It's an Oprah Show first! The ladies of The View—Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck—are at Harpo Studios, and sitting behind the desk from the very first show 14 years ago.
Since its debut, The View has become a pop culture phenomenon. The women take on hot topics, push the buttons of politicians and sometimes, the show becomes news itself. "The wonderful thing about our show is that we do argue and we do disagree, but here we are, and we've been together for years," says Barbara.
Sherri and Elisabeth say they haven't been able to contain their excitement about their trip to Chicago. "Oprah, Whoopi and I are equally excited, and Barbara, but we're on different medication," Joy jokes.
This is Barbara's fourth appearance on The Oprah Show. Her first was in April 1984, when Oprah was hosting the local show AM Chicago and had only been on the air a few months. At the time, Oprah told her audience, "Here I am today, I think, because I pretended to be Barbara Walters for the first year of my broadcasting career in television and look where it got me."
Barbara says she always remembers that. "I have said from that day when you said you imitated me, I want you to know, I am totally responsible for your career," Barbara says jokingly.
As the co-creator and backbone of The View, Barbara has been the grand dame of the show since its inception. "It's very successful and I'm grateful for that," she says. "My daughter said it shows people that I have a sense of humor. When I was just doing 20/20, I was the authority figure. I was the one asking the questions. The View showed people that I was human and it also allowed me, to some degree, to give opinions.
In May 2010, Barbara had a heart valve replaced, but at 81, she says she's feeling great. "I've never been better or stronger," she says.
Whoopi says moderating The View is the first steady, everyday job she's had. "I'm having a good time," she says. "I'm constantly in trouble because the minute you say something and put it out there, then someone's always offended and I don't mind that, because it is called The View. It's a constant struggle of remembering not to get in trouble. We can have a spirited discussion about abortion and then talk about French ticklers. We can have President Obama on and Snookie."
Recently, Whoopi spoke on The View about her struggle with drug addiction, saying that she was at one point a "functioning drug addict." She says she doesn't regret making that statement. "I feel that sometimes experience trumps assumption," she says. "I could speak to what we were talking about. It was Charlie Sheen and how he was able to perform and still go and have that other life, and I knew how it worked because I had done it for years."
Comedian Joy Behar is the only original member of The View other than Barbara. "This is the longest job I've ever had," she says. "It's been a really great ride. I mean, it's a fun job, let's face it."
Joy says this is a perfect job for her because she's always been interested in hot topics. "All my life I was politically interested. All my life I've been reading the newspapers. My ex-husband and I, we marched on Washington during the Vietnam War."
For the last 28 years, Joy has been with who she calls her "spousal equivalent." Two years ago, they got engaged but Joy eventually decided marriage wasn't for her. "I get scared by marriage," she says. "I've decided I'll marry him on my death bed because then when they say ‘'Till death do you part,' it will only be five more minutes."
Along with her job co-hosting The View, Sherri has been busy planning her upcoming Chicago wedding to her fiancé, Lamar Sally. Sherri's even including her friends from The View in her nuptials—Barbara is throwing her shower, and Elisabeth is one of her eight bridesmaids.
Sherri jokes that she has just one simple request for the shower Barbara is planning—a stripper named Chocolate Thunder. "Barbara looked at me and said, 'I don't do that,'" Sherri says. "But I'm hoping that maybe we could combine a bachelorette party and the bridal shower in together. While we're sipping tea, we get Chocolate Thunder coming out."
"I'll get Chocolate Thunder for you," Elisabeth jokes. "And Chocolate Lightning!"
Sherri isn't the first co-host of The View to talk about her wedding planning adventures. In 2004, Star Jones was criticized for talking too much on air about her upcoming wedding. But Sherri says she isn't worried she's going down the same controversial road as Star. "When I talk about my wedding, if you know my spirit and you know my heart, then you're going to be with me. If you don't like it and you want to compare and to lump us all into one basket, then that's on you," she says. "I'm in love and I want to share it. I'm having fun."
When discussions on The View turn to politics, Elisabeth sometimes finds herself all alone. But she says she never feels picked on. "I always say all my best friends growing up, most of them are liberals right now, and we always have great conversations. My parents are independents. We've had great conversations," she says. "And to me, to be able to come here and talk with these women every single day about the most important topics and the most fun topics, never do I feel picked on. I always feel wonderfully challenged and loved and embraced."
Elisabeth's husband, Tim, a former NFL quarterback, says what you see on TV isn't necessarily the real Elisabeth. "People think she's super type A and buttoned-up," he says. "But the reality is she's a throw-it-on-the-floor-and-I'll-deal-with-it-later type of person."
Elisabeth and Tim started dating at Boston College 13 years ago—she was captain of the softball team and he was captain of the football team. They have been married for eight years and have three children ages 5, 3 and 19 months. "We are blessed with them," she says. "[But] we're done. I run from Tim now. Three is good for us. I originally thought we wanted to have four or five, but whoa! Three's good."
All the hosts on The View arrive at their New York City studio in the morning before 9 a.m., start taping the show at 11 a.m. and are done by noon.
After the credits roll, they go their separate ways...to their second jobs. "We're working," Joy says.
Barbara says she heads over to ABC News where she prepares for interviews and specials. Joy's day continues with her nightly interview show, The Joy Behar Show on HLN network. Sherri hosts The Newlywed Game. Whoopi goes to work producing a Broadway musical based on her movie Sister Act, which is set to open on Valentine's Day. Whoopi is also returning to stand-up, with a performance this weekend at Horseshoe Hammond, a casino just outside of Chicago. "They said, 'We heard you're going to be here.' And you know: I never turn down a casino," Whoopi jokes. "I love a casino!"