One Sunday afternoon in the late 1960s, Mike Wallace (search) got a call from Don Hewitt (search), who wanted to come over to talk about his idea for a television newsmagazine that became "60 Minutes."

"We'd like you to wear the black hat," Wallace recalled Hewitt saying, a reference to Wallace's hard-charging style chasing wrongdoers. The late Harry Reasoner wore the white hat.

CBS feted the 81-year-old Hewitt on Tuesday night at a party in the new Mandarin Oriental hotel (search). He's just stepped down as executive producer of the newsmagazine he started.

Hewitt received the traditional retirement gift — a gold watch — but CBS was quick to emphasize that he'll still be working on special projects for the news divisions.

CBS boss Leslie Moonves (search) called Hewitt his idol, a status not diminished when Hewitt pitched him the worst idea for a sitcom that he had ever heard.

Larry King and Katie Couric were among the news glitterati on hand. So were NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and ABC anchor Peter Jennings, although CBS counterpart Dan Rather was absent because he traveled to Washington for former President Reagan's funeral. (search

Wallace recalled years of legendary arguments with Hewitt. "There was blood on the floor — his and mine," he said.

"He's a pain in the ...," Wallace said, "but he's a genius for what he does. America is the better for having seen 36 years of `60 Minutes.'"