LAWRENCE LUCIE, GUITARIST WITH JELLY ROLL MORTON
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: August 17, 2009
Lawrence Lucie, a guitarist whose career began in the early years of jazz and continued into the early years of the 21st century, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 101. His death was confirmed by Sharon Linder, an administrator at the Kateri Residence, the nursing and rehabilitation center in Manhattan where Mr. Lucie lived in recent years.
G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times
Lawrence Lucie in 2007.
Mr. Lucie spent most of his career as a rhythm guitarist, rarely stepping forward to solo. But he was a master of the underrated art of keeping the beat, and over the years he kept it for some of the biggest names in jazz.
“The most amazing thing about him is how many great musicians he worked with,” Dan Morgenstern, the director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, said at a party celebrating Mr. Lucie’s 100th birthday. “It’s like a whole living history of jazz.”
The list of Mr. Lucie’s employers included Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for a few nights in the early 1930s, and Louis Armstrong, with whom he worked for four years in the 1940s. He also performed or recorded with Billie Holiday, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson and many others. He was the last living musician known to have recorded with the New Orleans jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton.
Lawrence Lucie was born in Emporia, Va., on Dec. 18, 1907. (Some sources give his year of birth as 1914, but he confirmed the earlier date to an interviewer in 1981, explaining, “In show business it doesn’t always pay to tell your real age.”) He began studying banjo, mandolin and violin at an early age and played in a band led by his father. He moved to New York at 19 to pursue a career as a musician.
Later in his career he performed and recorded with his wife, the guitarist and singer Nora Lee King. The couple had their own public-access cable television show in Manhattan for many years.
Mr. Lucie taught for three decades at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He performed with the New York Jazz Repertory Company and the Harlem Jazz and Blues Band in the 1970s and with Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans in the ’80s and ’90s. His last show was at Arturo’s in Greenwich Village, where he played solo guitar on Sunday nights until 2005.
Information about survivors was not available. His wife, Ms. King, died during the 1990s.
JOHN E. CARTER, R&B LEAD TENOR
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 22, 2009
HARVEY, Ill. (AP) — R&B lead tenor John E. Carter, a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, has died. He was 75.
Susan Fine, a spokeswoman for Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Carter’s native Harvey, said Carter died there early Friday.
“We have lost an incredible voice that graced two of the most significant vocal groups of all time,” said Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the hall of fame. “As a member of both the Dells and the Flamingos, Johnny was one of a select few artists inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Mr. Carter, who was known for his falsetto, was the last surviving founding member of the Flamingos. The classic doo-wop group gained fame with such hits as “Golden Teardrops” and their reworking of the pop classic “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
Mr. Carter left the Flamingos the first time in 1957 to do military service, and left permanently in 1960 to join the Dells, which had been formed in the early 1950s by some of his high school friends from Harvey.
Stewart noted that the Dells were one of the longest-running R&B vocal groups. The quintet had no personnel changes after Mr. Carter replaced original lead tenor Johnny Funches.
The Dells’ 1954 breakout hit, “Oh What A Night,” sold more than a million records when it was reissued in 1969 with Mr. Carter on falsetto lead. The Dells were also famous for “Stay in My Corner,” one of the first R&B hits to run more than six minutes.
The group toured extensively with Dinah Washington, and later with Ray Charles. The Dells also came to the attention of Quincy Jones, who coached them into a more eclectic vocal style, incorporating jazz, soul and Broadway sounds.
The Dells, consisting of Mr. Carter, baritone lead Marvin Junior, and backup singers Charles Barksdale, Michael McGill and Verne Allison, served as technical advisers on Robert Townsend’s 1991 movie, “The Five Heartbeats,” which was loosely based on their careers.
The Dells performed publicly for one of the last times in 2004, when they did an outdoor concert in downtown Chicago to celebrate their induction into the hall of fame.
The Flamingos were inducted in 2000.
Mr. Carter is survived by five daughters and several grandchildren.
