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What I Know Now: Barbara Walters

Trailblazing TV journalist chats about aging, success and how to stop sweating the small stuff

Most Flirtatious Interview

Clint Eastwood [in 1982]. I heard recently that he's getting divorced, and I thought I should write him a letter: "Dear Clint, I'm still here." I have to tell you he hasn't yet called me up to say, "Dear Barbara, how are you?"

The big "gets" to come: The queen [Elizabeth II], because she's never done an interview. Prince William and Catherine. The pope. Those would be very important interviews. But I'm not trying to get any of them. There are younger people than I who are out there, plowing the field, trying to push ahead. It's their time.

How TV News Has Changed

There's no privacy. There's nothing that's sacred. And that's something that we all talk about and deplore, but it's the way our life is and the way we have created it. It also used to be that news was holy, and you did not give opinions. I mean, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted and the most famous, but you didn't know how Walter thought. Today, in order to be successful, you have to be opinionated, and that's what people want to hear.

The Power of Family and Friends

The most important thing for a parent is for their child to be happy. My child is a grownup, and she is happy, and that gives me great peace of mind. And since I don't have brothers or sisters, my friends are very important. I have some very close ones — old and new — but the same qualities remain: We trust each other, we have fun, we can say anything to each other and not leave the room and worry, "Why did I say that?"

Why Her Ex-husbands Admire Her

I remember Nora Ephron saying once, "Never marry a man you wouldn't want to divorce." In other words, marry a man who, if you had to get a divorce, would be decent about it. I never did ask for alimony. I was working. That made a big difference. And my marriages didn't break up over another woman or another man. It was also logistics. One [husband] lived in California. I mean, you can do that for a year but not for 10.

Women and Work

I used to say it would be very hard to have a good career, and children, and a marriage, and balance it all — and it still is. Women, and now men, still struggle. But you do have more understanding employers, and women don't feel as guilty if they work.

Letting Go

We have a tendency to sweat the small stuff. Kitty Carlisle Hart once said to me that she looked in the mirror before going to bed and said, "Kitty, I forgive you." I've never forgotten. If there's something that's been troubling me that I can't do anything about, in my own mind, I close the door.

Secrets of Her Success

I used to say it was because I didn't have to go to the bathroom often and could outsit anybody, male or female — but I was being funny. I think the secret of my success is that I persevered. I didn't give up. I didn't say, "This is a lousy job, and I'm unhappy, and I'm going to quit." I went through the tough times, and they were tough. And I was fortunate that I came out the other end.

Being a Role Model

When someone comes up to me and says, "You paved the way, and thank you," I am very proud. A lot of women think today, "What's so tough? She had a partner that didn't like her. I have partners that don't like me. She was failing. I failed." But the fact that I persevered and succeeded in what was so much a man's world — the world of television news — gives me great pride. That's my legacy. It's not a particular interview I did. That's nice, but who cares? It's that maybe I made it easier for the next woman.

Myrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media.

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