Any discussion of Barbara Walters’ trademark primetime interview specials inevitably winds back to the famous question: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
Except that she never delivered that query in quite in that way, even though it has become apocryphal punchline.
The tree moment cropped up during Walters’ 1981 interview of Katharine Hepburn, who described herself as feeling like a very strong “tree” in her old age. Walters pressed her on “what kind of tree are you?” To which Hepburn said she preferred to be an oak rather than an elm, in order to avoid Dutch elm disease.
Among other probing questions over the years from Walters’ primetime specials:
- “Is it all you?” — to Dolly Parton in 1977, regarding her physique
- “Do you think that helped him lose the election?” — to Chevy Chase in 1990, regarding his impersonation of President Ford as a bumbling idiot
- “Your husband has three other children by two other women. That didn’t bother you?” — to Whitney Houston in 1993, regarding her husband Bobby Brown
- “Do blondes have more fun?” — to Elizabeth Taylor in 1999, regarding her switch to platinum blonde hair
- “Why didn’t you have your nose fixed?” — to Barbra Streisand in 1985, regarding her early insecurities
- “Is Bill Clinton a sensuous, passionate man?” — to Monica Lewinsky in 1999, regarding her relationship with President Clinton