This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," May 5, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: She is the most powerful woman on all TV news. She has interviewed more president and newsmakers than any other woman in news. Barbara Walters goes "On the Record." Earlier today, we went her dressing room behind the scenes at "The View." Barbara went "On the Record" about her best-selling memoir, "Audition," now out in paperback, and much more.
VAN SUSTEREN: Barbara, nice to see you.
BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": It's nice to see you, Greta. Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I love being in your make-up room. This is beautiful.
WALTERS: Isn't it nice? Yes, we have no window, but that's OK. It's all very cheery and pretty and warm.
VAN SUSTEREN: And very warm and toasty. Most of the men keep these places so cold. Makes you crazy, doesn't it?
WALTERS: Yes. But this is nice.
VAN SUSTEREN: This is a great time for you. "Time" magazine has "The View" in the top 100 most powerful.
WALTERS: Most influential...
VAN SUSTEREN: Most influential. Sorry.
WALTERS: A hundred of the most influential people in the world. I mean, I said to Joy that I was thrilled but amazed. And Joy said, Why are you amazed? Of course we are. But you know, what a nice compliment.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the show is hot. I mean, you had...
WALTERS: It is this year, isn't it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've had President Obama, Senator McCain. Donald Trump made his revisit today.
WALTERS: Yes, he did.
VAN SUSTEREN: And that was certainly fun.
WALTERS: We've had Michelle Obama on as one of our panel, and we had Cindy McCain on as one of our panel. And we've been very political. It's a political year, and we are opinionated. And the fact that there is this kind of honesty, that we have five women -- I try to sort of say, Yes, but on the other hand, Yes, but on the other hand, because I'm still a member of the news department.
But it's the fun of exchanging the kinds of opinions and having the sort of arguments that we have, and yet remaining friends. We were discussing this week creationism versus Darwinism. I thought they would come to blows on the set. But it's like people at home. I mean, we do that. We have those kinds of arguments.
VAN SUSTEREN: You mention you're a part of the news division, so that's a great segue to talking about the book, the "Audition," which is now out in paperback in time for Mother's Day.
WALTERS: "Audition," yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) which is -- which is about hard news, intertwined with other things, but is about hard news.
WALTERS: Well, it's a very personal story about my childhood, my sister, who was considered mentally retarded -- we don't use that expression anymore, we say what, challenged -- about my father, who made fortunes and lost fortunes and was a big theatrical impresario. But it's also -- I didn't want to do "And then I interviewed, and then I interviewed," but it also has presidents and despots and, I don't know, murderers. Ah, murderers, yes, right up your alley, shall we say.
But it also is about the struggles to -- in the early days of the news. Well, it wasn't so early. It was in the '60s and '70s, when at one point on the "Today" show, the host, who was a man named Frank McGee, would not allow me to ask a question until he had asked three. I could come in on the fourth question. Because otherwise, he felt that all I should do was girlie questions.
And when I see how far we have come, I look back and I think this is all in -- you know, in -- and I shouldn't say in one lifetime because I've been doing this for a long time. But I'm so proud of what women have accomplished and how far we have come, and part of this is that struggle.
VAN SUSTEREN: Here's a quiz for you. Do you know why I love this book?
WALTERS: Oh, isn't that nice. I don't care why. I'm just glad you did.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I like it because you know what, Barbara? You really have done so much. And I don't mean, you know, to be sappy or anything, but you've done so much for women in journalism because you really -- I mean, it's unbelievable, that doors you've opened -- for me, for all of us.
WALTERS: Well, perhaps. I mean, I hope so. But also today, it's such a different climate. I mean, when I was on the "Today" show, I wasn't co-host until the two last years I was there. I'd been doing the show for 11 years before that. Now on every morning show, the woman is co-host or host. And the kinds of programs that you have...
VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but you...
WALTERS: ... that you do yourself...
VAN SUSTEREN: started that! But that's my point.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's my point.
