tv 60 Minutes CBS May 10, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford >> kroft: you had to tell a lot of lies. >> absolutely. i was living a lie. >> kroft: were you a good liar? >> the best. >> kroft: tonight, we're going to tell you a story you probably never heard before because only a few people outside the fbi know anything about it. it's a spy story unlike any other, about a kgb agent who operated in the united states during the last decade of the cold war. what's remarkable is that he's never spent a night in jail, the russians declared him dead a long time ago, and he's living a quiet life in upstate new york free to tell his story as honestly as a former spy ever can. did you think you were going to get away with it? >> yes. otherwise, i wouldn't have done it.
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>> kroft: tonight, we're going to tell you a story you've probably never heard before, because only a few people outside the fbi know anything about it. it's a spy story unlike any other, and if you think your life is complicated, wait till you hear about jack barsky's who led three of them simultaneously: one, as a husband and father; two, as a computer programmer and administrator at some top american corporations; and three, as a kgb agent spying on america during the last decade of the cold war. the fbi did finally apprehend him in pennsylvania, but it was long after the soviet union had crumbled. what makes jack barsky's story even more remarkable is he's never spent a night in jail. the russians declared him dead a long time ago. he's living a quiet life in
upstate new york and has worked in important and sensitive jobs. he's now free to tell his story as honestly as a former spy ever can. so, who are you? >> jack barsky: who am i? ( laughs ) that depends when the question is asked. right now, i'm jack barsky. i work in the united states, i'm a u.s. citizen, but it wasn't always the case. >> kroft: how many different identities do you have? >> barsky: i have two main identities-- a german one and an american one. >> kroft: what's your real name? >> barsky: my real name is jack barsky. >> kroft: and what name were you born with? >> barsky: albrecht dittrich. say that three times real fast. >> kroft: just say it once slowly. >> barsky: albrecht dittrich. >> kroft: how albrecht dittrich became jack barsky is one of the untold stories of the cold war an era when the real battles were often fought between the cia and the kgb. barsky was a rarity, a soviet spy who posed as an american and became enmeshed in american
society. for the ten years he was operational for the kgb, no one in this country knew his real story, not even his family. did you think you were going to get away with this? >> barsky: yeah, otherwise, i wouldn't have done it. ( laughs ) >> kroft: what barsky did can be traced back to east germany, back to the days when he was albrecht dittrich. a national scholar at a renowned university in jena, dittrich was on the fast track to becoming a chemistry professor, his dream job. >> barsky: didn't work out that way, because i was recruited by the kgb to do something a little more adventurous. >> kroft: spy? >> barsky: we called it something different. we used a euphemism. i was going to be a "scout for peace." >> kroft: a kgb "scout for peace"? >> barsky: that is correct. the communist spies were the good guys, and the capitalist spies were the evil ones, so we didn't use the word "spy". >> kroft: he says his spying career began with a knock on his dorm room door one saturday afternoon in 1970.
a man introduced himself claiming to be from a prominent optics company. >> barsky: he wanted to talk with me about my career, which was highly unusual. i immediately... there was a flash in my head that said "that's stasi." >> kroft: east german secret police? >> barsky: east... east german secret police, yeah. >> kroft: it was a stasi agent. he invited dittrich to this restaurant in jena, where a russian kgb agent showed up and took over the conversation. the kgb liked dittrich's potential because he was smart his father was a member of the communist party, and he didn't have any relatives in the west. dittrich liked the attention and the notion he might get to help the soviets. and what did you think of america? >> barsky: it was the enemy. and... and the reason that the americans did so well was because they exploited all the third-world countries. that's what we were taught, and that's what we believed. we didn't know any better. i grew up in an area where you could not receive west german television. it was called the "valley of the clueless."
>> kroft: for the next couple of years, the kgb put dittrich through elaborate tests, and then in 1973, he was summoned to east berlin, to this former soviet military compound. the kgb, he says, wanted him to go undercover. >> barsky: at that point, i had passed all the tests, so they wanted... they made me an offer. >> kroft: but you had been thinking about it all along, hadn't you? >> barsky: that's true-- with one counterweight, in that you didn't really know what was going to come. how do you test-drive becoming another person? >> kroft: it was a difficult decision, but he agreed to join the kgb and eventually found himself in moscow, undergoing intensive training. >> barsky: a very large part of the training was operational work-- determination as to whether you're being under surveillance; morse code, short wave radio reception. i also learned how to do microdots. a microdot is... you know, you take a picture and make it so small with the use of microscope that you can put it under a postage stamp.
