Wynton Marsalis leads CBS tribute to Morley Safer

FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2008 file photo, news correspondent Morley Safer arrives at the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame Awards in New York. CBS News paid tribute to late "60 Minutes" reporter Morley Safer on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, with some New Orleans jazz from Wynton Marsalis and a letter from the prime minister of his native Canada. Safer died May 19 at age 84, eight days after CBS announced his retirement and four days after "60 Minutes" aired a special about his work during more than 50 years at CBS. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
FILE - In this July 23, 2009 file photo, "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer leaves the funeral of Walter Cronkite in New York. CBS News paid tribute to late "60 Minutes" reporter Morley Safer on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, with some New Orleans jazz from Wynton Marsalis and a letter from the prime minister of his native Canada. Safer died May 19 at age 84, eight days after CBS announced his retirement and four days after "60 Minutes" aired a special about his work during more than 50 years at CBS. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, File)

NEW YORK — CBS News paid tribute to late "60 Minutes" reporter Morley Safer on Thursday with some New Orleans jazz from Wynton Marsalis, a letter from the prime minister of his native Canada and a few hearty laughs.

Safer died May 19 at age 84, eight days after CBS announced his retirement and four days after "60 Minutes" aired a special about his work during more than 50 years at CBS, most on the newsmagazine he joined in 1970 in only its third season.

"I believe he held onto life until that broadcast aired," said Jeff Fager, "60 Minutes" executive producer and once one of Safer's story producers, at a Manhattan memorial attended by broadcast luminaries like Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel and Charlie Rose.

CBS has become sadly adept at organizing these memorials as a generation of stars from the "60 Minutes" golden years died, including Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, Bob Simon, Andy Rooney and founding executive Don Hewitt.

Safer came to CBS from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He worked there before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was born, yet one of Safer's CBC colleagues read a letter from Trudeau at the memorial. Safer's CBS career included on-the-scene reporting from Vietnam, where his story about American soldiers setting a Vietnamese village on fire angered the Johnson administration.

When he agreed to come to "60 Minutes," he had it written into his contract that he would return to London if the show was cancelled for bad ratings. That was never an issue, and he did 919 stories for the broadcast between 1970 and 2016.

The current dean of "60 Minutes" reporters, Steve Kroft, was in the military working a public relations job in Vietnam in 1970 and recalled his boss becoming scared upon learning that Safer was coming to make a documentary.

When he later got to know him, "I could tell immediately that this was somebody who enjoyed inspiring fear," Kroft said. In the cutthroat backstage world at "60 Minutes," Safer and Wallace were often bitter rivals. Kroft was once baffled when Safer tried to steal a story from him, learning it was because it required a trip to France where Safer loved his expense-account meals.

His former colleague was "capable of inflicting as much damage with a wry comment as Mike Wallace could with a bludgeon," Kroft said.

Fager has a framed "piece" from art lover Safer, who once had a gallery show of sketches he made of hotel rooms across the world. It memorialized a curtain stained by the coffee cup he once hurled at Fager. Safer titled it, "Weak Coffee on Cheap Curtain."

Marsalis recalled conversations he had with Safer, who told him that when he died, he wanted a New Orleans jazz tribute. Marsalis asked him about traditions back home in Canada.

"He said, 'We drank a lot,'" Marsalis said, before picking up his horn and, with his band, leading the memorial service's audience to a reception.

Must Read

Changes at Ralph Lauren come at cost investors are OK with

Aug 10, 2016

Ralph Lauren swung to a quarterly loss after the company spent heavily to turn itself around, but the damage was not as bad as many had expected its shares rocketed higher

Colbert to air live after Trump-Clinton presidential debates

Aug 10, 2016

Stephen Colbert, who capitalized on the political conventions with live broadcasts, will do the same for the presidential and vice presidential debates

Matt LeBlanc: I'm not sure what's happening with 'Top Gear'

Aug 10, 2016

Matt LeBlanc, who stars in a new CBS comedy "Man with a Plan," says he doesn't know whether he will be back to host more "Top Gear" on the BBC

People also read these

Former aide in text: Christie 'flat out lied' in bridge case

Aug 10, 2016

According to a new court filing, a former aide to Chris Christie texted to a colleague that the New Jersey governor "flat out lied" at a news conference about the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal

US deports former Guatemalan soldier wanted in 1982 massacre

Aug 10, 2016

Authorities say a former Guatemalan soldier accused of helping carry out a massacre of more than 200 people in 1982 during the country's civil war has been deported from the United States

Psychiatrist: Man accused of stabbing father not competent

Aug 10, 2016

A psychiatrist says a man accused of fatally stabbing his father, the state's former labor commissioner, suffers from paranoid delusions and is mentally incompetent to stand trial for first-degree murder