''I was the kind nobody thought could make it. I had a funny Boston accent. I couldn't pronounce my R's. I wasn't a beauty.'' Barbara Walters
Veteran television journalist Barbara Walters has been familiar to TV viewers for her regular role on the morning television shows ''Today'' (1961-1976) and ''The View'' (1997-Present) as well as ABC's evening news magazine ''20/20'' (1979-2004) and ''The ABC Evening News'' (1976-1978), in which she made history as the first female evening news anchor. She also had a popular series called ''The Barbara Walters Specials'' (1979-2006), in which she interviewed personalities from politics and entertainment, including Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Monica Lewinsky, Fidel Castro, Demi Moore, George Clooney and the Dalai Lama. Additionally, she annually hosts her review of newsmakers, "The 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year."
Walters, who stated that her mentor is newsman Mike Wallace, has interviewed every U.S. president since Richard Nixon and became the first anchorperson to earn $1 million a year. She was inducted into the Television Academy Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1990, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women's Media Foundation in 1991 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Project and Productions in 1993. She was also honored by the American Museum of the Moving Image in 1992 and by the Museum of Television and Radio in 1996 for her contributions to broadcast journalism. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 14, 2007.
Walters, who does not like to be photographed from her right side, was one of the "Best Dressed Stars of All-time" by People magazine (September 2000). More personally, while in college, she dated Roy M. Cohn, who later gained fame as the right-hand man to Senator Joseph McCarthy. She also dated former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in the 1970s and was linked to United States Senator John Warner in the 1990s.
Walters has been married three times and has one daughter.
Childhood and Family:
On September 25, 1929, Barbara Jill Walters was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Dena and Louis Edward Walters, who owned a swanky ''Latin Quarter'' nightclub chain in New York, Boston, and Florida. Her father was also a theatrical booking agent and producer (he produced the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943). Walters has one elder sister, Jacqueline, who was born developmentally disabled and died of ovarian cancer in 1988. Her brother, Burton, died in 1932 of pneumonia.
Walters, nicknamed ''Babs,'' ''Baba Wawa,'' or ''BW,'' attended Fieldston and Birch Wathen private schools in New York City and then the Miami Beach Senior High School in Miami Beach, Florida. She graduated in 1947. She then attended the all-female Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and graduated in 1951 with a BA degree in English. While in the college, one of Walters' classmates was Lee Radziwill, the younger sister of the late former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
In May 2002, Walters donated $1 million toward a gallery to be named after her in the new Heimbold Visual Arts Center at Sarah Lawrence College, at the Yonkers, New York, campus. She also received honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Temple University, Marymount College, Wheaton College, and Hofstra University.
Walters has been married three times, once to business executive and former Navy Lieutenant Robert Henry Katz (June 20, 1955; the marriage was annulled in 1958), once to theatrical producer and theater owner Lee Guber (from December 8, 1963 to December 1976) and once to Hollywood mogul (the CEO of Lorimar Television) Merv Adelson (from May 10, 1986, to August 1992). With second husband Lee Guber, Walters adopted a daughter named Jacqueline Dena (born on June 14, 1968).
"I'm convinced that you stay married when the days are bad only because you really want to be. But I always had an out. I had this job and this life and enough money. I didn't have to fight the bad days." Barbara Walters
Initially planning to become a teacher, Barbara Walters began writing news releases for WNBT in New York and decided to pursue a career in broadcasting seriously. She landed her first job at WRCA-TV (a local NBC affiliate) as the assistant to the publicity director. She also became the youngest producer with WNBC-TV, a local station in New York, early in her career. After honing in on her writing and producing skills at NBC, she left for CBS, penning material for their ''Morning Show'' cast.
Going back to NBC in 1961, Walters served as a researcher and writer for the popular morning news program and talk show, ''Today.'' Originally working behind the scenes on news stories targeted for female viewers, within a few months Walters was offered a breakthrough assignment traveling to India and Pakistan with the then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Walters become a staple at ''Today,'' earning the nickname ''Today Girl.'' She sharpened her trademark (probing yet casual) interviewing technique during her 12-year stint (1964-1976) as a co-host on the show. She had established herself as a competent journalist by 1972 and was chosen to be part of the press core that accompanied President Nixon on his historic trip to China. In 1975, Walters won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series.
Meanwhile, Walters also hosted her own highly popular syndicated series, ''Not for Women Only'' on NBC radio from 1971 to 1976. She also appeared in multiple episodes of NBC's late-night talk show "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and served as moderator in the televised 1976 Presidential Debate. Additionally, she published a book in 1970 titled ''How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything.''