>> kroft: the soviets were looking to send someone to the u.s. who could pose as an american. dittrich showed a command of english and no trace of an east german accent that might give him away. he learned a hundred new english words every day. >> barsky: it took me forever. i... i did probably a full year of phonetics training. the difference between "hot" and "hut," right? that's very difficult and... and most germans don't get that one. >> kroft: did you want to go to the united states? >> barsky: oh, yeah. sure. there was new york, there was san francisco, you know. we heard about these places. >> kroft: your horizons were expanding. >> barsky: oh, absolutely. now, i'm really in the big league, right? ( laughter ) >> kroft: dittrich needed an american identity, and one day a diplomat out of the soviet embassy in washington came across this tombstone just outside of d.c. with the name of a ten-year-old boy who had died in 1955. the name was jack philip barsky.
>> barsky: and they said, "guess what. we have a birth certificate. we're going to the u.s." >> kroft: and that was the jack barsky birth certificate. >> barsky: the jack barsky birth certificate that somebody had obtained and i was given. i didn't have to get this myself. >> kroft: did you feel strange walking around with this identity of a child? >> barsky: no. no. when you do this kind of work, some things, you don't think about. because if you explore, you may find something you don't like. >> kroft: the newly minted jack barsky landed in new york city in the fall of 1978, with a phony back story called a legend and a fake canadian passport that he quickly discarded. the kgb's plan for him was fairly straightforward. they wanted the 29-year-old east german to get a real u.s. passport with his new name, then become a businessman, then insert himself into the upper echelons of american society and then to get close to national security adviser zbigniew brzezinski so that he could spy on him. >> barsky: that was the plan.
it failed. >> kroft: why? >> barsky: because i was not given very good instructions with regard to how to apply for a passport. >> kroft: when he went to apply for a passport at rockefeller center, barsky was thrown off by the list of questions. >> barsky: specific details about my past, for which i had no proof. so i walked out of it. >> kroft: did the kgb have a pretty good grasp on the united states and how things worked there? >> barsky: no. >> kroft: no? >> barsky: absolutely not. they made a number of mistakes in terms of giving me advice what to do, what not to do. they just didn't know. >> kroft: left to fend for himself in a country the kgb didn't understand, he got himself a cheap apartment and tried to make do with a birth certificate and $6,000 in cash the soviets had given him. his spying career at that point more resembled the bumbling boris badenov than james bond. so you were working as a bike messenger. >> barsky: right. >> kroft: that doesn't sound
like a promising position for a spy. >> barsky: no. but there were a lot of things that i didn't know. >> kroft: so how close did you ever get to brzezinski? >> barsky: ( laughs ) not very. >> kroft: to get a social security card, which he would need if he wanted a real job barsky knew he would have to do some acting. >> barsky: it was unusual for a 30-plus-year-old person to... to say, you know, "i don't have a social security card. give me one." so in order to make my story stick, i made my face dirty so i looked like somebody who just came off a farm. it worked! the lady asked me, she said, "so how come you don't... you don't have a card?" and when the answer was, "i didn't need one." "why?" "well, i worked on a farm." and that was the end of the interview. >> kroft: the social security card enabled him to enroll at baruch college in manhattan, where he majored in computer systems. he was class valedictorian, but you won't find a picture of him in the school yearbook.
in 1984, he was hired as a programmer by metropolitan life insurance, where he had access to the personal information of millions of americans. you were writing computer code? >> barsky: right, yes. lots of it. and i was really good at it. >> kroft: what he didn't write he stole, on behalf of the kgb. what was the most valuable piece of information you gave them? >> barsky: i would say that was the computer code, because it was a very prominent piece of industrial software still in use today. >> kroft: this was ibm code? >> barsky: no comment. >> kroft: you don't want to say? >> barsky: no. it was good stuff. let's put it this way, yeah. >> kroft: it was helpful to the soviet union. >> barsky: it... it would've been helpful to the soviet union and their running organizations and... and factories and so forth. >> kroft: how often did you communicate with the russians? >> barsky: i would get a radiogram once a week. >> kroft: a radiogram, meaning? >> barsky: a radiogram means a transmission that was on a certain frequency at a certain time.
