In her memoir, Barbara reveals details of her professional relationships, as well as her closely guarded personal life. Over the years, she's made a name for herself as a successful journalist, but she admits she hasn't had the same success with marriage.
Since the '50s, Barbara has been married and divorced three times. She says every time she said "I do," she did so with a heavy heart.
Barbara was 23 when she married her first husband, Robert Katz, in 1958. "All my friends were married. I'd graduated from college," she says. "I knew I didn't want to get married, but it was time."
The marriage didn't last long. In fact, Barbara says years later, a man said hello to her on the streets of New York City, and it took her a few moments to realize who he was. "I thought, 'He looks familiar,'" she says. "Then I thought, 'That was my first husband. I knew I'd seen him somewhere.'"
In 1963, Barbara married theater producer Lee Guber. Their wedding came just two weeks after President John F. Kennedy's assassination. She says a lot of people got married at that time because they realized life is short and the future is uncertain. During their 13-year marriage, Barbara says she suffered three miscarriages. Eventually, the couple decided to adopt a daughter, Jackie.
After their divorce in 1976, Barbara waited 10 years before marrying her third and final husband, Merv Adelson, the CEO of Lorimar Television. "Both times I thought, 'I don't think this is going to work,' but without going into every detail, they were wonderful men," she says. "I don't regret any of them, but I didn't have six [marriages], and I haven't had another one."
Barbara says she'll never marry again. "I guess I'm not very good at marriage."
Throughout her life, Barbara has discussed many past relationships, but there's one she's never gone public with...until now. In Audition, Barbara confesses that she had a two-year affair with a prominent, married politician in the '70s. During that era, it was scandalous enough that he was married, but former Senator Edward Brooke was also African-American.
Barbara says she first met Senator Brooke at a restaurant in New York City. "We were introduced, and he had this just wonderful grin," she says. "I mean, like a real rascal." During a visit to Washington, D.C., they had lunch in the Senate dining room and discussed her favorite topic—politics. Then, Barbara says he asked her out to dinner and things took a romantic turn.
For the next two years, Barbara and Senator Brooke dated in secret. "You have to remember this was 30 years ago. If this were today, it would be different," she says. "Had this come out, it would have probably, at the time, ruined my career and his."
Though he was married with two children, Barbara says Senator Brooke only went home during the holidays. He spent his weekends in Washington or in New York City with her. "[He and his wife] were not particularly close," she says. "[But] you didn't get divorced in those days."
At the time, Barbara says very few people knew about their relationship. When a gossip columnist began alluding to their affair in the press and a friend warned her that things were getting dangerous, she says she told Senator Brooke she couldn't see him anymore. "[I said to him,] 'I can't do this. We have to break it off,'" she says. "He did something he had never done. He went home and asked his wife for a divorce."
Though they had agreed to end things, Barbara says Senator Brooke went ahead with the divorce proceedings, which generated a lot of negative publicity. Soon after, he lost his bid for re-election and his political career came to an end.
"He was a wonderful man and a wonderful senator," Barbara says. "Throughout this book, I talk about being guilty about this and being guilty about that. ... I have always felt guilty that I perhaps ruined his future."
Barbara says she regrets the fact that his promising political career ended, but she doesn't regret their relationship. "It was wonderful," she says.
She may have been "the other woman" for years, but Barbara says she was never the senator's mistress. "I was supporting myself. I was working on the Today show. I had a child," she says. "Not every woman involved with a married man is a mistress."
Before her memoir hit bookstores, Barbara says she contacted Edward Brooke to let him know she was going public with their story. "He's now remarried, very happily to I hear a beautiful woman. They have a son," she says. "But I don't know what would have happened had he not met me. He might have had a whole other kind of career in the Senate."
The first man to influence Barbara's life was her father, showbiz impresario Lou Walters. In the '30s, Lou opened the first of his famous nightclubs, the Latin Quarter. During his reign as the nightclub king of New York, Barbara says her father, a gambler at heart, made and lost several fortunes.
"I had a troubled relationship with my father because he wasn't around that much," she says. "I appreciate him so much now."
Barbara's mother, Dena, was very different from her father. In her memoir, Barbara describes her mother as practical and somewhat depressed. Lou may have been well-known and respected by the big shots of that era, but Dena was the strong one at home. "[She] was a Rock of Gibraltar," Barbara says.
Dena didn't just shoulder her family's financial worries. During Lou's travels, she raised Barbara and Jackie, the family's eldest child, by herself. Barbara says her sister was diagnosed as "backward" at a young age and considered mildly retarded.
Known for years simply as "Lou Walters's daughter," Barbara says she always knew there would come a day when her father's financial risks would catch up with him.
For almost 50 years, Barbara has kept one traumatic family secret to herself. Finally, she says she's ready to talk about it for the first time.