WALTERS: You don't do it for that reason, Greta. You do it -- I don't know. I don't really know where ambition comes from. I don't know where that -- that need -- I know in my case, which is why I called the book "Audition" -- why I felt the need to succeed. I always felt that I was an outsider, perhaps because of my sister. I always felt I didn't belong. And this maybe was a way of being accepted.
I don't want to do a lot of psychobabble, but I think about that more today because I've lost that ambition. I've done an addenda. There's a new chapter in which I talk about doing an interview with someone like Patrick Swayze, the only interview that he did, and the kind of feeling that I have when you're able to talk with someone like that. But I've lost the desire to get the next big get and to do the next thing and to be there first. So I may not be as success -- you know, as successful, but I'm -- I'm a lot calmer and happier.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't buy that...
WALTERS: Well, that's true.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... because I see you every single day successful on "The View." I -- you know, I...
WALTERS: "The View" for me is just dessert. It's wonderful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but I mean, I -- I mean, you love it. I mean, I can...
WALTERS: Yes, but that's not the same.
VAN SUSTEREN: What?
WALTERS: You love what you do, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes.
WALTERS: OK. And it's very important to love what you do. But the kind of striving that I had to do because it wasn't easy, and women were not accepted, and then for a while, getting that big get, being there first, having that big interview -- that's tough going. And it's changed. I mean, we don't do heads of state. You do. Most people don't now on the network. We do celebrities out of rehab, you know? And I don't have the same -- I just don't have the same ambition.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know...
WALTERS: Except for the book to be a success.
VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, more with Barbara Walters. What is the one big interview that Barbara is trying to land right now? Do you think she'll tell us? That and much more coming up.
And hold onto your seat for this one. Semi-nude photos surface of Miss California. When were the pictures taken? It this going to cost Miss California her crown? We have a report.
VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing with Barbara Walters, author of the best- selling memoir, "Audition," now out in paperback.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyone who's even interested journalism or interested in news (INAUDIBLE) or even interested in the sort of the travels of women through the business should read this.
WALTERS: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: I found -- I found the book absolutely fascinating. You know, I even loved the fact you have pictures of you in 1956 with CBS, I think, or about that, or '61 or something, in a bathing suit, a swimming suit. That's where it had to start.
WALTERS: Oh, yes. I was a -- I was a writer on that program and the model didn't show up, so they took me and put me in a bathing suit, and I was one of the models with my dark hair.
You know, I am not exactly natural blonde.
VAN SUSTEREN: The whole idea -- that never happens today. Those are the tough roads that we have to. Maybe somehow we have some hurdles, but not like that.
WALTERS: No, but, you know, there are so many women now -- not everyone like you, and not everyone is successful. But there isn't a program now that doesn't have a woman.
On the other hand, my path was much tougher. But there is something about being able to do things first that, that, I don't know, that gives you a feeling about yourself, and that gives you a feeling about your career. I never thought I would be in front of the camera.
When I think of the people that I have met because I have interviewed every president -- I was going to say every president since Abraham Lincoln, but that's not true -- since Richard Nixon, and almost every world leader, and so on -- what a blessed life I have had, and never expected it to happen. It was, in great part, by chance.
VAN SUSTEREN: You talk about all the people you have interviewed, and, I should probably tell the viewers, when you go to the back of the book, it's page after page after page -- sports people, like Mike Tyson.
WALTERS: That was a memorable interview.
VAN SUSTEREN: I bet it was. World leaders, King Abdullah of Jordan, of Saudi Arabia, presidents, first ladies, entertainers, and that is only a partial list in the back of the book. It goes on for pages. It's unbelievable.
WALTERS: In the beginning in the hardcover -- this is at the back of the book, although the book, they have got new pictures in it, and the old pictures, as well.
But in the hardcover, it was on the inside of the -- well, let me show you. It would have been on the inside, like here. It would have been the front cover. There we go. Well, there's a picture didn't mean to -- but it would have been here, you know?