>> kroft: every thursday night at 9:15, barsky would tune into his short wave radio at his apartment in queens and listen for a transmission he believed came from cuba. >> barsky: all the messages were encrypted that they became digits. and the digits would be sent over as... in groups of five. and sometimes, that took a good hour to just write it all down and then another three hours to decipher. >> kroft: during the ten years he worked for the kgb, barsky had a ready-made cover story. when somebody would ask you, you know, "where you from, jack?" what'd you say? >> barsky: i'm originally from new jersey. i was born in orange. that's it. american-- nobody ever questioned that. people would question my..." you have an accent." but my comeback was, "yeah, my mother was german and we spoke a lot of german at home." >> kroft: you had to tell a lot of lies. >> barsky: absolutely. i was living a lie. >> kroft: were you a good liar? >> barsky: the best.
>> kroft: you had to be a good liar to juggle the multiple lives he was leading. every two years while he was undercover for the kgb, barsky would return to east germany and moscow for debriefings. during one of his visits to east berlin, he married his old girlfriend gerlinde and they had a son. did that complicate matters? >> barsky: initially, it wasn't complicated at all. it got complicated later. >> kroft: because? >> barsky: because i got married in the united states to somebody else. ( laughter ) >> kroft: did she know about your other wife in germany? >> barsky: no. >> kroft: did your wife in germany know about the... >> barsky: not at all. >> kroft: so you had two wives. >> barsky: i did. i'm... i was officially a bigamist. that's... that's the one thing i am so totally not proud of... >> kroft: being a spy was all right... ( laughter ) being a bigamist... >> barsky: in hindsight, you know, i was a spy for the wrong people. but... but i... this one hurt,
because i had promised my german wife that, you know, we would be together forever. and i broke that promise. and the one way i can explain it to myself is i had separated the german, the dittrich, from the barsky to the point where the two just didn't know about each other. >> kroft: not only did he have two different identities and two wives, he had a son named matthias in germany and a daughter named chelsea in america. and by november 1988, a radiogram from the kgb would force him to make an excruciating choice. >> barsky: i received a radiogram that essentially said, "you need to come home. your cover may soon be broken and you're in danger of being arrested by the american authorities." >> kroft: barsky was given urgent instructions from the kgb to locate an oil can that had been dropped next to a fallen tree just off this path on new york's staten island. a fake passport and cash that he needed to escape the united states and return to east
germany would be concealed inside the can. >> barsky: i was supposed to pick up the container and go on, leave. not even go back home to the apartment, just disappear. the container wasn't there. i don't know what i would have done if i had found it, but i know what i did when i didn't find it. i did not tell them, "repeat the operation." i made the decision to stay. >> kroft: why? >> barsky: because of chelsea. >> kroft: your daughter. >> barsky: yes. if chelsea's not in the mix, that's a no brainer. i'm out of here. >> kroft: barsky had chosen chelsea over matthias. >> barsky: i had bonded with her. it was a tough one because, on the one hand, i had a wife and a child in germany, but if i don't take care of chelsea, she grows up in poverty. >> kroft: this may be a little harsh, but it sounds like the first time in your life that you thought about somebody besides
yourself. >> barsky: you're absolutely right. i was quite an egomaniac. i was. >> kroft: jack barsky was still left with the not insignificant matter of telling the kgb that he was staying in america. in a moment, we'll tell you how he duped the kgb, and how the fbi changed his life. >> cbs money watch update brought to you in part by: >> glor: good evening. hoping to boost growth, china today cut interest rates for the third time in six months. germany's finance minister reaffirmed he wants greece to stay in the eurozone. and a modern art auction tomorrow at christie's could fetch $500 million. i'm jeff glor, cbs news.
