Let the Barbara Walter's farewell tour begin!
Monday's edition of
Well, sort of first. On Sunday night,
So not exactly the same shock value as, say,
Never mind the string of "firsts" that inevitably follow her name — female co-host (with Harry Reasoner on "
And that pretty much changed everything.
Where many male journalists circled their subjects aggressively, steely-eyed and verbal fists raised, Walters radiated an air of concern, using her soft voice and endless curiosity about how people think to turn her interviews into conversations. What some saw as less than rigorous (or perhaps just feminine) interviewing skills proved to be canny professionalism — Walters knew that the trick was to get people talking. People want to feel comfortable, which allowed her to increasingly become a go-to interview. More important, people who feel comfortable talk more than people who do not. And when people talk, they reveal things, including and especially their essential humanity.
No matter how how devastating the scandal, how egregious the crime, Barbara Walters understood that whoever she was talking to was first and foremost a human being with fears and liabilities. As she became more famous than many of her subjects, Walters continued to lean forward in interviews, eager to connect. Even orchestrating what will no doubt be a spectacular final lap ("final" being a relative term — "I'm not fading into the sunset," she said Monday), Walters began on an outlier note.
"I wasn't beautiful. I had trouble pronouncing my Rs' — I still do," she said Monday during her taped clip, before rolling out her famous interviews:
A brand before people knew to become a brand, Walters moved seamlessly with the times, from nightly news to newsmagazine to a daytime talk show that has often elevated the genre. During the 2008 presidential election, the ladies of "The View" became America in miniature, arguing over politics, discussing gender and race and giving voice to what many Americans were thinking. The "Barbara Walters Special" remained a staple of night-time television, shifting as the audience did. When the hype around the
So when on Monday she introduced Disney Chairman Bob Iger, who was there with several ABC and Disney Ps and VPs to honor the occasion, Walters immediately went into interview mode, asking him what he planned to do upon his retirement in 2015. And when Iger suggested the two of them go on
Walters is 83 years old, and she has more than a million Twitter followers. If she goes on "Dancing With the Stars," she'll probably win the darn thing.