So somebody said, are those all of the people you've interviewed? And I said, "No, those were my lovers." I thought it would make them buy the book.
Now it's in the back. Now it's in the index.
VAN SUSTEREN: But even that, it's interesting to read the list of people over all the years.
You talked about your sister.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I remember one point in the book where it talks about how you left your sister, she was sick, and you went to Milwaukee to give a speech. And I should probably let you tell the story of what happened.
WALTERS: I hate to even remember. My sister had ovarian cancer and was operated on. And she was recovering, and I was supposed to go and make a speech. And, like a damn fool, I went. I was committed to do it, and I went to do it. It was for the network. It wasn't a private speech.
And when I got there, they told me that my sister had gotten up to go to the bathroom, and she had an embolism and died. I went out and made the speech. I was terrible. I got condemned in the newspaper for this awful speech that I made.
But I had to think to myself -- where was my head? What does this say about me? That the job was so important? I mean, it made me reexamine so much of my life.
And I think of that at other times, you know, today when women and men are trying to balance their home life, their children, the career. And I talk a great deal in this book about balance.
Katharine Hepburn, for example, who never married, even though she had this relationship with Spencer Tracy, and never wanted children. "They'll get in the way" she said, you know. "Out of my way," if she had an opening night.
Audrey Hepburn, whom I interviewed, who talked about giving up her career for her children. She felt she couldn't do both. And I think about that a great deal, and I tried to write about it in the book, because there were decisions that I had to make, and I try not to spend my life regretting, and I close the doors that are painful, although I wrote about them. But I think it's something that some many of us, especially so many of women, confront.
VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting to hear you say that, because from a far watch, it looked like a smart, attractive, charming, successful, the whole bit. Then you read the book, and you find out in so many ways, you have pain. You have pain that people have going through life.
WALTERS: I think that was one of the things that made the book successful, was that it was very personal. Perhaps the hardest chapter to write was about my daughter, who wanted me to write this chapter -- I never would have done it -- because she had a terrible adolescence. And I didn't know how we were going to get through it. And we did.
And she said, "I want people to know, mom, that if you and I can make it, that other people can make it."
I also love what she said, because my daughter is adopted, and at one point I thought she might want to meet her biological mother. There was all of this business about children trying to find their biological mothers.
And I said, "Look, if you want to find your biological mother, I will help you darling." And she said, "I have had so much trouble with you. Why would I want another one?"
VAN SUSTEREN: Good line.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's a great line.
People see you on TV and see news people and think it's all glamour. And a lot of it is fun, a lot of it's glamour, but there is a lot of crummy travel.
WALTERS: It can take years, also, to get interviews, years of calling and inviting and traveling to countries. You know, you get there, and you're there one day. You never see a country.
VAN SUSTEREN: How are you sleeping on planes?
WALTERS: I can sleep anywhere. That's also because of the years on "The Today Show." You can call me -- I don't want you to -- but you can call me at 5:00 in the morning, and I am awake. I mean, I'm not awake, but I will make sense.
Now, I could sleep through this interview.
VAN SUSTEREN: You travel on some crummy conditions. You went to, was it the Dalai Lama, and it was freezing cold and horrible?
WALTERS: The Dalai Lama is now in exile in Domthala in India. And it was --- not a lot of people go there -- freezing, no heat where we were sleeping. I slept with all my clothes on. I slept with other people's clothes on. But, you know, you do those things.
And it was also one of the most fascinating trips.
I asked the Dalai Lama if he thought we were closer to heaven or hell, because I was doing a story on religion, on heaven. And he said "We are closer to heaven."
And then at the end, I said, "I would like to do something I do not do very often. May I kiss you, you holiness?" And he said, "Why don't we do it the way they do it --" Where did he say? Not in Newfoundland. And he rubbed noses with me. There is a picture of it, of our rubbing noses.
