At nine o'clock this morning, I arrived at Barnes and Noble, picked up Audition and sat down to read with a cup of coffee. I read for hours, bought the book and continued reading at home.
At over 600 pages, this book cannot be read in a day. However, I have read enough to report that the book is magnificent; extremely well- written, very pleasurable to read and absolutely fascinating.
Thankfully, there is also a detailed index. I found myself eying the index and flipping through to certain sections. I enjoyed reading about Walters' experience with the application form and other details at my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College.
Open this book and on the inside jacket is a listing of the hundreds (thousands?) of people who Barbara Walters has interviewed and knows. It's pretty staggering, actually.
Born September 25, 1929, Barbara Walters has led an extraordinary life. Walters was first known as a TV morning news anchor and became the first female evening news anchor and many of us know her as the interviewer who can make anyone cry. Walters has spent decades reporting the news and interviewing, extracting juicy details and information out of world leaders, celebrities, heads of state and other VIP's.
In Audition, we get to learn about Walter's personal and professional life and her relationships with many of the most famous people in the world.
In the prologue, Walters states: "It feels to me that my life has been one long audition--an attempt to make a difference and to be accepted."
I was quite moved by her introduction and her feelings about her mentally challenged older sister, Jackie. Walters credits her sister as being the strongest influence in her life and credits her for teaching Walters about compassion and understanding--the traits that have made her such an outstanding interviewer.
"I've guarded my sister's privacy for years." Walters writes. "And although she was the central force in my life, she was part of the package that I'm about to unwrap on these pages."
Walter's warmth and compassion comes through in this book and you come to care very deeply about her. She writes in a conversational tone and the book is very enjoyable to read.
One statement Walters makes I found strange, however; she writes: "I was then, and still am, attracted to men who are smart and powerful. I'm not sure why. I think it's because I'd always hoped there would be a strong, successful man to take care of me so I wouldn't have to take care of myself."
Really? Or is it simply that like seeks like--why would Walters seek a stupid and weak partner?
In spite of that statement, I see hope and inspiration in this book especially for young women and girls, because it shows that a woman can be highly intelligent, tough and successful and still be a woman.
From the author of the award winning book, Harmonious Environment: Beautify, Detoxify and Energize Your Life, Your Home and Your Planet.
on May 8, 2008
I always wondered why Barbara Walters had a slightly unfocused look at the beginning of some of her broadcasts. She confesses that when she is nervous, she takes one puff of a cigarette just offstage, and (being a non-smoker) immediately feels slightly dizzy but relaxed. This is exactly the look I am thinking of -- eager but slightly unfocused for a moment, batting her eyelashes exactly twice.
It's the nicotine!
Miss Walters has produced a long and satisfying memoir which will become the beach read of the Summer. Early on, she boasts slightly of her skills as an editor. It's clear she has applied them to this book as well. Barbara Walters has produced a finely-lubricated engine of a narrative that keeps us moving rather swiftly through her early years and subsequent superstar status.
I imagine the book could easily have topped 1,000 pages had she not applied her skilled eye in chopping it down. Still, when Miss Walters writes about some of her more interesting interviews, Truman Capote for example, you almost wish she would go into more detail. There is a sense she is holding back for brevity.
However, there are so many incredible anecdotes -- one featuring Robert F. Kennedy and a Mynah bird had me howling -- and they are from such impressive individuals, you admire her even more for taking out what must have been some humdingers.
I don't want to give any of them away because they're too good. I bought this book on the day of its release and I am not disappointed.
I like Barbara Walters' tenacity and ambition, even if she feels her rise to the top was fueled somewhat by an anxious insecurity, a neverending audition. In fact, she's auditioning for us here. Her memoir is designed to be comprehensive and readable and it succeeds on both counts.
Some people define "Class" in an individual as warmth, empathy, intelligence, humor and diplomacy. You sense these people have a solid moral core. They may, in fact, make you feel slightly inferior in some areas, but of course would never let you know it, nor would they even feel it themselves. Barbara Walters is the type of woman who overtips and wouldn't be caught dead harrassing a waiter.
We haven't kept her on top all these years for nothing.
Get the book.
I had very mixed reactions after reading this book. The personal sections, the ones dealing with her daughter, father and other aspects of life OFF screen were very engaging.
I can remember Barbara Walters from the days when she was a very young reporter or television journalist, the distinctive speech that was parodied on Saturday Night Live, the Barbara "Wah Wah" jokes and all the rest.
