How Morley Safer almost gave Don Hewitt a heart attack

Remembering Morley Safer

Longtime 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer,who diedMay 19 at the age of 84, had spent an astounding 46 years on the program, joining just two years after it launched. Safer changed war reporting when he revealed video of U.S. servicemen setting fire to Vietnamese villages in 1965. But he also was an artist, and among the first things he did when he was on the road was to paint a still life of his hotel room. Here, 60 Minutesexecutive producer Jeff Fager remembers his friend and colleague:

Some of the most fun I had with Morley was pranking each other or pranking other people. Morley and Mike Wallace got [60 Minutes creator and executive producer] Don Hewitt so badly that they thought he might have a heart attack. They had him overhear this plot that they — Mike and Morley — had been approached by a private equity firm that wanted to buy 60 Minutes away from CBS, only on the condition that Don Hewitt wouldn't be part of the purchase. When they realized how upset he was, Morley tried to tell him it was a joke. But Don wouldn't believe him and got even more worked up. And it scared Morley. He really thought Don would have a heart attack because he was so upset. So there was a lot of pranking. It was part of what made Morley fun to be with. He wanted to have fun. He threw coffee at me once, and he turned it into art. I ducked when he threw the coffee, and it went all over his curtain. So 10 years later, when they finally took the dirty curtains down, he cut that section out and framed it. And he called it Weak Coffee on Cheap Curtain 1989.

See photos of Morley Safer through the years:

Morley Safer, 60 Minutes
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How Morley Safer almost gave Don Hewitt a heart attack
NEW YORK - JANUARY 1: CBS News correspondent Morley Safer crouches to avoid hostile fire as he reports from Vietnam in 1965. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
SAIGON - JANUARY 1: CBS reporter, Morley Safer reporting from Vietnam in 1965 for CBS News. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
MEKONG DELTA - JANUARY 1: American news broadcaster Morley Safer, correspondent for CBS News, as he reports from the Mekong Delta, Vietnam during the Vietnam War 1965. Photo is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 19: Morley Safer, CBS News reporter and correspondent. Image dated February 19, 1965. New York, NY. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
CAM NE - JANUARY 1: American news broadcaster Morley Safer, correspondent for CBS News, as Safer reports on the systematic burning of South Vietnamese villages by US Marines during the Vietnam War, Cam Ne, Vietnam, 1965. The broadcast showed US Marines igniting huts with Zippo lighters. Photo is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: CBS News reporter Morley Safer for 60 Minutes. Image dated November 17, 1970. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - DECEMBER 2: Journalist Morley Safer and wife Jane Safer attend Kennedy Center Honors Gala on December 2, 1984 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK - APRIL 21: 60 MINUTES Morley Safer in his office, April 21, 1980. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 6: Portrait of Morley Safer, CBS News correspondent and reporter. Image dated September 6, 1985. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite, and Morley Safer during Anthology Film Awards at La Belle Epoque in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Members of television's '60 Minutes' news program gather at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY, 10 November 1993 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the popular show. From left are: Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Morley Safer, Steve Kroft, Ed Bradley, Leslie Stahl, and Executive Producer Don Hewitt. (Photo credit should read BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 04: Morley Safer is on hand for the Museum of Television and Radio Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) News reporter Morley Safer during an interview with guest host Jay Lenoon May 15, 1990 -- (Photo by: Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
CNN's Larry King interviews Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft and Bob Simon of the '60 Minutes' anchor team during a taping of 'Larry King Live' on Tuesday, June 8, 2004. The show will air on Monday, June 14, 2004 at 9:00pm ET. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/WireImage)
NEW YORK - MAY 16: 60 Minutes correspondent/co-host Morley Safer shows off his 5 Peabody Awards during the 64th Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon held at the Waldorf-Astoria May 16, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 21: CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer attends the 18th Annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Awards at the Waldorf Astoria Basildon Room on October 21, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (L) and CBS correspondent Morley Safer attends the Ralph Lauren Fall 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Skylight Studio on February 20, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORKÂÂSEPT. 17, 2009ÂÂ60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer has been with the show for 39 years. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Journalist Morley Safer and wife Jane Safer attend the premiere of 'Tin Men' on February 18, 1987 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Morley Safer attends the 'Veep' screening at the Time Warner Screening Room on April 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

This story first appeared in the June 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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