BREAKING NEWS: BARBARA WALTERS IS DEAD
- Barbara Jill Walters died at her home in New York at the age of 93
- She was born on September 25, 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts
- Her father, Lou Walters, ran supper clubs and was in show business. His fortunes were up and down throughout her childhood, according to her memoir, Audition
- Walters became the first woman to co-host a nightly news program in 1976, and signed a five-year contract with ABC for an unprecedented $1 million per year
- Her Barbara Walters Specials, which premiered in 1976, were a huge success. The next year she joined 20/20 and became its co-host with Hugh Downs
- In 1997, she helped to create The View, a successful and influential show
Legendary TV journalist Barbara Walters has died at the age of 93.
The intrepid interviewer, anchor and program host who blazed the way as the first woman to become a TV news superstar died peacefully at her New York home.
‘She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women,’ her publicist Cindi Berger said in a statement.
Walters made headlines in 1976 as the first female network news anchor, with an unprecedented $1 million annual salary.
Her last on-air interview was with then presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015. The TV legend was rarely seen in public in recent years.
Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, called Walters ‘a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself.’
‘Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state to the biggest celebrities and sports icons.
‘I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline,’ Iger said in a statement Friday.
Walters’ cause of death was not immediately released.
In her more than 50 years on television, she interviewed everyone from heads of state to Hollywood glitterati and along the way turned into an icon herself, becoming the first woman to co-anchor a nightly news program and co-host many others, winning awards, writing two books, and creating The View.
Throughout her trailblazing, decades-spanning career, Walters went from a ‘Today Girl’ in the 1960s when women didn’t cover hard news to the morning show’s first female co-host in 1974, for which she would win her first Daytime Emmy the next year.
In 1976, she was the first woman to co-anchor ABC Evening News, would go on to co-host 20/20, and by 1997, create and co-host The View, a successful daytime talk show that has been on the air for over 20 years. She officially retired in 2014.
Walters was known for her work ethic whose roots trace back to a childhood spent in various cities. Her father, Lou Walters, ran the popular club chain Latin Quarter, which was frequented by the likes of Roy Cohn and Joseph P Kennedy Sr. He also worked in show business, which lead to a financial highs and lows for the family. Walters’ older sister, Jacqueline, had an intellectual disability, and Walters spent much of her adulthood providing financial support for them.
Married three times and divorced, Walters is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Danforth.
‘I don’t think I was very good at marriage. It may be that my career was just too important,’ Walters said during an ABC News interview in May 2014 before her retirement.
Walters landed the interviews everyone else wanted, including Monica Lewinsky in 1999. She took world leaders and dictators to task with hard-hitting questions, and interviewed every US President from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.
‘I’m different on camera,’ Walters told Vogue in a 2008 article. ‘I have guts; I have no doubts; I have no fear when I’m working.’
Walters was also known for her celebrity interviews with stars like Oprah Winfrey, Bradley Cooper, Cher, Michael Jackson and Katharine Hepburn. Video clips show her weightlifting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing pool with Eddie Murphy, and fishing with Sandra Bullock. Her in-depth interviews for the Barbara Walters Special started airing in 1976, and by 1993, she would be talking to the ’10 Most Fascinating People’ that year.
‘I was one of the first who did political interviews and celebrities,’ Walters told Vanity Fair in 2014. ‘And I was criticized for it, and now everybody does it. Now, on the morning shows, the first half-hour is news, and the second half-hour they’re making souffles, or interviewing a movie star. But when I was doing that, that was unusual.’
Barbara Jill Walters was born on September 25, 1929 in Boston. Her father, Lou, was 15 when he left London for New York City. Walters described him in the May 2014 interview as ‘brilliant’ and a ‘gambler,’ while her mother, Dena, was conservative and liked to stay home.
Lou Walters was a booking agent turned supper club impresario: he ran the Latin Quarter, a club chain that had locations in Boston, Miami Beach and New York City. (Where the club was once located at Broadway and 48th Street was named ‘Lou Walters Way’ in 2006, according to Walter’s 2008 memoir, Audition.)
Her parents met in Boston in 1919, and were married for nearly 60 years, with Walters noting in her ABC News interview: ‘In those days, people didn’t get divorced.’
Lou was doing financially well when the couple met but by the time Walters was born, he had ‘lost his first fortune,’ she wrote in Audition. ‘The financial roller coaster of his business life would have an enormous impact on me. Throughout my life my father made and lost several fortunes in show business.’
Her family, including her older sister Jacqueline, moved around a lot, living in Boston, Miami, and New York City, where at one point, they had a ‘magnificent penthouse on Central Park West,’ according to her memoir. Growing up, Walters spent a lot of time at her father’s clubs, watching the shows and memorizing the routines. While attending Sarah Lawrence College, she considered dropping out to pursue acting.
‘As for me, I was becoming more and more absorbed in my desire to be an actress,’ she recalled in her book.
But Walters stayed in school, graduated in 1951 from Sarah Lawrence with a degree in English, and then got a job at a CBS affiliate’s publicity department. Not long after, she met Roy Cohn, who was a regular at her father’s Palm Island Latin Quarter, and her first husband, Robert Henry Katz, in Florida. Walters, who was by then in her early twenties, started dating Katz, whose father ran a company that manufactured children hats. They eventually got engaged and then married in June 1955.
‘The truth is, no matter whom I married in those days, it wouldn’t have worked out,’ Walters wrote.
The marriage lasted about three years, and Walters wrote that during it she was ‘quite miserable.’ She called Katz a ‘decent man, but it became clearer every day that we had nothing in common,’ and they divorced.
Meanwhile, her father had walked away from the Latin Quarter and in 1957 opened a new club in Miami. The new spot, however, struggled and her father, who was in debt, attempted suicide but survived, according to her memoir.
‘I had from early childhood felt responsible for my parents,’ she wrote, pondering if their financial troubles pushed her toward a successful career. ‘My insecurity led me to be a workaholic, to eat lunch at my desk, never to miss a day of work, to make more and still more phone calls on behalf of my clients.’
Walters went on a date with Roy Cohn at the 21 Club, but saw him infrequently afterward. But when her father was arrested in the fall of 1960, she wrote, Cohn somehow had taken care of it, and Walters was to become his ‘loyal friend.’ Her father, Lou, who was now living in Las Vegas, had failed to appear in court for his tax case and a warrant had been issued.
After a stint in public relations and at the magazine Redbook, in 1961, Walters was offered a temporary opportunity to write for the Today show, and she jumped at the chance.
‘I realized I was giving up a steady job for something that was short-termed, but I loved working in television – the creativity, the interesting people, the whole atmosphere,’ she recalled in her memoir.
The schedule for Today was not easy, with Walters calling the 4:30am start time at the studio ‘grueling.’ Nonetheless, after the one female writer on staff left to get married, Walters took her place.
Technically Walters had first appeared on camera, in a bathing suit, she noted in her book, on The Morning Show on CBS – the network’s answer to the Today show – in 1955. However, her debut at the Today desk was on August 29, 1961 when she was sent to Paris to cover fashion week. She had ‘then-fashionable short-with-bangs Audrey Hepburn haircut.
‘I loved doing my little segment on the air. But it never occurred to me that I would ever have a regular on-air role myself.’
Source: Daily Mail Online, Tate Delloye
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