John E. Carter and the Flamingos prove they are one of the trail blazers of R&B and the pinnacle of doo-wop singers, as seen here in this great video as my tribute to the late John E. Carter of the Flamingos:
Rest in peace, john.
Rest in peace.
ROBERT D. NOVAK, WASHINGTON POLITICAL PUNDIT
Published: August 18, 2009
Robert D. Novak, the pugnacious political columnist and cable television fixture whose nickname, “the prince of darkness,” was invoked with renewed fervor in 2003, when he revealed the name of a C.I.A. officer, setting the stage for a criminal investigation that reached the Bush administration, died Tuesday morning at his home in Northwest Washington. He was 78.
The cause was a malignant brain tumor, his wife, Geraldine Novak, said. It was the latest of a number of cancers and maladies, including spinal meningitis and broken bones, that Mr. Novak had suffered in recent years.
Over five decades Mr. Novak rose from a $68-a-week cub reporter to become the wealthy proprietor of almost a cottage industry, achieving prominence and celebrity as a conservative Washington pundit while parlaying that renown into books, newsletters and political seminars.
At one point his column appeared in as many as 300 newspapers, and he was one of the first personalities to emerge on all-news cable television. CNN put him on the air its first weekend.
He first drew attention as an old-fashioned, notebook-and-shoe-leather newspaperman. For three decades his was the second byline with “Inside Report,” a syndicated column, written with Rowland Evans, that became a must-read for many both inside and outside Washington.
After Mr. Evans retired in 1993, Mr. Novak continued the column alone, writing as recently as last September about the tumor that ultimately took his life. Mr. Evans died in 2001.
Among the column’s many scoops was a 1978 interview with the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, which carried a conciliatory message to the United States. Some say the overture helped pave the way for the resumption of diplomatic relations with China the following year.
‘Prince of Darkness’
There were more than 120 Evans and Novak columns about the Watergate burglary alone, one telling of a White House plot to blame the Central Intelligence Agency for the break-in.
During the 1980s, the Evans and Novak column was called, for better or worse, the bulletin board of the Reagan administration. But he did not move in lockstep with Republicans.
Leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he had been among the most vocal conservatives against the war.
Al Hunt, the Washington executive editor of Bloomberg News, said it was difficult to pigeonhole Mr. Novak.
“Bob was known for his very tough and hard-line views, but he was also a great reporter who liked a good story even more than his ideology,” said Mr. Hunt, who had worked for The Wall Street Journal for 39 years before joining Bloomberg in 2005. “He was the ‘reverse’ Washington. If you were riding high, Novak loved to kick you. And if you were down, he’d be there for you.”
On cable television, Mr. Novak was the often churlish commentator in the three-piece suit, his eyebrows, it seemed, permanently arched. He was a regular on various CNN programs, most notably “The Capital Gang,” “Crossfire” and “Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields,” with Mark Shields, the longtime Washington journalist and former Democratic strategist.
Mr. Novak relished making outrageous comments. He once complained that his Thanksgiving dinner had been ruined by seeing so many homeless people on television. Always combative, he left CNN in 2005 after storming off the set in a row with James Carville, the Democratic strategist and commentator. He later contributed to Fox News.
Morton Kondracke, a colleague on the syndicated talk program “The McLaughlin Group,” once characterized the role Mr. Novak played so enthusiastically as “the troll under the bridge of American journalism.”
As for the “prince of darkness” moniker, which John J. Lindsay, a Newsweek reporter, had bestowed, Mr. Novak said he was amused by it. Indeed, he made sly use of it in the title of a memoir in 2007, “The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington” (Crown Forum). He said in the book that the name referred to his pessimism about civilization, not his conservatism.
Becoming the Story
On television or in print, Mr. Novak had uncanny access to top officials in many administrations. Yet Mr. Novak did not rely solely on senior officials. “He may be the only major syndicated columnist in Washington who regularly had a meal with the assistant minority staff director of House subcommittees, Mr. Shields said. “His sources weren’t status sources.”
Mr. Novak exulted in his broadcast success. “Now strangers come up to me and they say, ‘I love you on television,’ ” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1985.