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>> kroft: at the end of 1988 jack barsky's ten-year run as a clandestine kgb agent in the united states was about to come to an end. he had ignored soviet warnings that his cover had been blown, and decided to remain in america and not return to his native east germany. he was taking a chance that no one in america would ever find out who he really was. and he was taking a bigger chance that the kgb wouldn't retaliate for disobeying an order. the urgency with which the soviets seemed to view the situation became clear one morning in queens. jack barsky says he was on his way to work in december 1988 standing and waiting for an "a" train on this subway platform when a stranger paid him a
visit. >> barsky: there's this character in... in a black coat, and he sidles up to me and he whispers in my ear, he says, "you got to come home or else you're dead." and then he walked out. >> kroft: russian accent? >> barsky: yes. >> kroft: that's an incentive. >> barsky: it's an incentive to go. >> kroft: i mean, spies get killed all the time. >> barsky: they do. but not me. the entire time, i always had this childlike belief that everything would be all right. >> kroft: so what are you going to tell the russians? >> barsky: well, i... i sent them this "dear john" letter the good-bye letter in which i stated that i had contracted aids, and that the only way for me to get a treatment would be in the united states. >> kroft: you just wrote them a letter and said, "i can't come back, i've got aids"? >> barsky: there's three things i... i tell people that the russians were afraid of-- aids jewish people, and ronald reagan.
and they were deathly... >> kroft: in that order? >> barsky: i think ronald reagan took the top spot. they thought he would push the button. >> kroft: the aids letter apparently worked because, in east berlin, the soviets told his german wife gerlinde he wasn't coming back. >> barsky: they went to gerlinde and told her that i had died of aids. so i think they just wrote me off completely. >> kroft: you were officially dead in east germany? >> barsky: right. after five years, she was able to declare me dead. >> kroft: once the berlin wall fell and the soviet union fell apart, barsky was a man without a country. no one would want him back. he felt his secret was safe in america. he became a family guy, with a wife, two kids, chelsea and jessie, and a job. he burrowed himself into suburbia, keeping a low profile. >> barsky: i was settling down i was living in the... in rural pennsylvania at the time in a nice house with two children. i was, like, typical middle-
class existence. >> kroft: and his life would have stayed quiet if a kgb archivist named vassal mitrokhin hadn't defected to the west in 1992 with a trove of notes on the soviets' spying operations around the world. buried deep in his papers was the last name of a secret agent the kgb had deployed somewhere in america, barsky. >> joe reilly: we were concerned that he might be running an agent operating in the federal government somewhere. who knows? in the fbi, the cia, the state department. we had no idea. >> kroft: joe reilly was an fbi agent when the bureau got the mitrokhin tip, and the barsky case quickly became serious enough that fbi director, louis freeh, got personally involved. the fbi didn't know who or where he was, but the best lead seemed to be a jack barsky who was working as an i.t. specialist in new jersey, with a suburban home across the border in mt. bethel, pennsylvania. >> kroft: aside from his name,
was there anything else that made you suspicious and make you think that this was the guy you were looking for? >> reilly: yes. one thing was the fact that he had applied for a social security number late in life especially someone like him who was educated and intelligent. >> kroft: the fbi began following barsky, and when this surveillance photo caught him talking to a native of cuba, the bureau grew increasingly concerned. >> barsky: there were some indications that i could possibly be the head of a international spy ring, because i had a friend who was originally from cuba. and it so happened that this friend owned an apartment that was rented to a soviet diplomat. so that one raised all kinds of flags and they investigated me very, very, very carefully. >> kroft: fbi agent joe reilly went so far as to set up an observation post on a hillside behind barsky's house. this is a picture he took of his view. >> reilly: i got a telescope and binoculars, as if i was a birdwatcher, but i was looking at his backyard and at him. over time, i learned a great
deal about him. >> kroft: like what? >> reilly: just watching him. well, i became convinced that he loved his children. and that was important because i wanted to know if he would flee. there was less chance of that if... if he was devoted to his children. and he was. >> kroft: but that wasn't enough for the fbi. the bureau bought the house next door to get a closer look at the barskys. did you get a good deal? >> reilly: i think we paid what he was asking. ( laughter ) and we had agents living there so that we could be sure who was coming and going from his house without being too obvious in our surveillance. >> kroft: you had no idea the fbi was living next door to you? >> barsky: no. >> kroft: never saw joe reilly up on the hill with the binoculars? >> barsky: no. absolutely not. >> kroft: when the fbi finally got authorization from the justice department to bug
barsky's home, the case broke wide open. >> reilly: within, i'd say the first two weeks that we had microphones in his house, he had an argument with his wife in the kitchen. and during the course of that dispute, he readily admitted that he was an agent operating from the soviet union. >> kroft: it was all the fbi needed to move in on barsky. they set a trap for him at a toll bridge across the delaware river as he drove home from work late one friday afternoon in may of 1997. >> barsky: i'm being waved to the side by a state trooper. and he said, "we're doing a routine traffic check. would you please get out of the car?" i get out of the car and somebody steps up from... from behind and shows me a badge. and he said, "fbi. we would like to talk to you." >> reilly: his face just dropped. and we told him that he had to go with us. >> barsky: the first words out of my mouth were, "am i under arrest?"
