Say It Ain't So Baba WaWa

10 years ago

Young Barbara Walters Until Friday I had never repeated something I had heard about Barbara Walters nearly 34 years ago. I told my daughter Berit. It must have been the rhythm of the highway. At the moment of disclosure I was behind the wheel of my car, six hours out of Minneapolis on the way to Chicago not knowing that I still had another 4 hours in the car --thank you road construction.

I had never repeated what I had heard in the control room of The Today Show because at the time,if it were true, I may not have had the confidence to continue my career.

Yes,that sounds like an over-the top drama queen talking.When I was 22, I was very much the drama queen.

I wanted to desperately believe that if I worked hard enough, if I had enough talent I could suceed --regardless of the odds.

It would be rewriting history to dismiss the significance that Barbara Walter's success had on motivating and inspiring me professionally. Her effect was profound.

If someone had asked back then, 'who do you admire most?', Barbara Walters would have been my answer--hands down. Another reason why I think that may be  stupidest question in the world.

Starting my career I had one deeply held belief:Barbara Walters -- a woman who talked with a lisp and who did not conform to the country's definition of beauty --  had succeeded in television news because of hard work and talent and not because she slept with her boss. I believed if Barbara Walters could do it, I could do it too.  


Two months earlier to The Today Show visit I had landed my first job in television news. Hired as a research assistant and getting paid much lower than the reporters, I was sent out on my first reporting assignment three days after being hired. For the next several years I did a reporters job on a research assistant's salary but I had a goal:my dream job was to be on The Today Show.

Growing up The Today Show was on every morning in my house. My mother found Barbara a particular inspiration because her public story was "she worked harder than the men, she refused to give up and she succeeded because of it."  It was my mother who said, " If Barbara Walters can do it, you can too." 

It was my mother who pointed out that Barbara wasn't as pretty as most women on television and she had a speech impediment-- her confirmation that I would not succeed based on my looks. 

Looking back it is silly to think that there wasn't more to the story. But then again, it was a generation that believed in Camelot So yes, I had Barbara on a very high pedestal.

Since I worked for a NBC affiliate I had arranged to spend the entire day behind the scenes at NBC news which included watching The Today Show from the control booth.I was giddy with excitement.

Before I settled in the control room, my guide took me to the green room where the guests waited. When Barbara walked into the room, my guide introduced me as a reporter from the affiliate WWBT in Richmond, Virginia. We chatted for a few moments and then Barbara left.This made a huge impression on my guide who assured me Ms. Walters rarely speaks to anyone.

So when my guide took me to the control room the first thing she said was that Barbara was really friendly and chatty to me. The show director responded with a chortle and then asked out loud  to the entire room if they wanted to guess which of her numerous lovers she had been with the night before. Everyone laughed a knowing laugh.

 I did not laugh.l was furious.I chose to believe they were just saying that because  they were jealous that she was successful and their pea brains couldn't imagine that a smart, intelligent woman could succeed without bedding everyone in site.

That scene has been replaying in my mind a lot this week. Barbara outted herself. She may be smart. She may be talented. But my idealistic view of her as a woman who succeed without couch time was not exactly reality.  Good to know.

In the Barnes and Noble interview with Barbara Walters about the release of her bestselling book Audition --currently ranked #1 at Barnes & Noble and Amazon and currently not ranked on The New York Times, Walters says, " It pleases me when people tell me I was a trailblazer for women[...]I didn't set up to change things[..]there were so many hurdles.[...] I had to work.[...] I took what the situation was and made the bests of it.[...] Part of it was survival[...]if I helped other women I'm terribly proud of that."

Barbara Walters did help me.   While I have no idea what the motivation was for her to share all of this-- it is important historically to understand the behaviors of successful career women.  

The Bloggers response to her book. Rebecca Traister at

With all the men in her business whining publicly about the news industry going to hell in a (woman's) handbag, she notes that when she got her big salary, "you know what? Almost every television journalist, including Harry Reasoner, walked into his boss's office, demanded a raise -- and got it. Well, you're welcome."

Jane Genova speechwriter-Ghostwriter writes,

TV Interview Diva Barbara Walters' autobiography "Audition" presents a woman, observes Nicolas Lemann in THE NEW YORKER, "who stands at the doorstep of old age consumed with regrets, resentments, and unresolved conflicts." Will that happen to all us achievers - both women and men? Will we end up successes thanks to the demons which drove us to the top but with those demons still alive and well? In short, how can we learn from Walters' example and find a way along the career route to heal?

From Express Yourself,

Perhaps it is living in the public eye that makes someone like Walters, a career television journalist; want to share this secret with everyone. It is rather fitting that someone that has spent decades working to discover the secrets of others reveals a huge secret about themselves to the very public that respects and knows them to be the secret revealer. Of course, like one that is very familiar with secrets, Walters chose the place and the time to reveal her secret which makes the revelation her own choice, opposed to having someone else drag her dirty laundry out for everyone to see.

While I have known this for many years, Walter's confessions reminds me that it is never good to idolize someone else's success. It is never good to have a pretend story about how someone rose to the top of their profession.

This is not to say that Barbara Walters couldn't have succeeded without having numerous affairs, but knowing she did puts things in context.

The fact that many unknowing young women thought Barbara was all work and no play gave us the confidence to do the same.

So thank you Barbara.

Image Credit: NewsGroper: These Blogs Are not Real

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