Oprah Winfrey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have surprised Barbara Walters as the legendary American newswoman taped her final edition of The View to end a five-decade career on television.
Actor Michael Douglas, a longtime friend and frequent subject for Walters’ interviews, also dropped by for the tribute.
Looking smart in a cream-coloured blazer and a black skirt, the 84-year-old Walters was presiding over a studio audience of friends, colleagues and fans on hand to witness a bit of history.
Although she will retain a behind-the-scenes role as executive producer of the talk show she created 17 years ago, she is ending her daily on-air involvement, while limiting her appearances to the occasional story or interview.
“I can’t believe this day has come, and I can’t believe it’s for real,” Clinton told Walters, who began her career in 1962.
Typically, Walters couldn’t let Clinton get away without fielding the question on so many minds: Is she running for president in 2016?
“I am running,” smiled Clinton. “Around the park.”
A bit later, Douglas brought the subject up again with Walters.
“If Hillary runs,” he said, “I bet you’d be a great vice president.”
Some of the best moments happened during commercial breaks, never to be seen by viewers. Then audience members could snap photos and interact with Walters and her co-panellists (Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy).
The audience erupted at the sight of Winfrey, who told Walters, “You’re the reason I wanted to be in television.”
“You shattered the glass ceiling for so many women,” said Winfrey, who then brought on a startling parade of them, some two dozen prominent on-air women including Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, Gayle King, Connie Chung and Joan Lunden.
“You are my legacy,” Walters, visibly moved, said to them as they crowded around her onstage.
The hour had its comic twist: In a pre-taped segment, Walters (who, after all, has interviewed everybody else) lobbed some questions at herself, in the person of former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri doing a spot-on Walters imitation.
Walters brought the hour to a close with a heartfelt statement looking back with amazement on her career.
But a more telling moment took place during a break, as the throng of women she had paved the way for posed with her for a group portrait.
“I have to remember this on the bad days,” Walters said quietly, “because this is the best.”