So when Mr. Novak became embroiled in perhaps the messiest story of his career, Americans had a face on which to focus. The episode began on July 14, 2003, when, acting on a tip, Mr. Novak published the name of a C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson. Her husband, the former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, had made public assertions that the Bush administration had justified the invasion of Iraq by distorting intelligence about Iraqi efforts to acquire unconventional weapons. Referring to Ms. Wilson by her maiden name, Plame, Mr. Novak disclosed her identity as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”
Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
He shared a byline with Rowland Evans for three decades. More Photos >
A federal investigation began; federal law prohibited the disclosure of the identities of C.I.A. officers in some circumstances. And it led to the conviction of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Mr. Libby was charged not with leaking Ms. Wilson’s name but with perjury, for lying about his conversations with reporters about Ms. Wilson, and obstruction of justice. President Bush later commuted Mr. Libby’s 30-month prison term. (Mr. Novak himself was at little risk of prosecution under the disclosure law, which applies mainly to people who have authorized access to classified information.) Some reporters were pressured to identify sources with whom they had discussed Ms. Wilson. But to the consternation of some liberals and news media critics, there seemed to be little focus on Mr. Novak. Judith Miller, then a reporter for The New York Times, went to jail for 85 days before she agreed, with Mr. Libby’s permission, to testify to a grand jury about her conversations with Mr. Libby.
In interviews, Mr. Novak seemed to rub salt into the wounds of the other journalists. “I don’t know why they’re upset with me,” he told Brian Lamb of C-Span in 2004. “They ought to worry about themselves. I worry about myself.”
Mr. Novak insisted that he would not name his sources, then disclosed them to investigators and a grand jury, saying he had felt free to speak because the sources had identified themselves to the authorities.
(Mr. Novak’s sources were eventually revealed to be Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, and Karl Rove, the longtime political adviser to President George W. Bush. Neither official was charged with violating the law.)
The episode all but culminated a career that had taken off in earnest some 40 years earlier, when, in 1963, James Bellows, the editor of The New York Herald Tribune, asked Mr. Evans, the paper’s chief Washington correspondent, to write a political column, initially six days a week, and agreed to hire another reporter to help. Mr. Evans chose Mr. Novak, then at The Wall Street Journal.
They were an odd couple: Mr. Evans was Philadelphia Main Line, Yale, squash and exclusive clubs. Mr. Novak was a smart, shrewd small-town boy “looking for trouble,” in his own phrase.
‘Evans and Novak’
The humorist Art Buchwald said: “Novak is the guy who hits you over the head with the truncheon. And Evans is the guy who offers you a cigarette.
The Evans-and-Novak method was to unearth a nugget of real news from inside Washington, or pick up on a piece of political gossip, and build a column around it. Over the years the column leaned in an increasingly conservative direction. (The Chicago Sun-Times became its home paper in 1966.)
For all its influence, though, the column could not always document its scoops. In April 1972, Mr. Evans and Mr. Novak reported that Senator George S. McGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate, favored abortion rights, legalization of marijuana and amnesty for draft dodgers — positions that crippled his standing with most conservative voters.
Mr. Novak said the source had been a Democratic senator, but his refusal to say more prompted accusations that he had made up the story. Only in 2007 did Mr. Novak say that the source had been Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, who had briefly been Mr. McGovern’s running mate before being forced off the ticket by disclosures about electric shock treatments in his past. Mr. Novak said he had felt free to reveal his source after Mr. Eagleton died that year.
Mr. Novak also admitted to giving, on occasion, misleading descriptions of people quoted anonymously. He might say, for example, that someone worked in Congress when the person actually worked for the State Department, he told Right Wing News in 2007.
“It’s shady on the ethical side,” Mr. Novak said.
Mr. Novak liked to own sporty cars. In July 2008, he was fined $50 for striking a homeless pedestrian in Washington with his black Corvette. He said he did not know that the accident had happened until a witness on a bicycle told the police. The witness said the victim, who was not seriously hurt, had been splayed across Mr. Novak’s windshield.
