Barbara Walters: Regal, Dignified And Oh-So Tenacious

In her heyday as the top star of ABC News, Barbara Walters was known for her tenacity.

She was legendary for the zeal with which she pursued interviews -- the "gets" for which the top female anchors and news personalities at the Big Three networks would compete, most notably in the 1990s and at least part of the '00s.

The competition at that time included her ABC News colleague, Diane Sawyer, plus Katie Couric (NBC, CBS, ABC) and Connie Chung (NBC, CBS, ABC). 

But for the better part of the two previous decades, Barbara Walters had the female interviewing field virtually to herself.

The list of luminaries she interviewed in her career -- from the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics, both foreign and domestic -- was so long that few, if any, of the obituaries and commentaries published since she died last Friday took a stab at listing all of them.



A trove of photos posted online over the weekend by ABC News illustrates the wide range of her interview subjects and the geography she covered in her pursuit of them.

The world leaders, top stars and other newsmakers pictured in the photo collection were (in the order in which they appear): Barbra Streisand, Fidel Castro, Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, Anwar Sadat, Fred Astaire, Henry Kissinger and Ringo Starr (in a photo where Barbara is trying to play Ringo’s drum kit).

The list continues with Katharine Hepburn, Willie Nelson, Walter Cronkite, Muammar Gaddafi, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg (later to be hired for “The View,” which Walters created), Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vladimir Putin and Christopher Reeve.

But wait, there’s more: Tom Cruise, Anna Wintour, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog (probably not her finest hour), Miley Cyrus and Monica Lewinsky.

Not included in this photo collection, but seen in another one on the ABC News press site were Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Spiro T. Agnew, President Jimmy Carter and a young Shaquille O’Neal.

All of the above photos failed to take into account her joint interviews with every U.S. President and First Lady from the Nixons through the Obamas, and so many other boldfaced names that the TV Blog hereby must end this list here.

Out of all of them, the one with the biggest audience was her 1999 triumph with Monica Lewinsky (pictured above), who at that time was probably the biggest “get” in the whole wide world. The prime-time interview on ABC drew an estimated audience of 74 million.

Barbara Walters would not have run up this record of worldwide exclusives without the various skill sets necessary for professional interviewing at this level.

They include a hard-to-define ability to earn her interview subjects’ trust and put them at ease. She also must have been highly skilled at booking her interviews in the first place.

Behind the scenes, she was said to be a tough-as-nails competitor who was ferocious in the protection of her well-earned turf.

But to the outside world, she was regal and dignified. She came across as totally unfazed by the powerful and famous people she met. She gave the impression that she felt she belonged right up there with them, and she did.

Watching Barbara Walters sit down with the world’s most famous people was a TV experience shared by millions for the better part of 40 years.

It is a cliché to say this at times like these, but I will say it anyway: There will never be another one like her.

1 comment about "Barbara Walters: Regal, Dignified And Oh-So Tenacious".
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  1. Linda Shafran from NBCUniversal, January 4, 2023 at 6:36 p.m.

    Wonderful tribute to an icon. She was truly a great lady who paved the way for women in media and other walks of life/work.

    I love the words you used "regal and dignified." She was both but also warm, and kind, smart and funny. I met her several times when at The View. She was welcoming when Jerry (Springer) did her "10 Most Fascinating People" in 1998. They had a blast together and kept on talking well after the on-air interview was completed.

    We will truly miss her and yes "there will never be another one like her!!

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