Legendary broadcaster Barbara Walters has signed off for the last time. The iconic television anchor, journalist, and creator and host of The View has died, ABC News confirmed on Friday, Dec. 30 at 93 years old in New York City. In a statement to HollywoodLife, her rep said that she “passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women.”
A force of nature whose coiffed blonde bob and steady voice were a staple on shows like Today, 20/20, and ABC Evening News, Barbara interviewed some of the most influential people of the past century, from Fidel Castro and Donald Trump to Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson.
Born in 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts, Barbara’s television career began when she was fresh off her graduation from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York in 1951. After a brief stint in advertising, Barbara joined her local NBC affiliate, and the rest was history. She joined the Today writing team in 1961, and soon after was hired as the “Today Girl,” an on-air role usually entailing a pretty face reading commercials. But the trailblazing Barbara expanded the role, earning her place as a thoughtful, intelligent journalist and powerful newsroom presence. By 1974 she had been named co-host of Today, and in 1975 she won her first Emmy for her work.
Known for her direct, honest questioning style and calm demeanor, Barbara became wildly popular on ABC’s 20/20 program in the 1970s, eventually hosting her own Barbara Walters Specials, where she conducted live interviews with celebrities like Barbra Streisand, Sir Laurence Olivier and Betty White. She helped create the daytime talk show The View in 1997, where Barbra and original cohosts Star Jones, Joy Behar, Debbie Matenopoulos, and moderator Meredith Viera discussed opinions on current issues and interviewed guests. Though Barbara retired from the program in 2015, the talk show has remained wildly popular.
Barbara’s unique personal life included three husbands and four different marriages. She wed first husband Robert Henry Katz in 1955 at the beginning of her career, but their short-lived romance ended in an annulment in 1958. Barbara married her second husband, theatre producer Lee Guber, in 1963, and after a struggle to conceive adopted daughter Jacqueline Dena Guber in 1968. The pair split after 13 years of marriage in 1976. It was Barbara’s final husband for whom two times was the charm…sort of. Barbara met television CEO Merv Adelson a blind date that must have gone smashingly; the pair tied the knot in 1981. After divorcing in 1984, they attempted to rekindle their romance, even remarrying in 1986. But by 1982 the couple had split again, though Barbara told the New York Times the late Merv was a “kind and gentle man” and the couple “stayed friends long after their marriage.”
Though she officially retired from television hosting in 2014, Barbara’s wealth of classic interviews and influence on the style and format of broadcast television will last long beyond her lifetime. HollywoodLife sends our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the luminary star.