Shortly afterward, a brain tumor was diagnosed, and Mr. Novak underwent surgery. But by September of that year, though now officially retired, he was writing again.
“There are mad bloggers who profess to take delight in my distress, but there’s no need to pay them attention in the face of such an outpouring of good will for me,” Mr. Novak wrote in a column that month. “I had thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington made me more enemies than friends, but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case.”
Robert David Sanders Novak was born in Joliet, Ill., on Feb. 26, 1931, in a Republican home. His father was a chemical engineer who ran Joliet’s gas company. Robert worked on the local newspaper as a high school student and attended the University of Illinois, but he left one course short of graduation to serve stateside as a lieutenant in the Army for two years during the Korean War.
He then worked in Omaha and Indianapolis for The Associated Press before being transferred to Washington. Mr. Novak was recruited by The Wall Street Journal in 1958 and became known as a skilled political reporter. He also wrote for the paper’s editorial page.
Ties to Lyndon Johnson
In writing about his life, Mr. Novak said he had a brief first marriage to an Indianapolis debutante but did not identify her. He later married Geraldine Williams, a secretary for Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. Mr. Johnson insisted on giving the wedding reception.
Besides his wife, Mr. Novak is survived by his daughter, Zelda Jane Novak Caldwell; his son, Alexander; and eight grandchildren. A funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington. Mr. Novak wrote seven books, some with Mr. Evans, on Washington politics and personalities. Robert Caro, who is writing a multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson, praised their 1966 book “Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power” (New American Library).
“Sometimes you read old biographies where you scarcely take a note,” Mr. Caro told Vanity Fair in 2005. “My sheaf of notes on that book is really thick.”
Mr. Novak grew up Jewish and was in a Jewish fraternity in college, but, like Mr. Evans, he was critical of Israel. He prompted a firestorm when he said the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 had been provoked in part by the United States’ closeness to Israel.
After largely ignoring religion and dabbling in Unitarianism, Mr. Novak, in 1998, at age 67, converted to Roman Catholicism. In a ceremony, Msgr. Peter Vaghi proclaimed that the “prince of darkness” had been transformed into a “child of light.”
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who was in attendance, warned against jumping to conclusions.
“Well, we’ve now made Bob a Catholic,” Mr. Moynihan said, according to Washingtonian magazine. “The question is, Can we make him a Christian?”
BURL TOLER, FIRST BLACK N.F.L. ONFIELD OFFICIAL
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: August 20, 2009
Burl Toler, who as perhaps the best player on one of college football’s greatest teams became the focus of racial discrimination, and who went on to become the first black on-field official in the National Football League, died Sunday in Castro Valley, Calif. He was 81.
He died after a sudden illness, said his daughter Susan Toler Carr.
The story of Toler’s college team, the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons, is one of the most extraordinary in sports. Called by Sports Illustrated “the best team you never heard of,” the Dons sent nine players to the N.F.L., three of whom — Gino Marchetti, Bob St. Clair and Ollie Matson — were eventually inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. Its head coach was Joe Kuharich, who went on to coach at Notre Dame and for three professional teams; and the athletic publicity director was Pete Rozelle, who became the N.F.L. commissioner.
Toler, who played on the line on offense and linebacker on defense, was drafted by Cleveland, but he never made it to the pros because of a severe knee injury in a college all-star game.
“I personally felt Burl Toler was the best player of any of us,” Marchetti said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He was the best tackler, the hardest hitter, and he had the most speed.”
The team went 9-0, defeating its opponents by an average score of 32-8, but it was not selected for a postseason game by the Southern-based bowl game committees, ostensibly because of its weak schedule, but in fact because of its two black players, Toler and Matson. In the interview, Marchetti said Rozelle and Kuharich told the team they would be invited to play in a bowl only if the team agreed to leave the two black players behind.
“We answered ‘No, we’d never do that,’ ” Marchetti said. “And after we said no and removed ourselves from consideration, nobody ever had a second thought about it.”