Enticed by an unprecedented $1 million annual salary, Walters accepted a job at ABC, becoming the first woman to deliver the "ABC Evening News," in which she was paired with Harry Reasoner. Unfortunately, ratings for the nightly news broadcast declined shortly thereafter, possibly due in part to the lack of chemistry between Reasoner and Walters. Walters stayed with the show from 1976 to 1978.
During that time, in late 1976, Walters began "The Barbara Walters Special," a talk show program in which she showed off her straightforward questioning and the ability to obtain candid answers while interviewing a variety of entertainers, politicians, athletes and other public figures, most notably President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter as well as Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. The show later won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series in 1983.
After departing "ABC Evening News," in 1979, Walters joined the ABC news magazine program ''20/20'' as a part-time correspondent. In the following year, she scored an exclusive interview with Richard Nixon, his first TV interview since his resignation in 1974. Walters soon became a regular special contributor in the fall of 1981 and became Hugh Downs' equal by 1984. Walters and Downs had already anchored together on NBC's ''Today'' from 1964 to 1971. The duo would remain together on-air for the next 15 years. Downs retired in 1999 and Walters became the solo news anchor until 2002 when John Miller was hired to be a permanent co-host of the series. But Miller never got very comfortable in the anchor chair and Walters anchored solo again for a few months in early 2003. She chose to go into semi-retirement as a broadcast journalist in 2004 at the age of 73 after a quarter-century with the ABC news magazine, but remained a frequent contributor to the show.
In 1981, Walters’ perennial pre-Oscar interview program premiered with actress Katharine Hepburn. She also conducted the first interview with Christopher Reeve in 1995 after the horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed. The broadcast was awarded the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award the following April.
Walters' next endeavor was as co-executive producer and co-host of ''The View,'' a multiple Emmy Award-winning United States daytime talk show that airs on the American Broadcasting Company network. In August 1997, the show premiered with four co-hosts: Portuguese-American journalist and working mother Meredith Vieira, African-American attorney Star Jones Reynolds, Greek-American television personality and actress Debbie Matenopoulos, and Barbara Walters. Walters and Italian-American comedian Joy Behar initially took turns as the fourth co-host, but Behar has since become a full-time co-host, expanding the panel to five. Matenopoulos left the show in 1999 when her contract was not renewed and was replaced by Chinese-American reporter Lisa Ling. Ling departed in 2002 to host ''National Geographic Explorer'' and former ''Survivor'' contestant Elisabeth Hasselbeck replaced Ling in 2003. Vieira announced on April 6, 2006, that she was leaving the show to become the co-anchor of NBC's ''The Today Show'' and was replaced by former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell. On June 27, 2006, Jones Reynolds announced her departure from the show on the air and the show subsequently used guest co-hosts to fill her spot. On April 25, 2007, always outspoken O'Donnell announced she would be leaving the show as a co-host when her contract expired in June. She requested early leave on May 25, after an on-air dispute with Hasselbeck and ABC granted her request. Whoopi Goldberg currently fills her spot.
During her hefty stint on ''The View,'' Walters notably made broadcasting history as the highest-rated news program ever broadcast on a single network in 1999 when she conducted a two-hour long, exclusive interview with the former White House intern and Bill Clinton paramour Monica Lewinsky. In front of a record 74 million viewers, the highest ratings of any journalist interview, Walters asked Lewinsky, "What will you tell your children about this matter?"
Lewinsky replied, “I guess Mommy made some mistakes,” at which point Walters brought the program to a dramatic conclusion, turning to the viewers and said, "And that is the understatement of the century."
Walters, who currently holds the notable distinction of having interviewed every U.S. President since Richard Nixon, has also interviewed such controversial figures as Jack Kevorkian to political leaders like Fidel Castro. Additionally, she has been praised for her ability to elicit candid interviews from celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Sophia Loren, Richard Pryor, and Princess Diana.
''The View'' won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show in 2003. It returned for its eleventh season on September 4, 2007, with Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd added to the panel. Walters now only appears on the show 3 times a week. Additionally, she annually hosts her annual review of newsmakers, "The 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year."
On June 14, 2007, Walters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to her Emmy wins, she won a Woman in Film Lucy Award, and a GLAAD Excellence in Media award.
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Talk Show, "The View," 2003
Women in Film Lucy: Lucy, 1998
Emmy: Outstanding Informational Series, "The Barbara Walters Special," 1983
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series, "Today," 1975