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This story first appeared in the May 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Barbara Walters, 84, ends her co-hosting duties with ABC’s The View on May 16 after 17 years, she’ll be closing a period in an on-air news career that began more than five decades ago. “I felt it was time to have a new chapter,” says Walters on the phone from New York. Then she asks for a pause, gets off a treadmill and adds, “The new chapter means I can get some exercise.”
Walters’ relationship with television began in 1961, when she was a writer for NBC’s Today show. This led to doing occasional on-air segments, and her big break came when actress Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane in the Tarzan series and Mia Farrow‘s mother) didn’t work out as a correspondent for the 1964 Democratic convention. Walters filled in. But it would be at the news-meets-celebrity junction that the notoriously work-driven Walters would have her greatest success.
The Sarah Lawrence graduate had received an indirect education in show business from her father, who owned the hugely popular Latin Quarter nightclubs in New York City, Miami and Boston — the type of places where Frank Sinatra sang with Howard Hughes in the audience. “Being around the club taught me not to be in awe of celebrities,” says Walters. “I saw them literally without makeup.” So while she had the famous interviews with the Shah of Iran, Fidel Castro, Anwar Sadat and Monica Lewinsky, there also were the Oscar-night specials; Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on her 2013 10 Most Fascinating People show; and enough tears shed in Q-and-As with pre-rehab actors to float the Titanic.
She’s had three husbands (one she married twice), has an adopted daughter and has been linked romantically with Sen. John Warner, Alan Greenspan and, while in college, Roy Cohn. “I’m not walking into the sunset,” says Walters. “It’s not like I’ll never work again. I just felt it was time to take a breath, maybe do nothing. I have worked forever.”
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