In 2000, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution, submitted by Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, acknowledging that the Dons were victimized by racial prejudice and “that the treatment endured by this team was wrong and that recognition for it accomplishments is long overdue.”
Burl Abron Toler was born in Memphis on May 9, 1928. His father, Arnold, was a Pullman porter. His mother, Annie King Toler, operated a small store and ran a boarding house.
Young Burl went to a segregated high school and did not play football because of a severe burn on his arm; he had an accident disposing of a vat of cooking grease.
After graduating, he went to San Francisco at the suggestion of an uncle who lived there, and he enrolled at the two-year City College of San Francisco, where the football coach spotted him in the gymnasium and asked him to come out for the team. In his first practice, the story goes, he tackled the star running back, Ollie Matson, on three consecutive plays. Their 1948 team was 12-0, and both Toler and Matson earned scholarships at the University of San Francisco.
Toler’s wife, Melvia, died in 1991. In addition to his daughter Susan, who lives in Altadena, Calif., he is survived by a brother, Arnold Jr., of Memphis; two other daughters, Valerie, of Hayward, Calif., and Jennifer, of Berkeley; three sons, Burl Jr., of El Sobrante, Calif., Gregory, of Oakland, and Martel, of San Francisco; and eight grandchildren.
After his knee injury, Toler taught math and physical education at a San Francisco junior high school, the Benjamin Franklin Middle School, where he eventually became the principal. The school was closed in 2004, but reopened in 2006 as the Burl A. Toler Campus, home to two charter schools. Toler was also a commissioner of the San Francisco Police Department from 1978 to 1986.
N.F.L. officiating is part-time work, conducted mostly on weekends. Toler was an N.F.L. official for 25 seasons, beginning in 1965, a year before Emmett Ashford became the first black umpire in the major leagues and three years before Jackie White broke the color barrier in the National Basketball Association. Toler officiated a number of crucial games, including Super Bowl XIV in 1980, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, and the 1982 A.F.C. championship game, in which the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the San Diego Chargers. It became known as the Freezer Bowl because it was played in the coldest temperatures of any game in league history. The wind chill in Cincinnati on Jan. 10, 1982, reached minus 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Toler sustained frostbite on his fingers.
“He was very, very knowledgeable about the game,” Jim Tunney, who worked on the same crew with Toler for 11 years, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “He knew about blocking and tackling. He knew about the emotions the players go through playing the game, which is very important.”
Tunney said Toler was so self-possessed that whatever racist attitudes he encountered in the game simply never became an issue.
“He just didn’t allow racism to enter into his doing his job,” Tunney said. “He never mentioned it, and if it ever did occur, he just rose above it.”
Unlike baseball umpires, whose crews rotate positions from game to game, football officials specialize. When Toler began his career, there were six on-field officials: the referee, who lines up behind the offensive backfield; the umpire, who is positioned in the middle of the field behind the defensive line; the head linesman and the line judge, who are on opposite sidelines on the line of scrimmage; the field judge, who stands on the sideline in the defensive backfield, and the back judge, who is positioned in midfield behind the defensive backs. A seventh official, the side judge, an across-the-field complement to the field judge, was added in 1978.
For most of his career, Toler was a head linesman, with a twofold responsibility: first to watch for line-of-scrimmage infractions like being offside, and then to move downfield to monitor receivers running short and midrange pass routes and the defenders covering them. The job requires not just the instinct to read plays as they develop and foot speed, but also, because he lines up on the sideline and within easy shouting distance of coaches, an especially serene demeanor.
“Burl was extremely quick; he could run like the wind,” said Art McNally, the N.F.L.’s supervisor of officials from 1968 to 1990. “But more than that he was a master of getting people who were up on the ceiling screaming and bringing them back down again.”
DON HEWITT, CREATOR OF ’60 MINUTES’
Published: August 19, 2009
Don Hewitt, who changed the course of broadcast news by creating the television magazine “60 Minutes,” fusing journalism and show business as never before, and who then presided over that much-copied program for nearly four decades, died Wednesday at his home in Bridgehampton, N.Y. He was 86 and also had a home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Librado Romero/The New York Times
Don Hewitt in 1999. More Photos »
The cause was cancer, his wife, Marilyn Berger, said. In an interview in March, Mr. Hewitt said that doctors had found a cancerous tumor on his pancreas and that he was being admitted to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan for treatment.
