Oprah Talks to Barbara Walters
Oprah: But how can you not be nervous with some of the people you talk to?
Barbara: During an interview, I'm in control. It's in other aspects of my life where I'm not. And listen, when I say I'm not nervous, I want you to know that I'm hardly the most self-confident person. I second-guess almost everything I do, except editing. I love to edit. But I can't tell you whether I should wear the red dress or the green, or whether I should take the trip or stay home. It's torture. Years ago when I was covering fashion for the Today show, I remember trying to decide whether I should stay in Paris another week. I decided I should take the money and go to a psychiatrist because I couldn't make up my mind. But then I couldn't make up my mind which psychiatrist to go to!
Oprah: Is that a true story?
Barbara: Yes. Anybody who knows me knows this. At work I know what questions to ask. In real life, I'm asking myself, "Should I marry him?" until the day I get married. The only thing I've been certain of is my love for Jackie.
Oprah: When you sit down to talk with a major head of state, do you use a certain technique?
Barbara: No. I know I have to ask certain tough questions, though I sometimes don't want to. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Oprah: You're really damned if you don't.
Barbara: Exactly. I might ask, "What's the biggest misconception about you?" That gives the person the opportunity to discuss the difficult issues. I did the first live interview with Richard Nixon after his resignation. I asked all kinds of foreign policy questions, and he was wonderful about them. When I wanted to ask about him personally, I said, "What got you through it? Was it your spirituality? Was it your family?" He said, "Oh, Barbara, you don't want to ask these personal questions. Nobody's interested." I said, "They really are, Mr. President." When he griped about it, I tried to go back to my list of foreign policy questions—but I couldn't find them. Before an interview, I write hundreds of questions on little cards, then boil them down. For this interview, I'd written so many that, fortunately, I remembered some. I usually know more about the person I'm interviewing than he knows about himself. When the interview was over, Nixon was perspiring. I was ice-cold. I stood up to shake his hand, and I realized that I'd put the questions under my fanny.
Oprah: What a great story! Back in '77, during your interview with Sadat, didn't you know you were making history?
Barbara: Yes. But with other interviews, I often have to decide whether I want to make The New York Times or to ask a question that the audience wants to hear. There must be a balance.
Oprah: Are celebrities difficult?
Barbara: Young celebrities are difficult because they haven't done much [to talk about]. Comedians are difficult.