Here's Barbara Walters, who died just yesterday at age 93, with Manhattan socialite Cheray Duchin at a 1976 New Year's Eve party at Tavern on the Green in the aforementioned Manhattan. I make no great claims for Walters as a journalist, and the above pictures illustrates why. Hobnobbing with the elite can get in the way of reporting on the elite. Yet I can't totally dismiss her either. For one thing, she was fun to watch. Walters' idiosyncratic personality guaranteed, if not a particularly incisive, at least an idiosyncratic line of questioning. You never knew what to expect in a Barbara Walters interview. Except for tears from the interviewee's eyes, and even that was probably unexpected the first time it happened. The more it happened, the more it seemed it was preplanned on the interviewees part--after all, these were actors used to crying on cue--and even Walters herself seemed suspicious of it. The Boston native handled that, and other criticisms as well as occasional mockery from the likes of Gilda Radner for Elmer Fuddishly rounding off her "Rs" when speaking (as did Marlene Dietrich, putting her in good company) with good humor, probably because she was laughing all the way to the Federal Reserve. For many a December there was a TV special titled Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People. She never did, but Walters very well could have interviewed herself.
A phenomenal career.ReplyDelete
Mitchell, I think she out-phenomened many of her interview subjects.Delete
I knew you'd quickly jump on the Reaper's latest celebrity conquest, good buddy. Can he squeeze in a few more big names before the clock strikes twelve? We shall see.
I didn't see anything wrong with Barbara Walters following-up and asking Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she is. It wasn't as if she was asking Kate to name her favorite sexual position. I suspect the people who blasted Barbara over that question, tried to make such a big deal of it, are the same people who hate Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and other powerful, high achieving women, people who are threatened and intimidated by them and go out of their way to find ammunition to use to discredit them, hold them down or knock them down from their pedestal.
The first five years of my career were spent working in the news department of an NBC affiliate. We carried The Today Show and I became familiar with Barbara Walters. I liked her fearless interviewing style, found her entertaining, and gladly followed her career through the decades at ABC. I found Gilda Radner's mocking Baba Wawa sketch offensive rather than funny.
Thank you for putting together a tribute to veteran broadcast journalist Barbara Walters who has left us at the age of 93. I'll be back at Shady's Place tomorrow to start the year off right with my annual "Year of the Dell Rat" feature, and you are cordially invited to attend the party. It's been a pleasure connecting with you here and at Shady's in 2022, good buddy Kirk, and I look forward to more teaching, learning and friendship in 2023.
Happy new year!
Shady, the tree question went unnoticed at the time. What happened is a couple of years later, 1950s-early '60s talk show host Jack Paar (who, as I'm sure you know, preceded Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show) came out with a book that critiqued the media of its day, and he cited it as the silliest question ever asked in an Interview. But he took it out of context, making it sound like something you'd be asked in an improvisational acting workshop, not mentioning that Kate Hepburn was kind of groping for words at the time and mentioned "tree" first. As it was the exchange led to a pretty good one-liner from Hepburn. I don't know about you, but I found the thing about not wanting Dutch elm disease pretty funny. And anyway, in what you may call an example of successfully sustained damage control, Walters ending up treating the tree criticism as a badge of honor, always bringing it up in anniversary specials. Same thing with the Gilda Radner parody. When on The View Elisabeth Hasselbeck complained about comedian Bill Maher having made fun of her on his show, Walters reminded her that for a while she was known as "Baba Wawa" and had survived the ordeal.Delete
I have no idea why I capitalized "Interview", but I'm just going to leave it.Delete
Ex-Pope Benedict just died, but I'll let someone else do a post about that.Delete
Yes, I saw that the ex-Pope has also died. Seems like our friend The Reaper is engaging in an all-out eleventh hour blitz! Please don't practice your circus high wire act today, good buddy, or go skydiving or bungee jumping.Delete
She was a trailblazer for women in her time. RIPReplyDelete
It didn't last long, but Barbara Walters was the first woman to anchor a nightly news broadcast. It wasn't really her forte, and co-anchor Harry Reasoner didn't help matters any by publicly complaining about. But the woman knew how to make lemonade out of lemons. A few years later when Reasoner wrote a book and wanted to plug it, Walters interviewed him on 20/20.Delete
I agree what a long career Barbara Walters had and staying power which many these days don't seem to have. I was shocked this morning to see that she had passed, and hopefully no more surprises before New Year's Eve.ReplyDelete
Maddie, the fragmentation of the media, the fact that everyone's watching (and paying for) different streaming channels, makes it very difficult for anyone to have that kind of staying power again. And if someone does last for a good long while, it will be because that person has more of a cult following rather than true mass appeal. Not that having a cult following is anything to sneeze at. Just look at a former president who's now selling virtual trading cards for $99 a pop.Delete
I did not think I had seen her interview anyone, aside from tv sound bites but I remember watching the Hepburn interview.ReplyDelete
Andrew, did you remember the tree question? That's what the interview is primarily noted for, though that's not my favorite part. In her 70s by this time, Katherine Hepburn hadn't been seen in public wearing a dress in ages. When asked about this by Barbara Walters, Kate replied, "I own a dress. I'll wear it to your funeral." To her credit, Walters laughed.Delete
LOL! Gilda Radner's impression of her always made me laugh. I don't know what I think about her journalism skills. I don't think I really have an opinion. I have never fully watched a complete Barbara interview? Maybe just clips here and there.ReplyDelete
I do read about the drama of having her as a boss/colleague by the other women on The View.
JM, it seemed to me that the revolving set of co-hosts on The View liked Barbara. The drama I know of was often between the other co-hosts, particularly Rose O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.ReplyDelete