Last night was Barbara Walter's last Oscar Special and, as always, for always, she delivered. Not only did she look gorgeous, she was right on the money - she predicted Monique and Sandra Bullock's wins - and also provided a wonderful retrospective of this signature program. And she made news, as reported here last week on the Huffington Post..
"While Walters, 80, is known for getting stars to open up and often tear up on camera, she says the celebrity interview has become less special in recent years and many stars are overexposed."
Barbara Freaking Walters is tired of celebrities. It's come to that! And let me be clear - I love Barbara Walters. I always have. When I was a teenager I loved her book "How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything." She blazed paths for generations of women in broadcasting and she showed Harry Reasoner to be the sexist spoilsport he was. Later I loved her on 20/20 when she and Hugh Downs together reminded me of older parents with Barbara as the more with-it mom sometimes having to explain the wilder stuff to Hugh as he shook his head in disbelief. Fascinating People? Fascinating. The View? Sublime. And her recent guest host appearances on This Week, particularly the one with Roger Ailes and Arianna Huffington - have been riveting. And she's 80.
Barbara Walters is a great interviewer. She's often more famous than the people she in interviewing but never makes the interview about her. (N.B. most morning show hosts today)
And the best part is that you know, you always know, she will ask The Question - whatever it is at the time with that particular person because she is interviewing them for a reason. To find answers. What happened? Why? OK, what kind of tree or you, but I get that, too. Because if there is a hint of controversy, scandal or even something tantalizingly private, she'll ask the question. She'll be a lady about it, she'll even be appropriately apologetic, but she will ask. I just love her for that. That's being a journalist. And that's why, I think, she's sick of celebrities.
"I don't find it harder to interview celebrities now," Walters said. "I find it harder to interview a celebrity who hasn't been all over the place. And now everybody's a celebrity if that's the word you're using."
Barbara Walters has remained in the public eye, and more importantly, in the public graces, for longer than most of the legions of people she has spotlighted because she understands that being famous is just a byproduct of being good at what you do. Or great at what you do, in her case.
And I can only imagine how sick and tired she is of publicists, managers, controlled timing and canned, oft-repeated answers from a wriggling eel-like mass of celebrities who want her to find them fascinating. There is little truth to be found anymore, hardly any news in the machine of manufactured fame. And she'll have none of it. I love her for that, too. She's a reporter, not a celebrity mouthpiece.
People who want to be famous want to be interviewed by Barbara Walters because that means you're famous. But if these wannabes would watch her example, they'd see that being famous is nothing, it's the result of something, not a goal in and of itself. It's who you are and what you do that will or won't command attention over the long run.
Want to be interviewed by Barbara Walters? Be more like Barbara Walters. Earn it.
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