In a career of more than half a century at CBS News, Mr. Hewitt bridged the history of television journalism, from its birth in the long shadow of radio, through its golden age as an unrivaled fixture in dens and living rooms, to its middle-age present, under siege by the Internet. As a director and producer, Mr. Hewitt helped shape the early broadcasts of pioneers like Edward R. Murrow, Douglas Edwards and Walter Cronkite and oversaw CBS’s coverage of watershed moments like the first presidential debate, between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, in 1960; the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963; and the NASA space missions of the late 1960s.
But it was as creator and executive producer of “60 Minutes” that he had his biggest impact — imagining, in effect, what an electronic version of Life magazine would be like, and then bringing it to the screen with a mix of hard-hitting investigative pieces and celebrity profiles. It was a formula that the other networks soon imitated.
Mr. Hewitt was also instrumental in the emergence of the television reporter as a celebrity.
The reporters he recruited for “60 Minutes” — including Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather and later Lesley Stahl and Ed Bradley — became as recognizable as the politicians they confronted and the entertainers they interviewed. Whatever lineup of reporters was featured in a particular television season, they were presented to their Sunday night audience as equals.
Within a few years, the program had become a ratings juggernaut, a status that until then had been the province of comedies like those featuring Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball. It took up residence among the top 10 shows on prime-time television for more than two decades, earning the network “maybe $2 billion,” Mr. Hewitt once estimated. At its peak, in the 1979-80 television season, “60 Minutes,” opening with the trademark ticking stopwatch, was seen in an estimated 28 million homes each Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Separately, Mr. Hewitt was given credit for creating, or helping to create, a number of television news innovations, like putting headsets on newsmakers at political conventions and other events so they might be interviewed remotely, and displaying type on screen — a subject’s name, for example. He said he got that idea from the sliding letters on the wall-mounted menu of a diner in Chicago in 1952.
He also gave new meaning to the word anchorman, which referred, he said, not to the anchor of a ship but to the final runner on a four-person relay team, the one who in effect would carry the news home and receive the most attention in the process.
A New Model for TV
In more than 35 years at the helm of “60 Minutes,” which he led from its founding in 1968 to his departure, under pressure, at age 82 in 2004, Mr. Hewitt made stars (and millionaires) not only of Mr. Rather, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Bradley and Ms. Stahl, but also of Morley Safer, Steve Kroft and Andy Rooney. While theirs were the faces that, collectively, opened the program for decades each Sunday night at 7 (or a bit later in football season), the program that viewers ultimately saw was largely forged off-camera by Mr. Hewitt.
Having been fired in the mid-1960s as executive producer of Mr. Cronkite’s “CBS Evening News” — Fred Friendly, who was president of CBS News at the time, faulted Mr. Hewitt for his emphasis on “lots of dazzle, lots of pace” — Mr. Hewitt used his brief time in exile within the news division headquarters in Manhattan to conceive a program that he likened to a broadcast version of a general-interest magazine like Life.
Mr. Hewitt reasoned that “60 Minutes” — named for the hour of prime time the network would give him each week — would toggle between hard news and soft.
“We could look into Marilyn Monroe’s closet, so long as we looked into Robert Oppenheimer’s laboratory, too,” he wrote in his 2001 memoir “Tell Me a Story.” “We could make the news entertaining, without compromising our integrity.”
A Force Behind the News
Behind the scenes, he could be a stern, hyperkinetic taskmaster. Tom Goodman, a former public relations executive at CBS, recalled Wednesday that Mr. Hewitt was known for the occasional screaming match with Mr. Wallace and would sometimes threaten to quit over minor matters, behavior that the management knew it had to put up with.
