THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC BOOK REVIEW, BY JAMES MYERS
AUDITION: A MEMOIR
By Barbara Walters
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Pub. Date: May 2008
Four Star Rating ****
BARBARA JILL WALTERS (BORN SEPTEMBER 25, 1929) IS AN AMERICAN JOURNALIST, WRITER, AND MEDIA PERSONALITY WHO HAS BEEN A REGULAR FIXTURE ON MORNING TELEVISION SHOWS (TODAY AND THE VIEW), AN EVENING NEWS MAGAZINE (20/20), AND ON THE ABC EVENING NEWS AS THE FIRST FEMALE EVENING NEWS ANCHOR. WALTERS WAS FIRST KNOWN AS A POPULAR TV MORNING NEWS ANCHOR FOR OVER 10 YEARS ON NBC'S TODAY, WHERE SHE WORKED WITH HUGH DOWNS AND LATER HOSTS FRANK MCGEE AND JIM HARTZ. WALTERS LATER SPENT 25 YEARS AS CO-HOST OF ABC'S NEWSMAGAZINE 20/20. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO CO-ANCHOR THE NETWORK EVENING NEWS, WORKING WITH HARRY REASONER ON THE ABC EVENING NEWS.
ON JUNE 14, 2007 WALTERS RECEIVED A STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME. SHE HAS WON DAYTIME AND PRIME TIME EMMY AWARDS, A WOMAN IN FILM LUCY AWARD, AND A GLAAD EXCELLENCE IN MEDIA AWARD. HER IMPACT ON THE POPULAR CULTURE IS ILLUSTRATED BY GILDA RADNER'S "BABA WAWA" IMPERSONATION OF HER ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, FEATURING HER IDIOSYNCRATIC SPEECH WITH ITS ROUNDED "R."
WALTERS CO-HOSTS THE SOMETIMES CONTROVERSIAL DAYTIME TALK SHOW THE VIEW, OF WHICH SHE IS ALSO CO-CREATOR AND CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER. WALTERS DESCRIBED THE SHOW IN ITS ORIGINAL OPENING CREDITS AS A FORUM FOR WOMEN OF "DIFFERENT GENERATIONS, BACKGROUNDS, AND VIEWS". THE SHOW INCLUDES WHOOPI GOLDBERG, JOY BEHAR, ELISABETH HASSELBECK AND SHERRI SHEPHERD. CURRENT-TODAY SHOW CO-HOST MEREDITH VIEIRA (AS MODERATOR), JOURNALIST LISA LING (AS THE "YOUNG" VIEW), COMEDIAN ROSIE O'DONNELL (AS MODERATOR) AND TELEVISION PERSONALITY STAR JONES (A LAWYER, BUT PERHAPS ALSO SELECTED BECAUSE OF HER CHRISTIAN VIEWS), AND E! NEWS CO-HOST DEBBIE MATENOPOULOS (THE "YOUNG" VIEW, SHE WAS REPLACED BY LISA LING) HAVE ALL SAT ON THE SHOW'S PANEL. AS OF 2008 WALTERS AND BEHAR ARE THE ONLY TWO ORIGINAL PANELISTS STILL APPEARING ON THE SHOW.
WALTERS PUBLISHED HER MEMOIRS, AUDITION: A MEMOIR, IN 2008.
“Back in the sixties, when I was appearing daily on NBC’s Today show, I was living on Seventh Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street. My apartment was across from Carnegie Hall and on the corner of a very busy street. It was also near several large hotels that catered to businessmen. Perhaps because of this, the corner was the gathering place for some of the most attractive “ladies of the evening.” Each morning at five o’clock I would emerge from my building wearing dark glasses, as I hadn’t yet had my makeup done, and I was usually carrying a garment bag. It seemed obvious to the “ladies” that there was some big “number” I had just left. Now, bear in mind that, even then, I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken. But I would emerge and look at the young ladies, some of whom were still teenagers. “Good morning,” I would say. “Good morning,” they would answer. And then I would get into this long black limousine with its uniformed driver, and we would glide off into the early morning light. And you know what effect all this had on the ladies?
I gave them hope.
Perhaps this book may do that for you.
So here it is, the whole package, from the beginning.”
Barbara Walters has written “a long awaited memoir from the most important woman in the history of broadcast journalism.” Over 45 years on television, Barbara has become the friend in your living who talks to all the important people for you. This translates into the book, where she gives an entertaining account of all of her various experiences, recounted with humor and honesty. She is also surprisingly honest about her personal life; her older retardate sister, her father’s suicide, her midlife affairs, her daughters troubled years, and her battles with co-anchors Frank McGee and Harry Reasoner. Leaving NBC’s Today Show after 14 years to become the first female nightly news co-anchor was surrounded by controversy and she vividly describes the criticism that came with accepting the position and the multi-million dollar salary.
There is the litany of historical events that are included in the book, from the Bay of Pigs to the present, and of course there is the showbiz material like her dish on what goes on backstage at the View. But even more interesting are the insights that she gives us into her personal life. There was difficulty and challenges that are discussed here that were not known before. The book is a breezy, well-written, interesting view into the personal and professional life of a maven who was there during the golden age of television and still comes into our living rooms everyday.