'Great Ups and Great Downs'
Walters' Book Tells All, from Professional to Personal
Greenwich Citizen

Barbara Walters is touring the nation to promote her new book, Audition: A Memoir. 

Four years ago, Barbara Walters left "20/20," ABC's news/magazine, because she was tired of interviewing movie stars coming out of rehab. She said goodbye to 25 years of co-hosting and looked forward to taking Spanish lessons and visiting museums. Then, Walters, the first female co-host of the "Today" show and the first female network evening news co-anchor, received an offer to write her memoir. Mission accomplished.

Now following a whirlwind weeklong debut of her 612-page tome, titled Audition: A Memoir, Walters, 77, is crisscrossing the United States in a private jet, traveling to 25 cities on her book tour.

Last Saturday, Walters motored up to Connecticut from her home in Manhattan where she broadcasts the popular daytime TV talk show, "The View," for her only book-signing in the Nutmeg State.

On the sidewalk outside the R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, where reportedly 900 people had ordered books for her to sign, some had waited three to four hours for the female journalist who has broken the glass ceiling many times.

Walters titled the book, Audition, she said, because that is something she's been doing all her life. While the auditions and the roles she gained were challenging and, in many cases, groundbreaking in the Golden Age of Television, it was the roles she played in her private life - for which a woman does not audition - that proved equally challenging and reason why she lived her life with guilt, a constant fear of losing her job and having no money.

There are no auditions for the role of daughter, sister, wife (divorced three times) and mother (three miscarriages and one adopted daughter), let alone lover.

When young women tell Walters they want to be just like her, she says, "You have to take the whole package." Her life, she writes in her book, has had "great ups and great downs."

Walters has interviewed heads of state, presidents, celebrities and murderers. As with many career women, she had to perform a balancing act between focusing on responsibilities as a journalist, which took her to all corners of the world, to responsibilities as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. The personal burden was heavy.

Her father was Lou Walters, who achieved great success first as a booking agent and then as founder of the Latin Quarter in New York, Boston and Miami Beach, but lacked business sense. The family went from living in penthouses facing Central Park to rent-controlled two-bedroom apartments.

Her sister Jackie, three years her senior, was born with a mental disability that was never fully diagnosed. She lived at home for most of her life until her death in her mid-50s from an aneurysm while battling ovarian cancer. Walters has never forgiven herself for being in Milwaukee giving a speech instead of at her sister's bedside when she died.

There has been much mention of Walters' admission in her book that she had a relationship with former Massachusetts Sen. Edward W. Brooke.

"The first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, [1967-79]" is the way she describes the senator in her book.

He is one of three men she talks about in her chapter, "Special Men in My Life." The others are Alan Greenspan, who was, at the time of their dating, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Ford and former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and John Warner, another former senator {Virginia} who went on to become the seventh of Elizabeth Taylor's eight husbands. Walters admits to being attracted to "smart and powerful" men.

Although Walters discusses the three men, Brooke is the one who has had tongues wagging. Why? He was married. However, Walters defends her relationship by noting that the marriage was not a happy one and that Brooke only went home to Massachusetts at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

When one year he decided to spend the holiday with Walters, she realized the career repercussions of their relationship and decided to end it. However, Brooke proceeded to ask his wife for a divorce, ran for re-election and lost. He is now remarried.

In writing about their relationship, Walters speaks with warmth and humor.

"Sometimes when he said that I was the oldest woman he had ever been with, I thought of telling him: 'Oh, yeah? Well, you are the blackest man I have ever been with.' But the truth is, it didn't matter."

During a brief press conference Saturday, the question of whether she should have mentioned Brooke in her book came into discussion. Again, Walters noted if she were to write her memoir, she wanted to be honest about her life and also she felt by telling of the relationship, it showed how times were different then.

Walters said Brooke "was a very small part of the book. I wrote about other relationships. It was over 30 years ago. I thought it was important to show how times have changed. How attitudes have changed. I would not have put it in the book if he had rejected it.

"I don't' believe it has tarnished my image by the sales of the book."

She was asked about some of her memorable interviews. She noted that part of the book is about balancing career and family and therefore "the two Hepburns" remain vivid in her mind. Katharine Hepburn focused on her career and therefore did not want any children. Audrey Hepburn, on the other hand, gave up her career to raise two sons.

When asked how the process of writing her book had impacted her, Walters said that "part of the book was very painful to write about, including her sister's mental disability, her father's attempted suicide and the problems she has had raising her daughter.

"They were hard to write about. On the other hand, it erased the ghosts," said Walters, who doesn't believe there is anything controversial in the book. "It's my story. It's not a kiss-and tell-book. It is revealing."

Walters gives an inside view of the television industry during its early days when she joined the "Today" show as a writer and then as an on-camera interviewer. In those days, women on camera were viewed as "the tea pourer," she said. Their journalistic duties dealt with only soft news stories important to women. Her stint on air with Dave Garroway was followed by Frank McGee, who did not want Walters to share the questioning with news guests. A compromise was reached. McGee would ask the first three questions and then she could ask the fourth question.

The next host, Hugh Downs, was more affable. Walters became "Today's" co-host with Downs for nine years. While at "Today," she conducted two to four interviews a program, five days a week for 13 years.

Walters was hired away from NBC to ABC as co-anchor with Harry Reasoner. It was not a happy time. Reasoner resented sharing the anchor desk with a female. "Network News was a boys club that did not welcome newcomers," Walters writes. She also co-hosted "20/20" with Downs for 15 years and then with John Stossel for another ten.

The challenges working in TV news on camera were, at times, as difficult off camera, accompanying presidents, world leaders and government officials during major events. Often, male journalists refused to accept her into their own circles.

"What have I done to these guys? What have I done to make them hate me?" she states in her book as she relates the difficulties she faced assimilating into the press corps.

She faced challenges at home, as well. She was married, and divorced, three times - to Robert Katz, a businessman, then Lee Guber, a theatrical producer like her father, and then to Merv Adelson, an entrepreneur who lived on the West Coast. She vows never to marry again. Of marriage she writes, "I felt trapped and restless."

The most heart-rendering, heart-lifting chapter in her book is titled, "The Hardest Chapter to Write." This is the chapter about her relationship with her daughter, Jackie, who now runs a therapeutic wilderness program for troubled female adolescents in Maine.

In her early teens, her daughter was one of those teens. She ran away from home and traveled the country until Walters, working with a company that dealt with troubled teens, tracked down Jackie and, with Walters' approval, took the teen to a therapeutic residency program, where she was forced to remain three years. The program changed Jackie's life and led her to deciding to focus her own life and career on helping troubled girls.

Walters does not disappoint fans who have followed her career. She has chapters on Monica Lewinsky and "The View," in particular the discord with Star Jones and Rosie O'Donnell.

Meanwhile, back on the sidewalk in Madison, Leslie Barnes, of Waterford, a former teacher and Mohegan Sun reservationist, had waited four hours to meet Walters. Why?

"I'm going to thank her for being that living legend and for showing women how far they can go. She's been a great asset to all the women around the world Follow your dream."