Saturday, May 17, 2014

So Long, Barbara Walters


Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of Barbara Walters. My distaste for her began sometime in the 1990s, when she started interviewing (and therefore bringing attention to) incarcerated perpetrators of high profile crimes and overexposed celebrities. Her "10 Most Fascinating People of (insert year here)" TV special started off innocently enough, but in recent years became a personal punching bag for me, when I would fantasize about interviewing the most fascinating people of, say, 1968...in other words, people with actual talent who deserved the publicity. And don't even get me started on some of the cackle-hens she hired to share the table with her on The View. So why even post about her retirement at all?


Because if it weren't for Barbara Walters, there may never have been an Oprah Winfrey, a Jane Pauley, a Katie Couric, a Joan Lunden, a Diane Sawyers, and countless other female reporters/journalists...you get the idea. I can't deny that Walters broke a glass ceiling for her industry and it wasn't always easy; she had to share the ABC anchor desk with the curmudgeonly Harry Reasoner, who would often voice his displeasure by throwing on-air barbs at Babs. Larry Flint was hoping she'd accept his $1 million offer to pose nude in Hustler. Over on Saturday Night Live, the writers poked fun at Walters' distinctive speech pattern (and mild impediment) via Gilda Radner with her "Baba Wawa" character. In Walters' 2008 autobiography Audition: A Memoir she tells of how her daughter told her about the character and insisted that she watch the sketch because she thought it was hilarious. Walters admitted to being less than amused. 



Speaking of her autobiography, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Walters' childhood was fascinating. Her father was involved in show business, booking talent, producing the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943 and running the New York version of the Latin Quarter nightclub. He'd gain and lose fortunes through the years, but Walters enjoyed a close relationship with him and grew up surrounded by celebrities, which would come in handy later on since she said she never felt intimidated by them. Indeed, I can't deny that Walters knew how to talk to people, and often asked celebs and world leaders the questions that the public wanted to know (well, except for maybe what kind of tree Katharine Hepburn would be.) One of Walters' early accomplishments was writing a magazine article that later became a book called "How to Talk to Practically Anyone About Practically Anything" that she felt would help socially awkward, tongue tied people in social situations. 

And because of that I have no choice but to wish Barbara Walters well with her retirement. It's the end of a television era, for sure. The View is going to a bit less cackling without Walters' presence. 

By the way, click here for one of Gilda Radner's Baba Wawa skits.

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