As a young female watching all that occur in a time when women's roles were changing, I often cringed when I saw her on television. It was like watching and FEELING a cultural paradigm - and I think this book reflects that as well.
Although Walters maintained a fairly professional facade throughout her career, I'm sure plenty of what happened to her, on air and off, stung. So to judge her too harshly would be wrong.
However, I DO think there are parts of this book which are too braggy, perhaps unintentionally so, perhaps even defensively so. The woman is used to attention, to a certain degree of power and to having fought her way from being scorned by male co-anchors to winning respect. That deserves note.
Still, it wasn't all the list of Firsts and Great Interviews that Walters writes about that actually touched and engaged me. Instead, it was her honesty about her personal, behind the scenes life. I recall seeing a show she did on adoptive parents and her own interview and the revelations of her adopted daughter. There were struggles between the two and even estrangement for a time. Also, Barbara had a sister with mental challenges and there was that as well as times when she had to put her career first and marriage and even her daughter second. There was a cost for that and I didn't feel Walter shied away from being honest about the realities.
Love her, hate her or feel indifferent towards her...the woman took on a tough job at a tough time for women who aspired to be on television as something other than stereotypes. I do think she seems to fawn a bit too much over some celebs in interviews but with others she surprises them and gets them to open up.
Finally, I'm always eager to know what keeps people like Barbara Walters to push on when others fall by the wayside. The answer? Insecurity and some fear. She is not unlike Larry King in that regard, a man who once had money and lost it all while in Miami and has seemed relentless since then. She is not unlike Sarah Jessica Parker, a woman who grew up on welfare and worries about every cent she spends (not that Walters and Parker are the same in every way but...) I think great insecurity often leads to great success and the unceasing drive to succeed.
Her revelations about her father, the danger of impoverishment and the responsibilities placed on Walter's shoulders were new to me. These parts of the book were particularly engaging.
I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would but felt it was an uneven ride but worth the trip.
I've never been particularly fond of BW's interviewing style and I used to cringe at some of her seemingly "odd soft-ball" questions. Why, I thought, is she asking goof ball questions to high ranking political figures--it seemed like a set back for women trying to make it in a man's world. Reading her aptly titled book, I now feel that I understand BW much better and like her much more--she's actually human, not an android!
I've read a lot of the critical reviews and feel that maybe readers approached the book with a pre-determined decision. I myself would never have purchased the book, especially in hard cover, until I saw clips from some of her interviews about it. I realized that maybe the cloak had been dropped and BW was ready to really let the viewers see her with all her warts intact. And, that she did, in spades! Maybe even a bit too much. But, if it was to be an honest autobiography, I believe she had to tell it all or stay home. Some think she should have taken some of her secrets to the grave and that she hurt people by what she wrote. Certainly it doesn't make it right just because its true, but I rather doubt that anyone is suffering from what happened to her decades ago, except maybe BW. So, though it went to places that may seem too personal, I appreciated the candor. Why write only the good stuff when life isn't like that. She maligned herself as well. Did we want more contrition for her obvious bad choices (marital affairs, etc.)? Maybe, but if one believes in Kismet, then she will answer for her choices.
I now see BW as a very insecure woman (at least through much of her journalistic career) who never felt quite good enough, even though she was systematically moving ahead in a "man's world." BW endured a lot of sh__ from some of her pompous male co-workers in a time when a lot of women would have packed their purse and gone home. She didn't. She stayed, fought for her rightful place, even when the stakes were great, and took home the prize.
This book humanizes a woman that many have never known. Is it honest? Certainly. From BW's standpoint, she's letting it all hang out. Does she go too far, name too many names? Well, maybe so, but, let's be honest, that's what some of us were looking for, the unvarnished view of her life as she saw it. Maybe others would disagree with her characterizations and if they were part of the picture, they have that right. However, the general audience really shouldn't pass that judgment, since we weren't there and don't know. But, because BW was willing to shine the light (an unflattering one) on herself as well as her colleagues and lovers, I felt that maybe this was her attempt to reveal her humanity, which she had so carefully hidden behind cameras and questions for so long.