and the answer was no. now, that took a big weight off of me, so i figured there was a chance to get out of this in one piece. and the next question i asked, "so what took you so long?" >> kroft: the fbi had rented an entire wing of a motel off interstate 80 in pennsylvania for barsky's interrogation. >> reilly: but on the way to the motel, i remember turning to him and i told him that this didn't have to be the worst day of his life. and he immediately realized that he had an out. >> barsky: i said to them, "listen, i know i have only one shot out of this, and that means i need to come clean and be 100% honest and tell you everything i know." >> kroft: the fbi questioned barsky throughout the weekend and gave him a polygraph test that he passed. convinced that his spying days were over, and that his friendship with the cuban was just that, the fbi decided to keep the whole thing quiet and allowed barsky to go back to
work on monday morning. was he charged with something? >> reilly: no. >> kroft: even though he confessed to being a soviet spy? >> reilly: yes. >> kroft: that seems odd. >> reilly: well, we wanted him to cooperate with us. we didn't want to put him in jail. he was no use to us there. >> kroft: barsky continued to meet not only with the fbi, but with the national security agency to offer his first-hand insights into the kgb and the russians. >> barsky: i was able to provide them with a lot of valuable information how the kgb operated. >> kroft: the only people who were aware of his secret were the fbi, and penelope, his wife in america, who subsequently filed for divorce. his daughter chelsea, then a teenager, knew only that he wanted to tell her something when she turned 18. that day finally arrived on a four-hour drive to st. francis university. >> chelsea barsky: he started chuckling to himself and he said, "well, i'm a... i was a spy.
i was a kgb spy." i was like "what? really?" >> kroft: jack also revealed to chelsea why he had decided to stay in america. >> chelsea barsky: he said that, you know, he fell in love with me and my... my curls when i was a little baby, and then i cried. >> kroft: did he tell you everything? >> chelsea barsky: no, he didn't. he didn't tell me 100% the whole truth. he left some things out, at that point. >> barsky: i told her everything that you can tell in four hours that is age appropriate. she was still a teenager. i may not have told her that i was married in germany. >> kroft: he waited another two years before he matter of factly dropped another bombshell about his past. >> chelsea barsky: he just looked straight ahead at the tv and he said, "did i tell you you have a brother?" ( laughs ) and i turned my head. i'm like, "what? are you serious?" >> kroft: the half-brother was matthias, the boy jack had left behind in germany. chelsea was determined to find him. jack didn't like the idea. >> barsky: i did not feel comfortable getting in touch with him.
i did not feel comfortable with my... acknowledging my german past. >> kroft: after a year of trying to track him down online chelsea finally got a reply from matthias. >> chelsea barsky: the subject line said, "dear little sister," and when i saw, "dear little sister," i just started weeping, because that meant everything to me. that meant that he accepted me. >> matthias: and this is me... >> kroft: a month later, matthias was in pennsylvania visiting chelsea and her brother jessie. they hit it off. matthias wasn't interested in seeing his father, then changed his mind. was it awkward? >> barsky: i just remember he stared at me for a couple of minutes. he just stared at me. >> kroft: i mean, he had reason to be angry with you. >> barsky: when i told him the dilemma that i was faced with, he actually said, "i understand." >> kroft: and what's your relationship like with matthias now? >> barsky: he feels like he's my son. >> kroft: gerlinde, the wife in germany who thought he was dead, wants nothing to do with jack today, or with "60 minutes."
he has remarried and has a four- year-old daughter. they live in upstate new york, where jack has worked as director of software development for a company that manages new york's high-voltage power grid a critical piece of u.s. infrastructure. when he told his employer recently that he had once been a kgb spy, he was placed on a paid leave of absence. before becoming an american citizen last year, he had been given a clean bill of health by the fbi and u.s. intelligence agencies. but in the world of espionage, it's often difficult to tell what's true and what's legend. are you telling the truth right now? >> barsky: i am, absolutely-- the truth, as far as i know it. yes. >> kroft: as far as you know it? >> barsky: well, you know, sometimes memory fails you. but i am... i am absolutely not holding back anything. >> kroft: why tell the story now? >> barsky: i want to meet my maker clean. i need to get clean with the past.
