Legendary Singer Became ‘Vehement and Vocal’ Enemy of Barbara Walters
When Barbara Walters first embarked on a career in journalism, she knew she’d run into some challenges. She’s opened up about breaking barriers in a male-dominated field and the remarkable people she’s met during her career.
Out of the politicians, celebrities, and private citizens that Walters’ has encountered over the decades, some became friends and others chose to be adversarial. At one point, one of America’s most well-known singers surprised her by throwing salt on her name.
Barbara Walters grew up around celebrities
When Barbara Walters was a child, her father worked in entertainment as a producer and director of stage productions. He often worked the club circuit and put on shows at the Latin Quarter in New York or at local nightclubs in Florida, a state the family sometimes called home.
During the 1960s, Walters and her younger sister Jackie would spend time at the Latin Quarter to catch the shows or hang out backstage. She wrote about that period in her book, Audition: A Memoir, and noted they were friendly with the chorus girls as well as some of the famous performers that passed through.
Among them were Carol Channing, Johnnie Ray, Frank Sinatra, and Ed Sullivan (who was a journalist for Broadway at the time). Those who were repeat visitors to the club turned into family friends, and she’d run into some of them years later as an adult.
Frank Sinatra became Barbara Walters’ ‘enemy’
Not long after starting her gig on the Today show, Barbara Walters wound up on Frank Sinatra’s bad side.
She’d bumped into him at their mutual friends’ house and he complimented her work, telling her he watched the show daily. Sinatra even offered up some friendly advice about her interview tactics via their friend. In her book, she recalled how fondly her sister and parents regarded him from years back.
Then things changed. “Frank Sinatra, no less, became a vehement and vocal enemy,” Walters wrote. “For most of the rest of his life he regularly complained about me publicly and ostracized me privately, for the craziest reason,” she explained.
Walters said she received a call from NBC wanting to vet a rumor about Sinatra being engaged to Pamela Hayward. Because of Walters’ relationship with the singer, they requested she find out directly from him.
“I wasn’t a gossip columnist, but I thought if I could tell the network what the story really was, both Sinatra and the network would appreciate it,” she wrote.
She left a message with his butler and that’s when the tide turned. Walters said Sinatra hated her 30 years after that for violating his privacy and erring on the side of gossip. She sent him an apology letter through their mutual friend but he “tore it up unopened.”
And the rumor turned out to be untrue.
Sinatra snubbed Walters’ presence
Walters described the ordeal with Sinatra as a “one-sided feud” that was hurtful to her. She shared that he spoke of her contemptuously on stage and refused to be in the same room. In one instance, she sat out a formal dinner honoring Henry Kissinger because Sinatra declined to be there if she was present.
The event’s organizer embarrassingly called Walters and asked her not to come. “I was hardly the only reporter to feel his wrath, but it hurt more because we had for so long considered him a friend of the family,” she recounted.
Walters disclosed that the animosity fizzled decades later at a hospital charity event. The hosts — the CEO and his wife — were her dear friends and seated Walters, Sinatra, and his wife at their table. He offered her a nod and quick hello, and to Walters, that signified the beef was over.