BW obviously did some questionable things, such as having an affair with a married black Congressman. Did she do it for love or for her own career? Well, only she knows, but I tend to believe her when she says she loved Brooke and I can't see how a super secret affair advanced her career. It had the potential to destroy her career given the time period. As many have noted, Brooke's career was over because of the affair. Maybe so, but one can hardly blame BW. She didn't force him to do anything he wasn't already doing with other women and would likely do again. He was a brilliant politician so I can hardly feel sorry for him when he unraveled his own career. He had choices, as did BW and they both had to live with the consequences. Perhaps she suffered less from the aftermath; why, I don't presume to know. But, let's not vilify her for razing the Senator's career--he did that!
Whether one liked the book or not, one must admit it is incredibly well written and therefore very readable. One might expect that from a news correspondent, but I've read other autobiographies that were poorly written and revealed nothing. In fact, some books seem as though the authors had too much help from outside sources (Gore and the Clintons come to mind). There seemed to be too many details (good and bad) for anyone else to have written this, plus I believe BW is too controlling to leave what may be her most important work to someone else.
I also feel, unlike other reviewers, that the title "Audition" was very apt. It shows us the insecure nature of BW's personality. Being a woman in a male dominated field myself, I can certainly empathize with her inner conflicts. It's not easy breaking any new or working established ground and most of the men I've encountered over the years weren't too happy about sharing credit with a woman. So, it forces women to work longer, try harder and feel less secure about the outcome since most often the boss is a male as well. BW had a mix of people in her life that helped to make her what she is today, as no one does it alone. She was fortunate in many ways and the conflict probably made her stronger and more determined to win, which she certainly has done. No matter how you cut it, BW was a trailblazer and she suffered as a result. Her personal life was often in shambles and knowing about her youth helped me to understand and appreciate her struggles. She knows she made mistakes, owns up to them, and is moving on. Bravo for her.
I really enjoyed the sets of pictures and it provided a walk down memory lane looking at the many famous faces. The View was probably my least favorite chapter but it seems many reviewers related to it the most, even calling BW a liar about what she wrote. I finally watched the program after reading the book. To me it is cotton candy after her T-bone career. While I did not particularly enjoy the show, I think BW deserves dessert after all her hard work. I may give it another go, but I suspect many viewers like it because of the titillating nature of some of the stars and the personal escapades that were aired on national TV. I think we get enough of that from ET and other newsmagazines of this nature.
In closing, I felt that BW was gracious and had an amazing ability to remain friends with people who gouged her during her climb. If her recounting is accurate, she did not "sleep" her way to the top nor did she climb over others to get there. She comes across as being a team player and being gracious and supportive of others' successes and rather forgiving of some of the nastier crowd who attempted to bring her down or at least maligned her reputation. She prevailed in spite of or maybe because of these people and she's moved on to other things. While I haven't been historically a fan of her interviewing style, I have come to appreciate the forces that shaped her and her book is a great read, entertaining and funny. Read it and judge for yourself.
on May 6, 2008
Having read the book, I had to hear this version in her voice. Unfortunately, it is abridged. Neveretheless, Walters hits many of the high points here and hearing it read with her unique inflections and accents was worth it.
She talks about her troubled family. Her parents had a difficult marriage. Her dad was in show biz, first in running vaudeville then in nightclubs. He was mostly absent and went from wealth to poverty over and over. Very stressful for Barbara and her mom. Plus, her sister was intellectually challenged and that was tough for the whole family. Ironically, when TV came into existence it became her sister's boon companion.
Highlights: Walters describing her ascent at the TODAY SHOW as she shattered barriers and rose to the top. Her descriptions of interviews with people like Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro are priceless. Absolute fave from the audiobook version: Walters reaction to Gilda Radner's parody of her on Saturday Night Live. Walters was mortified and embarrassed but she got over it and she even does a funny imitation of Radner as BABA WAWA. Walters doing a parody of a parody of herself. Priceless!
