Here Are 50 Facts About 60 Minutes You May Have Forgotten

By Chris Ariens Comment

With its return tomorrow night, for its 50th season, 60 Minutes has compiled a list of 50 facts about the CBS News magazine that you may have forgotten.

For instance, wine merchants believe that a 1991 Morley Safer story started the boom in red wine sales. Here’s more:

• 60 MINUTES appeared in eight timeslots over its first seven seasons before settling into its Sunday 7:00 PM permanent home.

• On Sept. 25, 1968, the day after 60 MINUTES’ premiere, a review in the New York Times included this line: “…something television has long needed.”

• The first years were marked by experimentation, including Harry Reasoner discussing the generation gap with his son Stuart and a Reasoner essay on a favorite topic: whiskey.

• The Point/Counterpoint segment caught on in 1971 with James J. Kilpatrick (conservative) and Nicholas von Hoffman (liberal) – a precursor to today’s cable political shout-fests.

• White House Counsel John Ehrlichman was convicted of Watergate-related crimes a few months after denying a cover up by the Nixon administration in a 1973 interview with Mike Wallace.

• Shana Alexander began appearing in von Hoffman’s liberal role in 1975 after he was fired in 1974 for comparing the Watergate-embattled President Richard Nixon to a “dead mouse.”

Andy Rooney’s end piece began in 1978 and alternated with Point/Counterpoint through the following summer. He replaced the debate duo in the fall of 1979.

• Rooney never said “Did you ever notice?” (the line from Joe Piscopo’s impersonation on SNL) in any of his 1,097 60 MINUTES commentaries.

• In 1979, when Mike Wallace famously told the Ayatollah Khomeini that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had called him a lunatic, the Ayatollah correctly predicted that Sadat would be assassinated.

Morley Safer’s 1983 investigation into a black man’s suspicious conviction for armed robbery in Texas won the freedom of Lenell Geter and three big awards, the DuPont, Peabody and RFK.

• Safer’s 1991 report on the coincidence of healthy hearts and red wine consumption among the rich food eating French started the red wine boom in America, wine merchants believe.

• Hillary Clinton’s famous “Tammy Wynette” line in the 1992 interview with her husband Bill almost didn’t make air that night after Super Bowl XXVI. It was found in a transcript and added later.

• A good deal of the letters and calls to 60 MINUTES were generated by Andy Rooney. His “As God Told Me” segment in 2004 drew the all-time record of 30,000 pieces of mail, most of them negative.

• The AP received 7,000 calls and several crates of letters, nearly all pro-Rooney, when its TV critic wrote that the 60 MINUTES commentator’s act was getting old.

• The only time all the program’s correspondents appeared on camera on 60 MINUTES was when all five interviewed President Bill Clinton about the war in Bosnia in December 1995.

• Jackie Gleason, “The Great One,” told Morley Safer that the nickname was given to him by Orson Welles, in the classic 60 MINUTES interview shot with a bar and a pool table as props in 1984.

• After Diane Sawyer’s 1988 story of a man’s crusade to ban the steel-tipped lawn dart that killed his daughter, Congress passed legislation banning the sale of the darts.

Steve Kroft’s report from Chernobyl included eerie music playing on loudspeakers for the clean-up crews in the contaminated city, where he reported Geiger counter readings were 100 times normal.

Lesley Stahl nearly blew her offer to join 60 MINUTES by asking Don Hewitt to let her stay in Washington as host of FACE THE NATION, too. Her agent warned her to move to New York.

• Ed Bradley had to cancel his interview with Tina Turner and the singer hesitantly agreed to let Mike Wallace do it. Her first words to the Grand Inquisitor were “You must be good to me.”

• Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh gave his only television interview to Ed Bradley on 60 MINUTES in 2000. He was executed the next year.

• In a 2000 interview with Mike Wallace, Louis Farrakhan made headlines when he admitted for the first time that his critical words “may have made me complicit” in Malcom X’s murder.

• On 9/11, Steve Kroft found himself grounded in New Orleans. Luckily, the former leader of a team that secretly tested airline security lived nearby. The expose was the lead that Sunday.

