Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw Celebrate 60 Minutes Creator

Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw Celebrate 60 Minutes Creator

Don Hewitt is the man behind the scenes, the guy you never see. And yet, he’s the inventor of the most influential news program of all time, 60 Minutes. On Wednesday night, he celebrated the publication of his memoir, Tell Me A Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television. Talk magazine editor-in-chief Tina Brown hosted a powerful list of top media people at the Museum of Television and Radio in honor of Hewitt and let me tell you — heads were swerving this way and that as new big names joined the throng.

Nearly all the 60 Minutes crowd was there: Mike Wallace, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, Andy Rooney, Bob Simon, Steve Kroft and longtime chief producers Phil Scheffler and Esther Kartiganer — as well as Walter Cronkite with wife Betsy, the legendary foreign correspondent (now with CNN) Garrick Utley and wife Gertje, author of Picasso: The Communist Years, plus Brown’s husband, the great writer and editor Harold Evans.

Want more names? How about the impeccable Vernon Jordan, Hewitt’s publisher Peter Osnos, GE head honcho Jack Welch, Tom Brokaw, Steve Brill, George Stephanopoulos, Time editor-in-chief Walter Isaacson, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Charlie Rose, Robert Morgenthau, and Barbara Walters. 

Also on hand were Fox News Channel’s Roger Ailes, and Paula Zahn — the latter in a leg brace due to a nasty break. Paula, a terrific athlete, has been bemoaning her immobility the last few weeks, but we’re cheering her on so she may ski again next winter.

The great gossip columnist Liz Smith, dressed like an Oscar in gold, came to celebrate Hewitt as well, along with ABC’s Cynthia McFadden, Harper’s Bazaar editor Kate Betts, writer Lynn Hirschberg, photographer/author Jill Krementz, writer Diane Shah, Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, novelist Erica Jong with husband Ken Burrows, and Fox commentator Monica Crowley.

Osnos, for one, was deep in conversation with Jordan about possibly publishing his own memoirs. Jordan has a long and fantastic career in politics, but is probably best known these days as the man who helped Bill Clinton get internships and jobs for Monica Lewinsky. The joke going around the party was, What’s Vernon Jordan doing now? Answer: he’s running a temp agency.

But back to Hewitt: Sources on his staff told me last night that he's always a collaborator. “He would walk around the office reading portions of the book out loud while he was writing it,” said one 60 Minutes intimate. “He’s that excited about everything.”

When I mentioned to Hewitt that I often listen to 60 Minutes on CBS radio in my car rather than watch it, he replied: “We create the show as if it were on radio. That’s how we know it works.”

Mike Wallace, the Eveready Rabbit of News

I ran into the indefatigable Mike Wallace — who’s 84 and looks 54 and shows no wear or tear but quite the contrary. He is a walking tribute to good living. Wallace told me that this Sunday he’s got the incredible New York Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens on the hot seat. “I didn’t exactly make him cry, but when we talked about his dad he teared up and had trouble not crying,” Mike said. “This isn’t very common for athletes, who don’t like to talk about the game much.”

Wallace also told me that on Easter Sunday he has an interview with the great comic Mel Brooks, whose musical The Producers, based on his own classic movie, is about to open on Broadway. “Let me tell you,” said Mike, “it’s just about the best show I’ve ever seen. It will run forever.” And that’s high praise coming from a man who’s seen and done it all.

Wyclef Jean and Stars Whoop it up at Studio 54

My favorite guy in hip-hop or music of any kind right now, the brilliant Wyclef Jean, performed a rockin’ set last night at Studio 54 to celebrate Arista Records’ Jerry Blair’s 40th birthday. The revelation of the night, though, was Arista/La Face singer Joy Enriquez. She has a magnificent voice and ain’t bad looking, either. Her debut album is out now on Arista.

Wyclef (get his album, Ecleftic, even if you hate rap and modern R&B) is so enthusiastic about performing that he may still be there right now. In his longish set he included his solo hits “Gone til November” and “Somebody Call 911.” He also performed with Pras, his partner from the Fugees, and announced that with two of the three Fugees on stage it would only be a matter of time before Lauryn Hill rejoined them. I hope so.

Ironically, the Fugees record for Columbia Records, where Blair used to work and Wyclef once had a label.

Wyclef started the evening by pulling up to Studio 54 in a pair of gorgeous Bentley convertibles — one black, one white, with New Jersey and California license plates respectively. The Man himself was dressed in a kind of neon all-white suit and hat. Stylin’, baby!

Guests for the Blair birthday ranged from several Columbia/Sony execs (whose names will remain anonymous) to TV’s David Spade, easily the least well groomed celebrity I’ve seen in many moons. Ironic since his sister-in-law Kate is considered a hot deal in the fashion world with her pocketbooks. Maybe he’s rebelling against that — in a big way.

Arista chief L.A. Reid still had not shown when this reporter left the proceedings at 11:30 p.m. — a good two hours after the evening began. I did hear Wyclef say from the stage, though, “Is L.A. Reid here? Someone tell him he’s got to be on time!”

That’s Wyclef Jean, punctual freestyle rapper.

Dealing a Blow to Blow: In the Movie, Coke Is It

Blow, directed by Ted Demme, opens today. It stars Johnny Depp as real life cocaine dealer George Jung, currently serving time in jail until 2015.

Depp is excellent, as is the rest of the cast, but Blow is undermined by a script that never explains what motivates Jung to continue committing crimes and serving jail time. He’s in an unbroken cycle and learns nothing from his experiences. Ultimately, Blow feels like Traffic-lite, or Goodfellas: the Abridged Version.

To make matters worse, two talented actors — Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths — are bizarrely cast as Depp’s parents in flashback, and later, when he’s an adult. Griffiths especially doesn’t make this transition plausible. Her Boston accent is, well, not there, and her look is off. But knowing that she’s probably younger than Depp in real life didn’t help.

Blow is based on Bruce Porter’s previously out of print book about Jung. At the semi-premiere the other night, Porter didn’t seem too happy about the way the film turned out, primarily because much of it was condensed and meaning was lost. “They filmed a big courtroom scene that explained a lot,” said a friend of Porter’s, “but decided to cut it at the last minute.”

Some of the production values a little off too: Depp wears so many long-haired hippie hair pieces that sometimes the movie seems like it should be called Wigstock: The Drug Years. Dazzlingly beautiful Penelope Cruz, still having trouble speaking English clearly, is billed as Depp’s co-star but in fact appears more than an hour into the film. In her final scene, she looks ravishing. But maybe it’s time to use a vocal coach.

Ellen Kuras, the cinematographer who’s worked a lot on Spike Lee’s very good looking films, should get some kudo’s though. She gives the color in Blow a washed out look, as if it the whole thing had been snapped by a Brownie camera circa 1966. Nice, nice work.