Mike Wallace, the famous television journalist from 60 Minutes, passed away five years ago this April — I saw a note of rememberence on TV the other night.
That got me to thinking about the time I almost met Mike Wallace.
Back in the early 1990s I was working my way through college in Houston; I was lucky to get a job as a weekend night bellhop/valet at the Houstonian Hotel. I was the bellhop from midnight to 5 a.m. and the valet for the whole 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift ending Sunday and Monday mornings — most Sunday’s I’d do a double shift and valet until 2.
At the time the hotel was the official residence of the elder President George Bush and was frequented by many famous and infamous people.
During my tenure there I delivered a teddy bear and flowers to tennis player Monica Seles (her mother told me I couldn’t look at her or speak while I was in her room – so I waited till momma was out of the room to flirt); washed Earl Campbell’s convertible (complete with cleaning the longhorns on the hood for a $20 tip); had a weird conversation about ghosts with a strange person that I will call Mhirley Sacliane; and talked about life on Sunday’s at brunch with the Rev. John Osteen (his son is more famous, but the dad was more interesting).
Working overnight, I had many strange experiences. One night about 3 a.m. a Saudi prince called down wanting a warm goat milk delivered to his room – the kitchen whipped up something and told me to deliver it. The prince opened the door completely naked with his harem of three behind him. I had to formally serve the drink – then wait for him to search around in the buff for money to tip.
Which brings me to Mike Wallace.
Each night at midnight I checked the front desk for my list of early departures — I’d call a van or taxi for them or have their car waiting when they checked out. I also had to deliver a newspaper to each room and occasionally deliver special early breakfast orders.
So this one night I had a note that the desk would make a wakeup call at 4:15 a.m. and I was to follow with black coffee, toast, bacon and eggs to this room for the host of 60 Minutes at 4:30 a.m. – it said “Don’t be late!”
I got there early and stood in the hall for a few minutes. I knocked on the door at 4:29 a.m. and this deeply wrinkled, tired man — with strong piercing eyes, and who looked vaguely familiar, opened it. Wearing only a white towel around his waist, and slippers, it seemed he had just got out of the shower and was toweling off. I remember his hair was sticking in every direction and he looked like he had a rough night. I brought him his cart of food – poured him his coffee and said, “How are you doing this morning Mr. Wallace?”
We talked about the weather while he lit a cigarette and guzzled coffee — still with only a towel wrapped around his waist.
I poured him another cup of coffee while he quizzed me on if I watched 60 Minutes, what I thought of the show, etc. I gushed praise, trying to make a good impression and earn a healthy tip.
He tipped me five bucks so my efforts had worked. I said, “Thank you Mr. Wallace.” And then I left the room, bounced down the stairs. I leaned on the front desk to to brag to the blond front desk girl about my experience.
“You dope,” she said when I told her about Mr. Wallace giving me a tip. “That’s not Mike Wallace. It’s Morley Safer – the other guy from 60 Minutes.”
And that’s the story about how I almost met Mike Wallace.