Farewell

05.16.14

Barbara Walters’s Final ‘The View’: A Tearful Farewell Befitting an Icon

How do you say goodbye to her, after five decades of trailblazing journalism? You call Oprah. And Hillary Clinton. And, of course, you cry.

This time, it was Barbara’s turn to cry.

Could you blame her? To celebrate Barbara Walters final episode of The View, after which she will retire from her trailblazing five-decade career in TV journalism, an unprecedented array of talent gathered to pay tribute to the icon—famous for so many things, the least of which was an uncanny knack to reduce nearly every subject, from buttoned-up heads of state to vampy reality TV stars, to a soppy puddle of tears.

It was one of the most impressively stacked hours of daytime television that’s been produced, save for maybe the farewell to Oprah Winfrey (who, naturally, nearly stole the show)—an homage befitting the elder stateswoman of journalism, who made it possible that distinction, “stateswoman,” to even exist in that field. “This is the biggest day in the history of The View,” current moderator Whoopi Goldberg announced at the top of the hour. And, for the love of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, it was.

Nearly every minute of the episode lived up that billing. Hillary Clinton was there. Oprah was there. Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and Michael Douglas were there. Rosie O’Donnell was sitting in the front row. Barbara’s chief of staff was there, too. Her name is Cha Cha. She gave Barbara a hug.

For anyone with even the smallest sense of the impact that Barbara Walters has had—not just on journalism, but on a culture that’s learned to thrive on the high-low news mix that treats profiles of Bashar al-Assad and a confessional from Tom Cruise with the same weight—it was next to impossible to leave the hour unmoved by the showering of appreciation on the woman who, after decades of telling us who she thinks is the most fascinating, has always been, to us, the most fascinating one of all.

Despite that, it’s fitting that the first surprise guest of the farewell episode was the only person who has topped Walters’s legendary annual Most Fascinating list more than once: Hillary Clinton. Walters was either genuinely shocked that the possible future president (and definite future grandmother) would stop by The View or she’s a better actress than any of us thought. Walters took the opportunity to lob some off-the-cuff softball questions. “As long as you’re here let me ask you a question…” she teased, before opting to inquire what name she’ll have her future grandchild call her instead of, you know, will you be running for president?

Still, it was a highly entertaining few minutes of television, with two powerful women with obvious mutual admiration for each other basking in the fact that they got to share that moment together. (As a TV viewer who gasped, “Oh my god it’s Hillary!!!” when Clinton walked out, I was basking in the moment pretty damned hard, too.)

A series of fun segments followed. Barbara interviewed former Saturday Night Live star Cheri Oteri as Barbara Walters—one of those impressions from the venerable sketch show that set fire to the zeitgeist and has become indelible. It was, genuinely, a hoot, as was a preview of Friday night’s special honoring Walters that revealed a bit of the struggle she had to endure in order to get to this point, saying goodbye on The View.

The episode also, weirdly, included an interview, like any average episode of The View. That’s fine, but this was not an average episode of The View. This was the episode of The View. The guest was Michael Douglas, which, yay—it’s major Hollywood movie star Michael Douglas! But also, meh. We came here for Barbara. We didn’t want two segments—yes, there were two—of a Michael Douglas interview. Sure, he gave us some juicy gossip on his ongoing attempts to reunite with Catherine Zeta-Jones, but he also started promoting his upcoming rom-com with Diane Keaton, And So It Goes.

Michael Douglas appeared on The View on Barbara Walters’s last day—on Barbara Day!—and started schilling his own silly rom-com. Rude.

However, bless Douglas for gifting us all with an account of the glory and terror that is, apparently, a Barbara Walters dinner party. These parties are, in Jenny McCarthy’s words, “legendary” (McCarthy also said she has yet to be invited to one), and Douglas proudly regaled how fantastic he thinks they are.

Guys, this is what a Barbara Walters dinner party is like: you all sit around the table and chit chat until Walters stands and clinks her glass. What follows is forced conversation on topics pre-selected by Barbara and even written on a paper next to her place setting, where she announces the subject and then goes around the table so that each guest, one by one, can give their opinion on the topic. These parties sound positively insufferable, absolutely terrifying, and possibly even life-changing. It is my life’s dream to be invited to one.

Video screenshot

But, then—oh guys, and then—it was one of those magical TV moments. Like, TV moments. One of those ones where you watch your TV screen and start squealing unknowingly—and uncontrollably—because it’s so unbelievably fun and moving and fantastic what you’re seeing. Here’s how it started.

First, Oprah came out, which, you know it’s something special is about to happen when Saint Winfrey shows up. She gave a beautiful, moving speech about what Walters’s career has meant to her, and, in turn, to us, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned after all these years it’s that if it’s important to Her Majesty Oprah, it’s important to us.

“I had to be here for your last show to celebrate you because of what you have meant to me,” Winfrey began. “You have literally meant the world to me. The truth is there are too many things I want to say but there’s enough time to say them all. Like everyone else, I want to thank you for being a pioneer, in everything that word means. It means being the first. The first in the room, to knock down the door, to break down the barriers, to pave the road that we all walk on. I thank you for that.”

Then came the cavalcade. Of stars. Of tears. Of goosebumps. The cavalcade of emotions. Because Oprah, in her big Oprah elongated bellows, introduced a Who’s Who list of female broadcast journalists who were there to give a Walters a kiss on the cheek and thank her for making their careers possible. This list, people! It’s fantastic. Here’s how showed up (imagine Oprah shouting their names to get the full feel of the pomp and circumstance):

Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer, Elizabeth Vargas, Amy Robach, Deborah Roberts, Juju Chang, Katie Couric, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, Tamron Hall, Maria Shriver, Cynthia McFadden, Meredith Vieira, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Jane Pauley, Gayle King, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Gretchen Carlson, Lisa Ling, Deborah Norville, Paula Zahn, Connie Chung, and Joan London.

Wow. I mean, first Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell, and Barbara Walters were all in the same room. It was earth’s first glimpse of what heaven will be like. And then all these other incredible women come out? They’re a bonus. Call them Barbara’s Angels.

The best part, though, was how touched Walters seemed by this. You could hear her say “I’m so proud of you,” to Sawyer, which was just about the cutest thing ever. Then she took the microphone, and, fighting back tears, announced, “This is my legacy. These are my legacy. And I thank you all.”

Then Walters addressed the camera for her final sign off, which recounted some cheesy stand-up comedy, a little walk down memory lane, and, of course, a plug of her final special, tonight’s primetime look back on her career. And then, finally a thank you, and farewell.

“Who knows what the future brings,” she said. “Maybe instead of goodbye, i’ll say à bientôt, which in french means, ‘See you later.’”

See you later, Babs. Can’t wait for the invite to that party.