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Barbara Walters' Lifelong 'Audition'

Television journalist Barbara Walters says she felt comfortable around celebrities at an early age. The daughter of a successful nightclub owner, her childhood was alternately exciting and lonely.

"On the one hand, here was this glamorous life of nightclubs and gorgeous showgirls and big stars," says Walters. "I'm sure it's a life that people would look at and envy. ... [But] I didn't want that. I wanted a normal life. I wanted a daddy who was home."

In her new memoir, Audition, Walters recalls a childhood marked by her father's long hours and her parents' troubled marriage.

"The biggest misconception, until now, is that I have had this blessed life — that part of it is true. But [the misconception is] that it's all been smooth sailing," Walters tells Steve Inskeep. "I wanted people to know that my life, too, has had not just great ups, but also great downs."

In revealing the biggest misconception about herself, the veteran journalist answers a question that she's been asking her subjects for years.

Walters recalls first using the question with the opera singer Maria Callas, who had been in love with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Callas did not want to discuss Onassis or his new wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, so instead, Walters asked the singer to address the public's misconceptions.

"And she launched into a big thing about Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy," remembers Walters, who adds that she uses the question to engage her subjects on topics that might otherwise be off limits:

If you ask subjects about the biggest misconceptions about themselves, "very often they will come out with the very thing that people want to know [but that subjects] have not wanted to talk about," Walters says.

The first woman to co-anchor a nightly newscast , Walters says she has interviewed "almost every head of state of importance, every president of importance, every murderer of importance." But despite all of her experience, she says, "I really have felt that I have been auditioning most of my life."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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