 18 months during which Julia grew steadily worse, increasingly crippled
by 17 fractures and mounting pain until she spent her days alone and barely mobile,
delivery of a special kind of therapy began by telephone, always during university
that you, Julia?" The voice was the famous purr Mike used in the
non-inquisitorial interviews with amazing artists and fabulous women. "Julia,'"
he would say, "this is Mike. Is Charles home?"
with his perfect timing, "Julia, what are you wearing?"
became an unprescribed long-term care plan. We have been married 45 years at
this writing and Julia fully recovered from the crash a decade ago. As for me,
however, I will never get over the tone in Julia's voice that she reserved for
those calls from Mike Wallace.
she puts it, "He made me feel beautiful."