i need to digest this fully. >> kroft: the fbi agent who apprehended him, joe reilly, still believes in barsky. and in yet another twist to this story, the two are good friends and golfing buddies. >> reilly: he's a very honest person. and if you want to find out how honest someone is, play golf with them. >> kroft: but you're a former fbi guy and he's a former spy. what's the bond? >> reilly: it's personal. he credits me for keeping him out of prison. ( laughs ) >> kroft: after nearly 30 years, jack barsky went back to visit a unified germany-- first in october, then again last month. so that was essentially the very beginning of my career. he showed his kids where this improbable tale began, and some other key settings in his odyssey. and he caught up with old classmates who knew him as albrecht dittrich. when you're here in germany, are you albrecht or are you jack? >> barsky: no, i'm jack. i... i am 100% jack.
you know, the... i let the albrecht out and sometimes he interferes, but they, they get along very well now. ( laughs ) >> kroft: the berlin wall, which once divided east and west, is now gone except for a section that has been turned into an art display. checkpoint charlie, once the epicenter of the cold war, is now a tourist attraction, full of kitsch. statues of karl marx and friedrich engels still stand in the eastern part of berlin relics of another era, as is the man who straddled two worlds and got away with it. ♪ your body was made for better things than the pain, stiffness and joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. before you and your rheumatologist decide on a biologic ask if xeljanz is right for you. xeljanz is a small pill, not an injection or infusion for adults with moderate to severe ra for whom methotrexate did not work well. xeljanz can relieve ra symptoms and help stop further joint damage.
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little over five feet tall. but she's a towering figure in the world of ballet, a top dancer in one of the top companies-- american ballet theater. she's been called a prodigy, a breath of fresh air. she wants to blow the cobwebs out of the stuffy world of classical ballet and open the doors to everyone. misty copeland is the embodiment of the american dream. she grew up poor, didn't hear classical music until she was a teenager. she's an african american in a profession where there are few. at 32, she has overcome more obstacles than most of us ever face. when she began, one dance company told her she would never make it in ballet. boy, were they wrong. misty copeland will tell you she's never more alive than when she's onstage, on her toes, her athleticism and grace on full display. she can leap through the air
she can spin on a dime, she can make you believe she's a swan by a lake. you feel comfortable up there? >> misty copeland: yes. something happens when you feel that energy and excitement from the audience. and you do, i don't know, four pirouettes. you jump higher than you ever have. and it's just this really magical thing that happens in those moments. >> whitaker: she performs to sell-out crowds on grand stages across the country. but it was this commercial for the sportswear company under armour that introduced her to a new audience. about six and a half million people see live ballet every year. almost eight million viewed this commercial online. a different audience found her when she danced with pop star prince. and there she was on the cover of "time" magazine as one of the 100 most influential people.
>> hi, misty! >> whitaker: we were at the stage door after a performance in orange county, california. she was mobbed like a rock star. >> can you sign my ticket, please? >> whitaker: misty copeland lives in new york city. she feels most at home on the stage of the metropolitan opera house, where american ballet theater performs. it's 3,000 miles and a world away from where she began. if there is such a thing as the wrong side of the tracks, that's where misty copeland grew up. she, her divorced mother, and five siblings moved around like nomads. down on their luck, they ended up here at this motel on a busy street in gardena, california, the whole family piled into two rooms. she hadn't been back in almost two decades until she returned with us. so what's it like seeing this again? >> copeland: it brings back so many feelings and memories. >> whitaker: good? bad?