Note*some of the juiciest stuff from the book is NOT on the audio version. Pay heed.
on May 8, 2008
Barbara Walters doesn't sugar coat her life. Good for her! If you're going to tell your life story you need to tell the good, bad, and the ugly. And she does just that. I have even more respect for the woman now. She admits her mistakes in her affair and her broken marriages. She also admits the guilt she feels for her relationship with her disabled sister. The book was a little longwinded but an interesting read about an interesting and influential woman.
on May 20, 2008
Having just completed Ms. Walters' memoir, I found it both entertaining and annoying. It is interesting to read of her background and career highlights. However, I felt that she hit below the belt in trashing former and long-dead colleagues (Frank McGee). This is not to say that her comments were wrong but attacking people when they are down -- especially 6-feet under down-- is unprofessional. It is also cruel to their families and loved ones left behind. As to her affair with Sen Brooke, I had no issue with their bi-racial love affair. But, again, did she ever take into account the sensibilities of his children, grand-children, etc. She went out of her way to respect her daughter's right-to-privacy. At least she asked permission before writing the "Hardest Chapter..." I thought this was, ultimately, a not-so-subtle way to promote her daughter's current business venture, a for-profit camp for wayward rich kids---cash, checks, credit cards only. Insurance not accepted. A final note, on her book promotion tour, she declines to discuss Sen. Brooke or Star Jones. Then why include them in the first place--except maybe to sell books!? Wait for the paperback version!
on May 6, 2008
For as long as I can remember, Barbara Walters has been almost a part of my life. I think I first became aware of Walters when she interviewed Elizabeth Taylor many years ago. Since then I have tuned in to Walters, whether it be on 20/20 or even The View, to see her wonderful interviews. No matter who she interviewed, whether it be film stars, presidents, disgraced public figures, dictators, etc. she always brought a very human side to them, often bringing them to tears. But how much did we really know about the lady behind the questions?
I have always thought of Barbara Walters as being rather guarded. Maybe that was a conscious effort on her part to allow her interview subject to shine through, and for the focus to be on them. In "Audition" we learn of a unique childhood. Her father, Lou Walters, ran the Latin Quarter nightclubs, and the young girl was around celebrities constantly. Because of this, it seemed as if Walters was almost destined to become an interviewer of the rich, famous, and infamous all around the world--but it was a bumpy ride in getting there. Along the way she became the first female co-host of an American news program. Her male counterpart on the show, Harry Reasoner, made life difficult Walters. She would go on to do 20/20 with Hugh Downs and become just as famous as those she interviewed.
"Audition" successfully chronicles the ups and downs of an extremely distinguished career. A lot of readers may pick up this book because of the revelation of Walters' affair with a married African-American senator. Unfortunately that bit of information seems to dominate the press coverage of this wonderful book, which is a shame. I do, however, think that this book came at the right time. Barbara Walters' name has been rather tarnished these past couple of years with the scandals involving the ladies of The View. Hopefully this book will restore Walters' good name, and remind the public of all her many achievements. With "Audition" it is Barbara Walters' time to shine!
on May 12, 2008
Befitting the classy lady that she is, Mrs. Walters has penned an extremely honest, revealing and often painful summary of an interesting and fulfilling life.
Not being able to drive, cook, or athletic in any way, including being unable to even ride a horse, makes Barbara seem almost normal: Her humanity comes through in so many ways that she now feels like a member of the family, the family of humanity: and not the calculating, hyper-testosterone, driven pseudo-masculine "ball-busting" "kill-or-be-killed witch" persona that she is often accused of projecting.
If having to care for her entire family after her father's "ups and downs," and then finally "down and out" business life was not enough, then her relationship with her "less than normal sister," troubles with her adopted daughter, her social isolation, and her struggles against a male dominated world, brings her humanity clearly into focus in a way that no other aspects of her life ever could have done.
After reading so much pabulum masquerading as autobiography (Hilary Clinton's "Living History" for instance), it is refreshing to read one that actually reveals a life actually lived and one, worth living.
on August 4, 2010
I was a real Barbara Walters fan. I picked up the audiobook in preparation for a long trip out to Houston - figured it would be interesting to hear about her interviews and interesting encounters. However, it was definitely more like an autobiography - and to be honest, it was a little too much hearing it being read by her personally. The way she emphasized the words -- it came off as "look how lucky I am, look what a great life I have, look what I can do - I can have it all." She likely would have never meant this - but it just all sounded very pollyanna. Her father had an outstanding warrant for his arrest due to tax evasion and totally blowing off court appearances and couldn't make it back to NY - she sounded like she was going to cry about it! Then she called a friend and had the whole issue "taken care of." Please. The guy failed to pay his PAYROLL taxes. That means he was stiffing his own employees from their social security. She just glossed over glaring lapses in judgment just to brag on her breaks or how good she ahd things, how much money she made, the life she had. Then she wraps it all up in her "insecurity." Wow. It's just everything I thought about her really just went out the window. I liked my impression before this. What was her editor thinking.