Illustration by Andy Friedman
The career, God knows, has been long. A book is in order. And let’s not kid ourselves—if not now, when? Lately, her appearances on The View bring to mind the final years of the Reagan presidency. Lucidity is waning; recall plays tricks. Too often, a tiny, nut-brown hand waves vaguely in the air, or—fingers balled up into a little fist—raps sharply on the big, shared desk as she tries her damnedest to call forth the name of some famous actor or politician, or the salient details of a recent scandal. Her well-known list of most desired “gets” has become a death roll. The time has come.
And the book is a triumph! While the morning’s “Hot Topics” are a frustrating 20 minutes of words ever on the tip of the tongue, the glories of yesteryear are seen as if through the lens of the world’s most powerful telescope. Today is a muddle, but yesterday is Byzantium, all hammered gold and precious jewels. Barbara Walters has known presidents and kings, famous call girls and genteel murderers, Nobel Prize winners and dumb blondes who have changed the world. She has floated on the Dead Sea by moonlight and interviewed Moshe Dayan in his backyard. She has been to the ancient city of Persepolis to observe the 2,500-year anniversary of the Persian monarchy, where 50 yellow and blue tents had been erected by “Jansen of Paris, the hot interior decorator,” and filled with Limoges, Baccarat, Porthault linens, and two tons of Iranian caviar. She has chatted in a palace garden with Princess Grace, eaten prime rib and potatoes off TV-dinner trays with Katharine Hepburn, bounced around the Reagan ranch in Ronnie’s favorite Jeep, motorboated across the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro, risked a nighttime landing during a Baghdad blackout to interview Saddam Hussein, been admitted into Muammar Qaddafi’s desert tent (where she worried that her pink knit suit would clash with the general’s green-and-white mufti), brokered and conducted the first joint interview with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, pressed her body tight to Sylvester Stallone’s while his Harley roared between their legs.