A story often told at CBS, and by Mr. Hewitt himself, involved an incident in which he and Mr. Wallace were on a plane together when Mr. Wallace collapsed. Mr. Hewitt recalled looking down and saying, using an expletive: “Oh, he’s dead. Now we’re never going to catch ‘Cheers.’ ”
Mr. Hewitt established and enforced a set of fundamental elements for the program: an emphasis on narrative; interviews in which the questions (and questioners) were often more interesting than the subjects themselves; occasional gotcha moments that snared wrongdoers like Watergate co-conspirators or cigarette manufacturers; and, as respites from the more sober reports, candid conversations with personalities like Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Robin Williams and Bruce Springsteen.
The format spawned a host of newsmagazine competitors, among them “20/20,” “Prime Time Live” and, to some extent, “Nightline,” all on ABC, as well as “Dateline” on NBC. For several years it also had a sister broadcast on CBS, known as “60 Minutes II” and “60 Minutes Wednesday.”
“ ‘60 Minutes’ was the model and the framework of everything that followed,” said Victor Neufeld, who was a senior producer of “20/20” at its inception in the late 1970s and was the program’s executive producer for 16 years, ending in 2002. “ ‘20/20’ was a different version of ‘60 Minutes.’ It was the same concept of taking information and telling compelling stories, nonfiction stories with strong characters, in a prime-time environment.”
But by demonstrating that news could deliver big audiences at a fraction of the cost of a scripted comedy or drama, Mr. Hewitt and “60 Minutes” also helped usher in an era in television in which reality would become routinely wrapped in the gilt of excess and sensationalism.
In more recent years, an offshoot of “Dateline” called “To Catch a Predator” would seek to entrap pedophiles on camera in ways reminiscent of one of Mr. Wallace’s early pieces. In that report, a “60 Minutes” producer working with the Better Government Association of Chicago had turned a Chicago storefront into a dummy health clinic, with the intent of catching a representative for a blood lab in the act of seeking a kickback. At the climactic moment, Mr. Wallace appeared from behind a one-way mirror.
With a mix of stories in both content and tone, Mr. Hewitt strove for balance on “60 Minutes.” But that studied approach was thrown to the wayside by some early-evening entertainment news shows, which focused on gossip and stories that were often spoon-fed to them by movie and television publicists.
As his “60 Minutes” career was drawing to a close, Mr. Hewitt appeared to acknowledge what he had wrought.
“We started a trend, and we ruined television,” he said in 2002, on an episode of the PBS program “American Masters” that focused on “60 Minutes,” “because we made it profitable to do this kind of thing.”
Mr. Hewitt was also present at what is now regarded as the inception of the modern presidential campaign: the first 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate, which established television as the pre-eminent medium in American electoral politics. Mr. Hewitt produced and directed the face-off, in Chicago, for the three major networks.
His involvement in the event extended even to the makeup. Mr. Hewitt said he offered makeup to Kennedy, who refused. Nixon, following suit, also refused. But Kennedy was suntanned and Nixon was not, and without makeup Nixon’s complexion came across as pasty, setting off his five o’clock shadow. Many critics have said that Kennedy was perceived to have won the debate, and eventually won the election, because he looked better on camera that day.
Strife at CBS
With Mr. Cronkite’s death in July at age 92, CBS News has now lost two of its biggest pillars in a little over a month. There was a time when the two men were on opposite sides of a story that roiled CBS. In 1974, “60 Minutes” presented a muckraking Mike Wallace report about press junkets that named CBS as having organized free trips paid for by corporations to working journalists and identified Mr. Cronkite, the network’s leading anchorman, as one who had accepted junkets in the past.
In what he later regarded as one of the darkest periods of his career, Mr. Hewitt capitulated in 1995 to CBS’s demand that he kill a “60 Minutes” piece based on interviews with an “insider” from the Brown & Williamson tobacco company. The insider, a former Brown & Williamson scientist named Jeffrey Wigand, had provided “60 Minutes” with evidence that the company had systematically disregarded evidence on the dangers of smoking.
