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Audition: A Memoir, by Barbara Walters (Read by the author)

"As I look back, it feels to me that my life has been one long audition -- an attempt to make a difference and to be accepted." Barbara Walters proposes to audition for the listener as she narrates her memoirs. Born into show business as the daughter of impresario Lou Walters, Barbara has experienced the evolution of the industry from vaudeville, through the golden age of television to today's media offerings. As the first female co-anchor of a network news show, she's credited with opening the door for women in broadcast journalism. In Audition, Barbara is brutally honest in discussing the seemingly self-centered choices she's made in her personal life. However, she reveals little known information about the actual role she played in caring for her parents and mentally disabled sister.

Barbara started out working behind the scenes at NBC in the early 1950s, but when she was promoted from gofer to Today Show co-host, her onscreen life began. An old boys' club mentality of the time made it difficult for her to thrive. She is openly critical of the treatment she received from several of the well-known male news anchors of the 50s and 60s. Management presented roadblocks to her success, too. When she wanted to move to 60 Minutes, she was told by a producer, "You don't have the right looks and you don't pronounce your r's right." That inability to enunciate r's became a source of ridicule by comedian Gilda Radner who created the Saturday Night Live character, "Baba Wawa." Although, initially hurt by the joke, Barbara Walters later accepted Gilda's humor and the two became friends.

As titillating as the inside information about the heralded male gods of early network news shows is, the most fascinating aspect of this memoir is Barbara's first person account of her relationships, conversations and encounters with the major political figures of the 20th and 21st centuries. She tells of cruising the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro in a speed boat and then being personally driven to the mountain roots of his revolution. She recounts meetings with Golda Meir, Anwar Sadat, Menacham Begin, Moshe Dayan, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and hosts of other political figures and celebrities. What keeps this book grounded in reality and addictively readable is her penchant for pointing out her flaws and failures. For the most part, she acknowledges them without apology, explaining that she made particular choices, right or wrong, and her current situation is the result. Although, it may seem to her viewers that she's led a charmed life, it's obvious after listening to Audition that Barbara Walters is solely responsible, through her determination, courage and hard work for all the charm we see in her success.

Ruth Mormon

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