America's first female newscaster shares her memories.
Barbara Walters hopes we like her. At least, that is the lasting impression from her recent memoir, Audition. It’s hard not to be fascinated by the arc of her career in television news, which includes roles as first woman to cohost a morning news program and first to coanchor a nightly newscast.
Like so many of her revealing interviews, Walters begins her own story with her childhood. What influences does she claim set the stage for one of the most powerful women in television? Show business and a developmentally challenged older sister.
Her father, Lou Walters, was the imagination and drive behind the Latin Quarter nightclub, the most famous nightclub in America in the 1930s and 1940s. As Walters opened clubs in Boston, New York, and Miami, he shuttled his family up and down the East Coast. He made and lost fortunes several times over, instilling in his youngest daughter, Barbara, a keen sense of the erratic flows in the channels of money and power and a fighter’s will to stay on top.
His older daughter, Jackie, was fair-haired, pretty, and unable to care for herself. Instead of being sent away to an institution or a special school, she was kept tight within the family circle, triggering both resentment and guilt in her younger sister, who was trying to lead a normal schoolgirl life amid the glitz and unpredictability of their father’s profession.
“Much of the need I had to prove myself, to achieve, to provide, to protect, can be traced to my feelings about Jackie,” writes Walters. “Some may call it ambition.... Some may call it insecurity.... But as I look back, it feels to me that my life has been one long audition – an attempt to make a difference and to be accepted.”
Page 1 of 4