The network, which was in the process of being sold to Westinghouse, worried that the broadcast could expose CBS to billions of dollars in potential liability, because it could be perceived as abetting Mr. Wigand in breaking a confidentiality agreement he had signed. Among those sharply and publicly critical of Mr. Hewitt’s acquiescence were Mr. Wallace, the correspondent on the segment, and Lowell Bergman, the segment producer. Mr. Bergman’s defiance was memorialized by Al Pacino, who played him in the 1999 film “The Insider,” based on a Vanity Fair article about the episode.
In his 2001 memoir, Mr. Hewitt said his hands had been tied by the network’s lawyers. He recalled telling Mr. Wallace, “Look, the only way to get this story on the air is to go out and hire a bunch of guerrillas and take the transmitter at gunpoint.”
“Failing that,” he wrote, “what could we do about it? We could quit, of course. But I had spent too much of my life making ‘60 Minutes’ what it was.”
Eventually, after The Wall Street Journal beat “60 Minutes” to a version of the same story through an article based on Mr. Wigand’s testimony in a court case, “60 Minutes” belatedly broadcast its report on the matter.
Donald Shepard Hewitt was born in New York City on Dec. 14, 1922, and grew up just north of the city in New Rochelle, N.Y. His father was a classified advertising manager for The Boston American and later ran a company that sold circulars door-to-door. The young Don Hewitt found himself pulled toward two seemingly opposite poles as he logged endless hours in the local movie house.
“Through it all, I never knew which character I really wanted to be,” he wrote in his memoir, “Hildy Johnson, the reporter in ‘The Front Page,’ or Julian Marsh, the Broadway producer in ‘42nd Street.’ I would have settled for either one, with a slight nod toward Hildy Johnson. Because along with the movies, I had another passion: to be a reporter.”
The Path to Television
A year after enrolling in New York University on a track scholarship, Mr. Hewitt dropped out. His first job was as a copy boy at The New York Herald Tribune, for $15 a week. In 1943, he enrolled at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., in lieu of joining the Army. He eventually parlayed that experience into an assignment covering the merchant marine for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, which led him to London.
By 1945, he was back in New York working for The Herald Tribune when he was hired to become night editor of The Associated Press bureau in Memphis. His new wife, Mary Weaver, began to pine for New York, though, and they soon moved back. His new job as the night editor at a photo agency led to a lucky job offer: a friend told Mr. Hewitt that CBS, known primarily for its radio work, was looking for someone with picture experience to join its new effort to produce television programming.
“What-avision?” Mr. Hewitt recalled asking.
At the time, in 1948, the CBS studio was based over Grand Central Terminal. “So I went down to Grand Central Terminal, and damned if they didn’t have it, up on the top floor — little pictures in a box,” Mr. Hewitt wrote in “Tell Me a Story.” “They also had cameras and lights and makeup artists and stage managers and microphone booms just like in the movies, and I was hooked.”
Mr. Hewitt eventually separated from Ms. Weaver, who later died. A second marriage, to Frankie Childers, ended in divorce. He married Marilyn Berger in 1979; she had been a correspondent for The Washington Post and NBC News who later wrote obituaries for The New York Times.
She survives him, as do two sons, Jeffrey and Steven, from his first marriage; two daughters, Lisa Cassara and Jilian Hewitt, from his second marriage; and three grandchildren.
Though Mr. Hewitt remained under contract as a consultant to CBS after his departure from “60 Minutes,” he returned to prime time in 2007 as an executive producer for an hourlong program broadcast on a rival network, NBC. He did so in a capacity that might have made Julian Marsh proud. Mr. Hewitt conceived of a special that would broadcast the Radio City Christmas Spectacular largely intact, so that the viewer at home could watch the show as if in person.
Asked at the time how he had enjoyed the experience — in which he directed two hosts, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, posed with the Rockettes and managed nine high-definition cameras that Murrow and Edwards would have hardly recognized — Mr. Hewitt said it had been the thrill of a very rich lifetime.
“I consider myself a guy who married ‘show biz’ and ‘news biz,’ ” he said.