NEW YORK (AP) — A brief “60 Minutes” piece on the late David Bowie that aired Sunday was the result of a 15-year journey of missed connections involving three of the newsmagazine’s correspondents and a rock star gone underground.
Bowie talked about his artistry and getting old in interview clips from 2003 that were never aired before Sunday on “60 Minutes.” The rock star died of cancer at age 69 on Jan. 10.
Robert Zimet, an editor at “60 Minutes,” proposed an in-depth profile of Bowie for the newsmagazine in 2000, and correspondent Ed Bradley was assigned.
Before much was done, the 2001 terrorist attacks happened. Then the Iraq War. A rock-star profile wasn’t a priority.
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The idea was resurrected as Bowie prepared his “Reality” album and tour in 2003, and Zimet and producer Peter Klein traveled to Woodstock, New York, to record some material and conduct preliminary interviews. Bradley was to follow but the correspondent, who died in 2006, became ill and had to cancel.
Zimet convinced Mike Wallace to take over the story and arrangements were made for an interview in Poughkeepsie, New York, where Bowie was performing in advance of his tour. Wallace, who was in his mid-80s at the time, fell on vacation and doctors ordered him to take it easy.
“60 Minutes” got yet another correspondent involved — Lesley Stahl — and she spoke with Bowie. There wasn’t enough time to do the in-depth interview that the show wanted before Bowie had to leave for his European tour, however.
It was on this tour, in 2004, when Bowie suffered a heart attack and receded from public view. He stopped giving interviews. When Bowie surprised his fans with the 2013 album, “The Next Day,” Zimet approached his camp to complete the profile but was rebuffed. It was the same thing late in 2015, when Zimet learned that the “Blackstar” disc was coming.
The 2003 footage remained on a shelf at CBS until Zimet took it out to include in an online story about Bowie’s death. His bosses took notice and the material was used on “CBS This Morning” and in the brief piece introduced by Bill Whitaker on Sunday.
“I had never given up hope that at some point we would be able to complete this,” Zimet said. “It was a good interview. He was a great subject. I always had hope. Unfortunately, it was not the way I wanted it to get on the air.”