In June 1958, Barbara says her father tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. "All I remember is being in the ambulance and saying, 'I love you, Daddy. I love you, Daddy,'" she says. "All the compassion that I had for him and all of the love that was there came out."
Lou survived the overdose, but Barbara says no one in the family ever asked him why he wanted to die. Looking back, Barbara says debt and professional failures may have prompted his suicide attempt.
"My father never worried about money or cared about money. He sold the Latin Quarter. He opened another nightclub in Florida and then one in New York. They were both big failures," she says. "I don't know whether he thought that the insurance would cover it, but he borrowed on his insurance. Whatever it was, he was in terrible despair."
Barbara says her father no longer lived up to his idea of Lou Walters. "It was all too much for him," she says.
When the media found out her father was in the hospital, Barbara says she contacted Walter Winchell, the most influential columnist of the time, and lied. "I told the newspapers that he'd had a heart attack," she says.
From then on, Barbara says she knew her nightmare had come. "For the rest of my life, I would be supporting my family and my sister," she says.
Barbara has shared many difficult moments in her life, but she says writing about her intellectually impaired sister was the only thing that made her cry in the process of creating her book. Jackie had such a huge influence on her life, Barbara says she almost called her memoir Sister.
"I loved my sister. I was ashamed of her. People didn't understand. ... She stuttered terribly. People made fun of her. People made fun of me. I didn't bring friends home," she says. "I felt terribly guilty because she was very loving, and I didn't always feel that way."
Knowing Jackie would probably never have children, Barbara says she named her daughter after her sister. "I wanted her to feel she had my Jackie," she says.
Jackie also influenced Barbara's career path. "Part of the drive and part of the having to work and everything was because I had to take care of my sister," she says. "I think anyone who has a sibling who is in any way disabled ... there are those moments when you go, 'It's too much.' When I think of her, because she was beautiful and loving and all of that, it makes me cry."
In Audition, Barbara writes about the day her sister died. Jackie was recovering from ovarian cancer surgery when she had an aneurysm and passed away. On that day, Barbara was hundreds of miles away in Milwaukee giving a speech.
"I went down with her when she had the operation, and I left because I had to make a speech, for heaven's sakes. I left her two days after the operation, and I said, 'I'll be back,'" Barbara says. "I went to Milwaukee to make this speech for ABC. I mean, it wasn't a speech for money, but I was auditioning. I was being perfect."
Just before Barbara was scheduled to go onstage, someone came into her dressing room and told her the terrible news. "They said, 'You're on.' And I went out and made the most awful speech," she says. "I wasn't there when she died."
To this day, Barbara says she regrets that her decision to leave meant her sister died alone. "I also am in a way grateful that it happened that way," she says. "She was in no pain."
While working on her memoir, Barbara says she had a hard time writing a chapter about the other Jackie in her life, her daughter.
Barbara says she and her second husband adopted Jackie when she was just four days old. Over the years, as Barbara's fame grew, she says Jackie began acting out.
"We had a very normal life at home. She always had the same babysitters and people. ... I thought our life at home was very normal, but she was a celebrity's daughter," she says. "She felt certain things were expected of her—maybe too much and maybe too little."
When her daughter turned 14, Barbara says everything began to go wrong. Unbeknownst to her, Jackie was doing drugs. "We sent her to one school. It didn't work. We sent her to another school. That didn't work," she says. "At one point, she ran away."
After tracking her down, Barbara enrolled Jackie in an alternative school. "We sent someone to take her from where she was—physically take her to this alternative school," she says. "She was there for three years."
Barbara says her daughter turned her life around thanks to her time at the alternative school. Today, Jackie lives in Maine and runs New Horizons, a therapeutic wilderness program for adolescent girls in crisis. Barbara says she and her daughter are now very close.
"She took the lesson of her life and turned it into a triumph for other girls," Oprah says.
Before Barbara sat down to write about her experiences as a mother, she says she got Jackie's blessing. "I said to her, 'Do you want me to talk about this? Do you want me to talk about the drugs?'" Barbara says. "She said, 'Maybe it will help other parents understand. Maybe it will help them feel less guilty.' Maybe some of the things that she and I learned together—because I learned along with her when she went away—maybe it will help."
So far, Barbara says it's the only chapter Jackie's read.
In 2004, Oprah interviewed Barbara for O, The Oprah Magazine. At that time, she shared her regrets, passions and what she knew for sure. Four years later, she's changing her answer.
"What do you now know for sure?" Oprah asks.
"You must have someone or something to love, even if it's a dog or a cat," she says. "You must have a reason to get up in the morning, and it doesn't have to be a career. You must have something beyond yourself—spirituality, religion, I don't care what you call it—something that makes you know that there's something out there beyond you."
As she gets older, Barbara says she knows more about how to treat others. "You must be kind, which is why I'm not going to be a very good interviewer anymore," she says. "I'm getting too soft."
After almost 80 years, Barbara has come to one final conclusion: "I've stopped auditioning."
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