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Hidden Cameras and The Mirage

In 1977, investigate reporter Pam Zekman convinced the Chicago Sun-Times to buy a bar, devilishly named The Mirage. She wanted to expose the sordid corruption among Chicago city inspectors and law enforcement and document the payoffs to city officials that the bar would be forced to make.

The newspaper teamed up with a local watchdog group, the Better Government Association, and invited Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes to film behind the scenes of what became an eye-opening, jaw-dropping 25-part newspaper series. In 1978, 60 Minutes aired its piece on Super Bowl Sunday to a vast national audience.

Zekman, now the investigative reporter for CBS-owned WBBM in Chicago, recalled, “They interviewed us in the basement and shot stuff for themselves, including interviews with some of the inspectors and ‘Mr. Fixit,’” a shadowy figure named Phil Barasch, who told the Mirage gang who they had to pay to stay in business.

Interviewing Barasch, Zekman recalled, “Mike did one of those classic performances. “He said, ‘Just between you and me,’ even though there were two cameras whirring and it was for a national audience.”

Zekman says an IRS official told her Wallace got Barasch to admit things on camera that they never got, adding, “It was masterful. It was fantastic to watch.”

Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.