The writers of “S.N.L.” were far from her only critics. Many objected to Ms. Walters’s cozy, at times cloying manner with guests, as well as her apparent determination to bring her interviewees to tears. Ms. Walters even made Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of allied forces in the Persian Gulf war, cry when she asked about his father in 1991.
But the ratings were always on her side.
Nightclubs and Cheap Rentals
Ms. Walters said she had inherited both her ambition and her insecurities from her father, Lou Walters, a Boston booking agent and vaudeville impresario who founded the Latin Quarter nightclubs in Boston, New York and Miami and whose fortunes rose and fell, dragging the family from Florida manors and penthouse apartments on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to shabby rentals in Miami.
“I was old enough to recognize how other families lived, and they were not like mine,” she wrote.
Barbara Walters was born in Boston to Mr. Walters and Dena (Seletsky) Walters on Sept. 25, 1929. In her memoir she wrote that her father, though “not especially good-looking,” exuded a “certain elegance,” being always “impeccably dressed” and having retained his English accent — “very appealing then as now.” Her mother — “quite striking,” she wrote — had been working in a men’s neckwear store when she met her future husband. The couple — both were children of Jewish immigrants who had fled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe — remained married for nearly 60 years despite a “torturous relationship,” Ms. Walters wrote.
Barbara attended private schools in New York and public schools in Miami. There were trips to Europe and Broadway openings; there was hobnobbing with celebrities; there were also tax collectors who seized the family car, the furniture and even the dining room chandelier. Her childhood, she said, was shaped by her complicated relationship with her elder sister, Jacqueline, who was mentally disabled. She died in 1985.
When Ms. Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951 with a degree in English, her father was broke again, and she needed to find a job to support her parents and her sister. “I wanted to be normal,” she once told Newsweek. “I wanted to make the marriage and have the children and be one of the popular girls.”
Like many women of her time and education, she started as a secretary, at a public relations firm. That led to a stint in the publicity department of CBS and then a writing job on “The Morning Show,” where Ms. Walters was occasionally brought out of the writers’ room: once in a bathing suit when a model ran late, another time to interview survivors of the wreck of the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria.