During Barbara Walters' recent surprise "Saturday Night Live" appearance, "Weekend Update" phony newswoman Cecily Strong declared the real newswoman a “personal inspiration.”
“Cecily, I’m a serious person,” Walters said. “I’m not some fake anchor like you or Colin (Jost).”
“Oh, but you’re a co-host on ‘The View,’” Strong replied.
“That’s a fair point, yeah,” Walters conceded.
The comedy bit, which came as the 84-year-old broadcaster prepared to leave “The View” this week and go into semi-retirement, underscored Walters’ place as a transformative TV force who blazed trails through the intersection of celebrity and journalism. Her self-effacing comedy cameo on “SNL” also offered us yet another view of Walters, who has played various roles during her six-decade career.
There is, of course, Barbara Walters the journalist, who rose to fame on “Today” in the 1960s, became the first woman to co-anchor a national newscast in the 1970s, hosted ABC’s “20/20” for 20 years – interviewing history-altering figures from Richard Nixon to Fidel Castro, along the way.
Then there's the Oscars night Barbara Walters, who for years opened for the big show with sitdowns with celebrities, getting them to shed tears long before Oprah Winfrey started handing out tissues.
There’s also the Barbara Walters whose annual “Most Fascinating People” specials featured folks ranging from Mother Teresa to Kim Kardashian, reflecting – or perhaps influencing – changing conceptions of celebrity. Walters, who in 1977 famously got Egyptian leader Anwar Al Sadat and Menachem Begin to agree to a joint interview, most recently chatted on TV with V. Stiviano, the visor-favoring woman at the center of the Donald Sterling scandal.
Then there’s the Barbara Walters of “The View,” whose 1997 debut remade daytime TV with a group-talk format that helped spawn everything from “The Talk” to Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb’s fourth hour of “Today.”
Even as Walters, for better or worse, has blurred lines of between news and entertainment, and journalist and celebrity, there’s no doubt she leaves daily TV life at age 84 a star. She’s also a pop culture icon: Clips shown on “Weekend Update” Saturday of her “SNL” mimics from Gilda Radner (“I’m Baba Wawa”) to Cheri Oteri to Rachel Dratch to Naseem Pedrad highlighted Walters’ distinction as longest-running parody target in the show’s nearly 40-year history.
As Walters gets ready to take two very different victory laps Friday, with her final appearance on “The View” and a two-hour, primetime career retrospective on ABC, check out her imitation of herself on “SNL”:
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.