>> copeland: a little of both. but just a really hard time. because i was so embarrassed about it. >> whitaker: living here? >> copeland: yeah, i think that's why, when i saw the sign, i was expecting it to be so much bigger, because in my mind at that time, it was just like this thing that was so huge that i'd wanted to hide from. >> whitaker: she'd play with her brothers and sisters on the balcony. she imagined the railing outside their rooms to be her private studio. you said you would actually use these bars as your ballet barre? >> copeland: yeah, i would. i remember... >> whitaker: like what? can you do it? >> copeland: yeah, i would stretch out here and do my whole... i mean, it's actually a really good barre. ( laughs ) do my whole class out here. it was a... it was a nice little, little escape. >> whitaker: the graceful dancer we see today stumbled into ballet. a teacher at school noticed her fluid movement and suggested she
check out the after-school ballet program at the san pedro boys and girls club. misty copeland was 13 years old. that's kind of old for someone to just start taking ballet. >> copeland: it is, yeah. >> whitaker: so, what was it like when you first walked in to a ballet studio? >> copeland: you know, my first ballet class was on a basketball court. i'm in my gym clothes and my socks, trying to do this thing called ballet. and i didn't know anything about it. >> cindy bradley: the first time i saw her, she was sitting high on the bleachers, and i had... i asked her to come down and join us. and it took a lot of coaxing. >> whitaker: the coaxer was cindy bradley, the ballet instructor who would change misty copeland's life. you might call it luck. cindy bradley says it was magic. >> bradley: i've never been able to put it in to words exactly, the feeling that i got. but it was almost like a vision of what she could be one day. >> whitaker: what is her talent? >> bradley: she had the perfect
feet and she was flexible. i knew that she was going to be one of the greats. >> whitaker: bradley says misty copeland had a gift. if she saw a step, she could master it. it takes most ballerinas more than three years to get up on their toes. it took misty copeland three months. >> copeland: once i was a part of it, i couldn't get enough of it. so, every day, i came into the ballet studio, it was like, "oh my gosh, i'm going to learn something new today. what is it going to be?" and just soaking it all up. i just never experienced anything like that. >> bradley: yeah, we had to cram in a lot of lessons. we would work day and evenings to... to make up the time. >> whitaker: the training got so intense and time-consuming cindy bradley says one evening copeland's mother called and told her it was all too much that the ballet lessons had to end and asked her to drive her daughter home to the motel.
and what did you think when you saw where she lived? >> bradley: i was a little shocked. and i just knew that dance was going to get her out of there. so, after driving partway home i turned around and knocked on the door and asked her mother to let her come and live with us. >> copeland: and i remember it so vividly, just cindy coming and speaking with my mother, and them making the decision right there on the spot for me to come and live with them. and i just packed up my little backpack, everything i had, put it in there and i left. >> whitaker: left the grim motel for a comfortable san pedro condo, where she lived with cindy bradley, her husband patrick and son wolf as part of the family. >> copeland: oh, my gosh. >> wolf bradley: what is it? >> copeland: it's a camera. >> whitaker: almost three years under bradley's wing, copeland
began to blossom, to win awards, to gain attention. she says her mother saw her changing and feared she was losing her daughter, and finally demanded she come home for good. >> copeland: i did not want to leave ballet. and the thought of... of losing that and coming back and living at this motel was something that i just couldn't let happen. it was like watching my future slip away. >> whitaker: so, at the self- conscious age of 15, at the urging of cindy bradley, misty copeland went to court to seek independence from her mother. the local prodigy's legal drama made headlines. >> copeland: and it got to the point where it was so nasty that... >> whitaker: nasty and public. >> copeland: that was probably the hardest part was that it was so public. >> whitaker: after two bitter months, misty copeland dropped her bid for independence, left her life with cindy bradley, and moved back home with her mother. >> copeland: i just want keep dancing and hope that everyone's happy. >> whitaker: ballet, which was her lifeline, became her escape
hatch. the next year, she won a scholarship to american ballet theater's summer program for gifted young dancers in new york. for the second time, she was spotted by someone who would change her life. this time, it was american ballet theatre director kevin mckenzie. what caught your eye? >> kevin mckenzie: she has a proportion to her body, and she has a response to music, a visceral response to music, and a coordination that are all the ingredients of a major ballet dancer. >> whitaker: she's now a soloist, one of the featured performers at american ballet theater, dancing in the footsteps of its legends, like mikhail baryshnikov. >> mckenzie: i used to wonder, as an african american, if she was aware of the symbol she could possibly be? >> whitaker: what do you mean? >> mckenzie: you know, if she goes where she can go, she's going to be a very big symbol. this is a very big deal here. >> whitaker: a big deal, because there are so few black dancers in major ballet companies.
