By: Honey Good
MEETING BARBARA WALTERS
Everyone knows the name…Barbara Walters. But not everyone knows the woman, darlings! I had an intimate conversation with Barbara Walters last month when we met by chance at my favorite restaurant, La Grenouille, in New York. Our meeting was brief yet meaningful.
The message I took away motivated me to write a story about our encounter. Please click on this link if you would like to read the story of my meeting with Barbara.
Because of our lovely chance meeting I decided I wanted to delve into the life of this remarkable woman and share with you the story of her life.
THE BARBARA WALTER’S STORY
She was and is a famed journalist and writer, talk show host, newscast personality, and an iconic woman.
In the 1950’s she wrote for the CBS Morning Show. She developed her trademark interviewing style during the 1960’s and 1970’s. She was the star of the NBC Today Show and later ABC’s 20/20 retiring from the show at the age of seventy-three. Last but not least she premiered, The View, co-producing and co-hosting the successful show leaving in 2013. And there is far more to her story.
She was born in Boston in 1929; attended private school on the East Coast until her father moved the family to Miami Beach, Florida where she completed her high school years.
Her father was Leo Walters, an entertainer and nightclub impresario. In the thirties he opened a chain of nightclubs in Miami Beach. This had a profound effect on Barbara’s choice of studies because she was in the presence of celebrities at an early age. This accounted for her relaxed manner in interviewing famous people during her long and successful career.
She attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and graduated with a degree in English. She landed her first job in journalism as an assistant to a publicity director where she sharpened her writing and producing skills. She then moved to CBS where she wrote material for the network’s Morning Show.
In the early sixties NBC hired her as a researcher and writer for the Today Show. Her assignments were stories geared to women viewers. But, Barbara was not a wallflower and lobbied to travel with First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy on her trip to Pakistan and India. The trip put her in the limelight and she was given increasing responsibilities at NBC.
In 1964 she became a personality on The Today Show staring along side Hugh Downs and later Frank McGee and was nicknamed “Today Girl”. Though she was a co-host she waited until 1974 to receive official billing. She was not allowed to interview the shows important guests until the male co-host had finished asking his questions! Those were the times.
Barbara remained for eleven years where she polished her trademark probing and warm interview technique. In 1974 she was chosen for her skills as a competent journalist and was part of the press corps that traveled with President Richard Nixon on his historic landmark trip to China.
In 1975 she won her first Emmy Award for Daytime Entertainment as best host in a talk series.
In 1976 she accepted a job at ABC. ABC wooed her and she accepted a $1 million dollar annual salary. She was made a co-anchor of the network evening new program. She was chosen to moderate the final presidential debate between the challenger, Jimmy Carter and incumbent President Gerald Ford. She launched her series, Barbara Walters Specials in 1976 interviewing Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and the Carters.
Barbara Walters was now a household name.
She honed her skill as a reporter and her probing interview style. Her goal was: get the first interview and with her reputation she could. She had the skill to know exactly what the public would want to know.
Male anchors were outraged and critical of her success. And through market research in those years it was noted that an audience preferred male anchors and so she was relieved of her position within two years.
But onward and upward she climbed her ladder letting nothing stand her way as a woman reporter, journalist, and interviewer. In 1980 she became a part time correspondent for ABC 20/20. She won and scored an interview with Richard Nixon in 1980 after he left the White House in disgrace. With Hugh Downs, she became a permanent co-anchor in 1984 until 1999.
In 2000, she renewed her contract with ABC for five more years earning a $12 million yearly salary making her the highest paid host in history. At the age of 73 she stepped down as co-host of 20/20.
Her interviews influenced the latter 20th century. Her two hour long exclusive interview with the intern Monica Lewinsky made broadcasting history as the highest rated news program ever broadcast on a single network.
During her career these are just a few of the famous people she interviewed:
- Christopher Reeves after his horseback riding accident.
- The Shah of Iran
- Margret Thatcher, the first Prime Minister of the UK
- The Dali Lama
- President Hugo Chevez, the President of Venezuela
- Moammar Gadhafi, Libyan Dictator
- Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba
She premiered the morning talk show, The View in 1997.
Her personal life can be found in her book, Audition, where she reveals several secrets of her life. She was married twice and has an adopted daughter, Jacqueline, named after her sister who passed away.
She retired in 2013. I met her two years later. She is a beautiful woman today. She had true grit, lived outside the box and accomplished her dreams. She is truly a woman of substance.
Do something GOOD today: Order her book on Amazon!
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