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April 9, 2012

Remembering Mike Wallace for his early recognition of Barbra Streisand

Reactions to the death Saturday of Mike Wallace have understandably focused on his extraordinary contributions as a broadcast journalist, especially his incisive work on "60 Minutes," his brilliant interrogations of the mighty and the dangerous.

Forgive me (as he would say), but I always associate Mr. Wallace first with his prescient appreciation of Barbra Streisand at the start of her career. That provides plenty of reason to admire the guy. If you've never heard the clips I've posted below, I think you'll find them quite enjoyable.

When I became a Streisand addict at a tender age, I was ...

out on a limb in my immediate circle of family and friends. Most people I knew could not stand her "strident" voice, her "kooky" looks, etc. So that made me all the more adamant in my devotion to her, and I loved finding anyone who shared my taste (hey, I was young, what can I say?).

As I dug more into the past of my new idol -- she was already firmly established by the time I first heard her -- I felt vindicated whenever I learned about the people who had spotted Streisand's talent right away and gave her an early boost.

One of those was Mr. Wallace, on one of his early gigs, a TV show called "P.M. East."

For the longest time this was something I could only read about, but, eventually, a few tantalizing 1961 audio clips of the show emerged. They're really quite endearing, with Mr. Wallace sounding genuinely fascinated by this unusual young woman, her singing, her sense of humor, her offbeat ways.

So, as my way of honoring the memory of a notable journalist, I've attached a couple of clips from those long ago days.

I especially love the one that includes Streisand's disarming performance of "Moon River." The second provides a nice sample of the banter from occasions when she was Mr. Wallace's guest on "P.M. East":

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


Enjoyed what you said a great deal. The clips too!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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