>> copeland: they're being told they don't fit in, they won't have a successful career, they don't have the bodies... even to this day, i... i hear that i shouldn't even be wearing a tutu. i don't have the right legs, my muscles are too big. >> whitaker: what do you think when you hear that? >> copeland: there are times when i believe it, when i start to question, you know, "maybe it... maybe i'm seeing myself in a different way than the people in the audience see me, because to me, i think i look like a ballerina and i feel like a ballerina. but maybe i'm not seeing what other people are seeing." >> whitaker: she's changing perceptions one step at a time. misty copeland is powerful elegant, determined. it takes a lot of effort to look this effortless. we saw her drive one night in orange county. amid the stage hands and exotic creatures, we found misty copeland tying up, lacing up
making up. she was relaxed, but focused. >> copeland: there's maybe one part in my solo that's... that's a little bit difficult for me. >> whitaker: what part is that? i'll be looking for it. >> copeland: now, i don't want to tell you. >> whitaker: but she did tell us. it's hopping on her toes. it looked all right to us, but after the scene, we could see the frustration on her face. so what were you unhappy with? >> copeland: just that thing we were talking about, the hops. >> whitaker: she put on her stage face and finished the performance. she might look like a music box doll, but misty copeland is tough as nails. three years ago, in rehearsal for her first starring role as the mythical firebird, she didn't tell anyone her left leg was hurting badly. >> copeland: by the time the show came, it hurt just to walk,
and the pressures of knowing how many people were coming out to support, how many people in the african american community, for the first time that understood what this meant to have an african american woman in this position, doing this role with american ballet theater at the metropolitan opera house. so it was like, "i'm doing this!" >> whitaker: critics hailed her performance, but it almost ended her career. turned out to be a very severe injury? >> copeland: yeah. i had six stress fractures in my tibia, and three of them were almost full breaks through the bone. and i was being told by several doctors i would never dance again. >> whitaker: but seven months later, with a plate in her leg she was back on her toes. she had to build her way back, but soon was in top form dazzling audiences once again. ballet has lifted misty copeland from poverty, over assumptions about race and through injury. but she wants it to take her higher. she dreams of making the leap to
principal dancer, the most elite position in the ballet world. do you see that in your future? >> copeland: for the first time ever, i do. >> whitaker: if misty copeland is named principal dancer, she would be the first african american ballerina to get that title at american ballet theater. company director kevin mckenzie could decide this season whether she gets that promotion. she's already getting the chance to dance starring roles. last month, with the washington ballet at the john f. kennedy center for the performing arts she performed the most famous ballet of all, "swan lake." it was the first time two african americans danced the lead roles for a major company. it took her one step closer to her other goal of making ballet in america look like america onstage and in the audience.
>> what do these brooklyn teens have in common with misty copeland? this. go to 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by pfizer. mand! it's steak and lobster at outback. try our new coconut lobster or classic steamed lobster. steak and lobster, starting at just $14.99. and introducing lunch every bloomin' day! with over 70 combinations, starting at $6.99. it's lunch at last every day at outback. with psoriatic arthritis, i had intense joint pain that got worse and worse. then my rheumatologist prescribed enbrel. i'm phil mickelson, pro golfer. enbrel helps relieve pain and stop joint damage. i've been on the course and on the road. enbrel may lower your ability to fight infections. serious, sometimes fatal, events including infections tuberculosis, lymphoma, other cancers, nervous system and blood disorders, and allergic reactions have occurred. tell your doctor if you've been someplace
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>> whitaker: now, an update on our story about the company lumber liquidators. in march, we reported on high levels of formaldehyde found in tested samples of laminate flooring made in china and sold by the company. this past week, lumber liquidators suspended the sale of all its laminate flooring made in china. i'm bill whitaker.
stick around for another brand new edition of "60 minutes," including a remarkable underwater exploration off the u.s. coastline, plus the story of something called cross-fit that has changed the way millions of americans exercise. captioning funded by cbs and ford captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
captioning funded by cbs and ford >> cooper: michael michael blutrich was one of the best civilian informants against the new york mafia federal authorities say they ever had. he was also one of the unlikeliest. his undercover work helped send dozens of mob members and associates to prison, including john gotti jr. michael blutrich surreptitiously recorded about 1,000 hours of conversations with mobsters under very dangerous circumstances. >> when they brought us in to talk about going undercover, i remember my reaction was, are you mistaking me for someone with courage? i mean what are you talking about? you want me to wear a