“Do I see myself as a feminist idol? No. I don’t see myself as anything.” Baba Wawa in Wanity Fair. (Barbara Walters in Vanity Fair, 2014-05)
“Dayan’s widow, Raquel, would wear to her husband’s 1981 funeral, a dress that belonged to Walters”.
Now that’s journalism. (Vanity Fair)
“I was one of the first who did political interviews and celebrities… and now everybody does it”.
Yes, all of your celebrity wannabe friends.
Please don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that the media made a bigger thing out of Barbara Walter’s “tree question” than it really deserved. It deserved to be mocked, in spades. Barbara Walters was a pushy, inane, abominable, celebrity hostess who did more damage than you can possibly imagine to journalism in American. She almost single-handedly invented tabloid journalism. She mastered and promoted the mutual masturbation style of interview, wherein the interviewer asks soft questions and the subject calmly answers them with lies and half-truths and the interviewer generously moves on to the next earth-shattering issue: single or queen-sized bed? When was the last time you cried? Would you cry now for me, please? Just a tear or two.
Trust me: we forgive torturers who cry.
It works wonderfully and you will see even the New York Times marvel at the guests she was able to land.
Of course she lands famous guests: she gives them all a glorious opportunity to answer their critics without difficult follow-up questions, like, “(this specific person) claims that your secret police arrested and tortured her for several months. Are you saying it didn’t happen? Is Amnesty International lying?”
She even let at least one of them edit her own interview (Barbara Streisand, having imposed a condition no real journalist would have agreed to), though I cannot imagine why Streisand thought it would even be necessary.
No person is too obscenely trivial or unimportant as to not deserve an interview with Barbara Walters, from the Khardasians to Beyonce (yes, screw it, Beyonce is trivial) to– the ultimate and most telling triviality of all: Donald Sterling’s girlfriend: V. Stiviano. To Barbara Walters, they are all, Kings and Presidents, Dictators and porn stars, Khardasians and Secretaries of State, equally important, equally interesting, and equally glamorous.
Now the revisionists appear but I can’t understand why. Everyone has always known she was a joke. Everyone has always known that by offering to pose her own dim-witted self-serving harmless fuzz ball questions, she allowed controversial figures to pad their own images, pretend to be accountable, without offering up a single wit, not a moment of honesty or authenticity.
Vanity Fair embarrassingly, shamelessly, with the utmost servility, describes her as reading whenever she is sitting on a plane, and arranged a photo to show bookshelves behind her. Vanity Fair neglects to mention that when she made her meteoric rise to “stardom” in the 1970’s at ABC News, she was the very first co-anchor to…. wait for it … no, it’s not that…. to be a non-journalist. She was the first to be chosen for her ability to entertain, not to enlighten, and the other journalists knew it, but, judging from Vanity Fair, you would never know it.
In Barbara Walters’ own delusional universe, the real journalists like Morley Safer and Peter Jennings criticized her because she was a woman, not because she was a hack.
What kind of a reporter was Barbara Walters? How did she manage to score that exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad? Her amazing — I don’t know what people even think she has– whatever? Or the fact that she helped an Assad aide to obtain an internship at CNN and enroll in Columbia University. But whoa nelly! It’s not as if she held back on Assad: are you a mean dictator? No, not at all. Then show me your glamorous palace and your beautiful wife.
Curtis Sittenfeld, in a particularly gruesome and nauseating aside, insists that you know Walters is great because you can’t not watch– you have to see it, to the end. I am very happy to admit that I watched parts of several Barbara Walters interviews early in her career and never, ever came back. I looked away as quickly as possible. Not for Monica Lewinsky, or the hugely embarrassing– mortifying– Obama interview, or Castro, or Sadat, or anyone else she trivialized over the past thirty years.
When she asks Bill Gates if his feelings were hurt because he was referred to as a “nerd”, you have to ask yourself if she has the slightest clue of what a nerd is or what a computer is or what Microsoft is or what Bill Gates is, but you just know that Bill Gates will never mind being asked if his feelings were hurt because Barbara Walters thinks people call him a nerd.
The pope has decided that he will no longer use the pope-mobile. Hallelujah.
How Vanity Fair scores so many lengthy articles on celebrities: read this piece or any other piece they have produced. Fawning, worshipful, admiring, suck-ups.