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June 16, 1989 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Op\

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dining
25938 Middlebelt Rd. at 11 Mile Rd. in the Mid•11 Plaza
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FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 1989

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MICHAEL ELKIN

Special to The Jewish News

an we talk?
No one will ever
likely mistake Bar-
bara Walters for Joan Rivers.
But make no mistake about
it, television broadcast per-
sonality Walters can talk up
a storm.
Indeed, in an industry in
which doublespeak reigns
supreme and even the best of
friends can snow each other
with platitudes, Walters has
weathered well.
An intrepid interviewer, she
has had a "questionable"
career — albeit there is
nothing questionable about
her credentials.
As co-host of ABC-TV's
"20-20," as interviewer ex-
traordinaire for a series of
celebrity specials dating to
1976, as newsmaker herself—
arranging the first joint inter-
view between former Israeli
Prime Minister Menachem
Begin and the late Etyptian
President Anwar Sadat —
Walters is a woman of wit and
wonder, often more famous
than the famous men and
women whm she has a flair of
getting to and at.
While she has questioned
world leaders such as Presi-
dent Reagan and Margaret
Thatcher, Walters inevitably
answers to herself, trying to
scratch little truths out of big-
time figures. The per-
sonalities, says the per-
sonable Walters, are
intriguing.
And so is Walters.
Let's talk — which Walters
does with a delightful
deference. For someone
known as queen of the per-
sonality interviewers, she oc-
casionally seems thrown for a
loss, offering a humility that
provides a crowining touch for
this most personable of
personalities.
That hasn't always been the
case. Walters has had her
share of poison pen-tipped ar-
rows pointed her way by the
press. She's too touch, say
some critics; too soft, say
others.
"I hear [about] people who
hear I'm too aggressive, and
I hear people who hear that
I'm much too soft," she say
with a smile. "And I
sometimes hear it in the
same thing. And there are
times when I'm too ag-
gressive, and I'm sure there
are times when I'm much too
soft."

Barbara Walters is pictured iwth one of her interview subjects,
George Burns.

She shrugs the shrug of
"You can't win 'em all." But
that hasn't been the case with
the ratings — which she
snares with amazing
regularity. Indeed, no one
questions this questioner's
ability to win ratings wars.
Walters is ever so conversant
with what the viewing public
wants.
But what does Walters
want? Over the years, she has
made no secret of her secret
desire to be taken seriously.
Let gossips gossip that all she
is is a gossipmonger — her
specials will demonstrate how
special her talent really is.
Walters is noted for a
tenacity that would scare off
a pit bull. But she is not eager
to perpetuate the image that
when she nails an interview
she also has her claws out.
"I'm older; I have mellowed,
I think," says the feisty
57-year-old Boston native. "I
think I am far more sym-
pathetic. And I think there is
a difference between doing an
in-depth personality inter-
view [and] doing a political in-
terview."
The personality profiles
primarily make up her net-
work specials; the political
probing is primed for "20/20."
She separates the two in-
tentionally. As she told a
reporter for TV Guide recent-
ly, interviews with world
leaders have not provided
earth-shattering ratings for
her specials. "What our
viewers wanted to see were

the peple they love the most
— the television, motion-
picture and recording
superstars.
"It reminds me of those
polls when people are asked
what music they most like to
listen to. Everyone says,
`Brahms or Beethoven,' but
the rock 'n roll records are the
ones that sell out."
Big names sell — her inter-
view portfolio spills over with
such subjects as Sylvester
Stallone, whom she considers
a fun chat; Richard Pryor
("He touches me more than I
can say"); Burt Reynolds;
Bette Midler; Clint Eastwood,
whose on-air flirtation with
Walters caused her to blush
uneasily; and her favorite,
Katharine Hepburn.
Walters, approachable, is
not above self-reproach,
lamenting a self-indulgent in-
terview in which she advised
newly elected President Jim-
my Carter to "be wise with
us, Governor, be good to us."
Some lines are better than
others. "You know," she says,
"to this day I am dogged by
that tree question." She
shakes her head. For the
record, she wants it known,
she never asks her subjects
what kind of tree they think
they resemble. "I did that
only once, and it was Hep-
burn who said she thought of
herself as a tree. Then I asked
her what kind."
Walters first took root in
the business in 1961, joining
NBC-TV's "Today Show" as a

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