VAN SUSTEREN: I assume you've seen that Elizabeth Edwards has a book coming out.
WALTERS: Yes, I have seen.
VAN SUSTEREN: And she is going to give interviews, and --
WALTERS: She is going to be on "The View."
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you prepare for that interview?
WALTERS: First of all, you have to read the book, and secondly, you have to sensitive to the kinds of questions that you ask this woman who's gone through a lot. I'm not sure I know why she is writing the book, but she also has things that she feels have to be said.
And, at the same time, there are certain questions that you must ask, and I assume she's prepared to answer. There is a woman who says that John Edwards is the father of for child. You have to wonder what it is in the relationship that makes her stay with John Edwards.
Are there lessons for any of us? What's the relationship like now? What is he like now? There are a lot of questions.
She is doing not just our show, but other programs. And you have to be sensitive, but you also have to ask those questions.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's tough, though, don't you think. You know the viewers want to hear a lot of those questions, but you're sitting a foot away from someone, and it's a horribly painful experience.
And, look, he's a cad. He did a terrible thing to her.
WALTERS: Let me give you a different example, because I write an addendum to this book, and one of the people that I talk about is Patrick Swayze.
And when we did the interview, it turned out to be the only interview that he did. He was going to do others after mine, but this was the only one he was well enough to do. Thank goodness he is still with us. But at one point, I had to say to his wife, Lisa, sitting next to him, have you thought about what it will be like when Patrick is no longer with you?
I wasn't sure I could ask that question. Sometimes you have to feel the mood. That's when you ask the questions from your gut and not from your cards.
And it is a combination of both. There are certain questions that I won't ask people if I don't feel that it is pertinent and that it is just going to be painful.
On the other hand, if someone writes a book, you know, there are questions you must ask.
I interviewed Hillary Clinton when her book "Living History" came out. I had to ask about Monica Lewinsky. And I also -- and I thought about this -- had to say to her, why did you stay with your husband?
That's hard when you are sitting right opposite someone. It's much easier to just let it go.
But there are certain questions you have to ask, or you are not doing your job.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you sort of rehearse those hard ones? Because I hate being in someone's face and asking those. They're horrible.
WALTERS: I think about it. But I also have to feel what the mood is, and when it can be asked, where you feel your relationship is -- is close enough or comfortable enough so that you can ask those questions.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask one final question.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who are you working on now? What guest do you really want, so I can at least try?
WALTERS: You know, there is a guest that I am working on now, and I can't tell you, because that's part of it. If I tell you --
VAN SUSTEREN: I'll go after it.
WALTERS: You'll go after it.
VAN SUSTEREN: But I can't beat you out.
WALTERS: And I told you that I'm not ambitious anymore, but a little bit.
VAN SUSTEREN: During our interview with Barbara, we got the inside story on a lap dance she got from actor Hugh Jackman. Well, yes, we're going to make you wait for this one. You're going to her the inside story yourself from Barbara on a very special last call, coming up.
VAN SUSTEREN: 11:00 is almost here. Flash those studio lights. It is time, last call.
Barbara Walters has interviewed presidents, kings, and the world's biggest celebrities. But one of the odder moments in Barbara's career involved actor Hugh Jackman and a lap dance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the celebrity interviews? Do you have a lot -- are those fun for you?
WALTERS: Some of them are fun.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's been fun?
WALTERS: Hugh Jackman.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why was he fun?
WALTERS: Because he just, he's is wonderful and sexy. He did a lap dance with me.
VAN SUSTEREN: I am well aware of that.
WALTERS: You do not think that is fun? Wow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PART 2 - MAY 6, 2009
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now for part two of your interview with Barbara Walters. We went to Barbara's dressing room behind the scenes at "The View." She went On the Record about her memoir, "Audition," just out in paperback, and much more.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of working, when you jumped from NBC to ABC, that made a big splash. Tough decision? There was a little bit of a rough spot when you made the first part of the jump.