• On a post-9/11 story on security at a plant producing toxic chemicals in Pennsylvania, Kroft, a cameraman and a newspaper reporter were arrested for trespassing. Their fine was $146.

• Bob Simon reported on the nomadic Moken people living off the coast of Thailand who were so untethered, their language had no words for “today,” “tomorrow,” “when,” “hello” or “goodbye.”

• After he appeared on 60 MINUTES in 1998 in video he took showing himself giving fatal drugs to an ALS patient, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was arrested and convicted of second-degree murder.

• When Jerry Seinfeld said he was sexually immature on the broadcast, prompting Steve Kroft to ask “in what way,” the comedian replied, “It’s not 60 swingin’ Minutes!”

• Al Gore chose to reveal he would not run for president in a December 2002 60 MINUTES interview with Lesley Stahl.

• The U.S. Postal Service changed its policy as a result of Lesley Stahl’s 1996 report on a scam involving the use of its change of address forms to divert mail and steal identities.

• Chinese President Jiang Zemin disagreed when Mike Wallace called him a dictator. Wallace replied: “…if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s a duck.”

• Ed Bradley died just three weeks after one of his most impactful stories, the 2006 award-winning investigation that all but proved Duke Lacrosse players didn’t rape an exotic dancer.

• No one spoke when a fuse blew and threw Ed Bradley’s interview with Bob Dylan into total, silent darkness. Then Dylan’s inimitable voice broke the tension: “Whoa, the lights went out!”

• James Dean is making more money dead than alive, reported Steve Kroft in a 2009 story about the marketing of deceased celebrities.

• As a special touch, 60 MINUTES borrowed a 1967 red Alfa Romeo Spider – like the one he raced to the wedding scene in “The Graduate” – for Dustin Hoffman to drive in his 2004 profile.

• After Scott Pelley exposed Lawrence Stowe’s illegal stem cell therapy scam in 2010, Stowe, who preyed on the terminally ill, drew a 78-month federal prison sentence.

• In the roundtable with Barack Obama’s victorious campaign managers on election night in 2008, some of the coffee mugs they were drinking from held beer.

• The November 2008 post-election interview with Barack and Michelle Obama drew 25.1 million viewers, the largest television audience of the season to that date.

• 60 MINUTES also drew over 20 million viewers for the January 2016 Charlie Rose interview with Sean Penn about the actor’s controversial rendezvous with drug kingpin Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman.

• Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger told 60 MINUTES about his 2009 emergency landing of a jetliner on the Hudson River – an event some the program’s staff witnessed from their New York City offices.

• A 2010 Lesley Stahl story about people with the rare ability to remember virtually every day of their lives inspired the CBS drama “Unforgettable.”

• Scott Pelley’s 2011 interview with a former teammate of Lance Armstrong is the first public, eyewitness description of Armstrong’s use of a banned substance.

Anderson Cooper got a little tipsy in his 2011 profile of Lady Gaga, who persuaded him to drink a few Irish whiskeys during an interview in a London pub.

• After a 2011 Steve Kroft expose on insider trading legally done by members of Congress, the STOCK Act was passed to expand existing insider trading laws to include Congress.

• In her first interview about her husband’s historic billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, Ruth Madoff talked to Morley Safer about her shame and claimed she knew nothing about the con.

• Playing or watching sports was not Bob Simon’s thing, but he could play tennis. In a profile of Novak Djokovic, he shocked the champion by returning one of his serves.

• Steve Kroft’s 2013 interview with Charles Cullen, who confessed to at least 40 murders, was the only interview with a serial killer to appear on 60 MINUTES.

• Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman has a rule: he never plays in interviews. But when he learned it was Bill Whitaker’s birthday, the maestro played a short piece for the newsman.

• A 60 MINUTES first: a roaring lion interrupted an interview Bill Whitaker was doing in a story about rescuing the abused animals from small circuses in South America.

• President Barack Obama began to consider his contentious interviews with Steve Kroft as sport, one time counter-punching the dogged Kroft with “What else ya got?”

• “You know, I’m convinced that a person in my position must provide a positive example to people,” said Vladimir Putin to Charlie Rose in the 2015 60 MINUTES interview.

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