BARBARA WALTERS, AUTHOR "AUDITION": I became the first female co- anchor of a network news program.
VAN SUSTEREN: At the time, it was giant, huge.
WALTERS: I had a partner, Harry Reasoner, who didn't want me. He wanted to do the show alone. It showed up on the air. I was a failure. I had to work my way back.
There are a lot of people today losing jobs and have to get in there and fight. But at the time, I felt I was drowning without a life preserver. I looked back and thought why did I ever do it? Why didn't I stay at NBC? I was happy. I was comfortable. They would have given me whatever I wanted, et cetera. Why did I jump?
And yet, I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't. That's when I did perhaps what were the most memorable interviews. Fidel Castro, I spent like 10 days with him, Begin and Sadat when peace treaties where signed between Israel and Egypt.
My whole career really took off at the time that I thought it was finished. So sometimes, you make decisions, and you think are the worst. And you work it through, and it turns out that your whole life changes.
But at the time, I thought it was a huge mistake. And I can relate to what Katie Couric was going through when she became the first solo female anchor.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think they have been fair to Katie Couric, the media? Is it sexist at all?
WALTERS: Probable a little of both. The next woman who does it probably will not have to go through that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Your best decision professionally, and your worst decision professionally?
WALTERS: They're that. My best decision professionally was to leave NBC and going to ABC. My worst decision professionally was to leave NBC and go to ABC, because it was so painful.
And I had already gone through years of trying to do the more serious questions and trying to do the kinds of interviews and not just do the "girly stuff" all those years during the "Today Show."
And then to jump into this, out of the frying pan into the fire.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's the whole thing when you read the book, and girly stuff to the hard news. And then the --
WALTERS: By the way, I like doing the girly stuff. I'm not against all of that.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I understand that. And "The View" was sort of an interesting mix of both. Why "The View"? Whose idea was "The View"?
WALTERS: "The View" was my idea. The network came to us because the 11:00 time period, which is when we're on, was a dud. And they said, "Do you have any ideas for a show?" And I said, "I have this idea for a show," which I had, "different women, different generations."
Because I could see, at that point David Brinkley was doing the Sunday show, and they had this roundtable at the end of the show. And I thought that was the best part of the show. I watched the program for the roundtable.
And I thought, let's try this with women.
So we did. I did not want to moderate it because it was interfering with the work that I was doing for "ABC News" and for "20/20." I said I'll be on a couple of days a week.
I never thought it would last. I found myself calling all the different stations all around America which we're carrying us and pleading with them to carry the show. I did everything but ring doorbells. And here we are. We're in our twelfth year.
VAN SUSTEREN: And, of course, "Time" magazine has named you one of the 100 most influential.
WALTERS: That's right. And it's become such a great pleasure for me.
And I can do things on this show in the daytime that I'm not able to do in network news, because it is a different tack of emphasis on the newsmagazines, most of them, now.
VAN SUSTEREN: There are some funny stories that tell people about the business a little bit more than people may realize -- that they may not know about. Getting interviews -- Abbie Hoffman.
WALTERS: That was the weirdest.
VAN SUSTEREN: That is right up there.
VAN SUSTEREN: What happened with that?
WALTERS: Abbie Hoffman had been -- he was one of the original Chicago Seven. And he had been prosecuted and he was supposed to spend some time in jail.
And he left. Nobody knew where he was.
And finally we got a tip, and I'll make this short -- and it turned out that he was some place -- what was it the river, now, I can't remember -- not the Hudson, but whatever. He was yonder, shall we say.
And he wanted to make his appearance. And we had our cameras. And it was at the crack of dawn. And he emerged from the mist, standing up on his boat like George Washington crossing the Delaware, and gave himself up.
And it was one of the weirdest interviews, I think, I had ever done. Not the only one, but I can still see him, gliding in, and "Hi, there. Here we are with our cameras. Welcome back. Go to jail. Do not pass go."
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