On the eve of she retirement, Barbara Walters recalls a history-making interview through the Cuban president.

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When Barbara Walters traveled to Havana to interview Fidel Castro in 1977, she expected to come face-to-face v the Cuban leader"s apprehension of the U.S., his substantial state-security apparatus, and his prodigious, self-made mythology. She go not suppose grilled cheese.

"After us finished the interview at one o"clock in the morning, Castro took us right into his kitchen and also made united state grilled cheese sandwiches," Walters states with a laugh. "That"s an suffer you don"t have anymore." Not numerous other newswomen had actually the experience earlier then either. The trip was a series of surprises virtually from the minute Walters and her crew landing in Havana. "Castro choose me increase in front of mine hotel in his Jeep," she recalls. "The tourists just couldn"t believe this, the he to be sitting in an open Jeep!" that took she to the bay of Pigs, wherein they boarded a patrol boat and crossed the just (allegedly the an initial Americans to do so due to the fact that the 1961 U.S.-backed invasion), then chauffeured Walters to the Sierra Maestra, the mountainous region where Castro live for two years with his tape of guerrilla fighters prior to ousting Fulgencio Batista and also taking power.

"I remember sitting in the former of the Jeep and also holding candy—because he wanted to stop and give candy to youngsters along the way—and i was also holding his gun," Walters says, explaining the she choose up the revolver turn off the floor that the Jeep every time lock forded a stream. The night they all dined outdoors on roast pig and Algerian wine at Castro"s mountain retreat.

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All along, the leader was in a lighthearted mood. "He was very charismatic—very charming and funny," states Walters, who had already conducted her now well known interview through President Richard Nixon because that this magazine, in 1971. "We joked with him. That looked in ~ our cameras and said he need to be a producer, and also we told him, "You"re not an excellent enough to be a producer." that said, "What must I be?," and also I said, "You deserve to be our driver." and also we payment him $5."

The interview came later, in ~ Castro"s headquarters in Havana. Over the five-hour exchange, which would certainly be edited into a one-hour alphabet News special, the 2 parried, v Walters complicated Castro on his worldviews, at one suggest telling him he to be "almost naive" in his late of the U.S."s relationship with China. But Castro was unequivocal ~ above his plans because that the future: "He said he to be going to continue to be in power as long as world wanted him, which meant until he died." nearly as remarkable were the topics he refused to address. "He would never talk about his private life. So come this day, i heard he to be married, ns don"t know."

One thing that appeared clear to everyone was the chemistry in between Walters and also Castro, however she didn"t check out it the way. "People go tease me ~ that, questioning if this was a romance," she says. "But that wasn"t in ~ all—not for a moment was there flirtation." once Castro to reduce Walters turn off at the airplane in Havana, "I got to up come kiss that on both cheeks, and also he all however pushed me away. It was a friendly european goodbye, yet I remained in Cuba, not France."

Photographs native the pilgrimage depict a newswoman who gravitas didn"t yet define her. In location of the Oscar de la Renta suits and also halo the blown-out hair that are her trademarks today, Walters looked prepared for a safari in trench coats, head scarves, and open-collared shirts. However the to trust in she gaze was there; therefore was her clear determination to get the story, transmitted through the collection of her shoulders and mouth. Castro must have actually thought as much, evaluate from the inscription on a copy the Cuba"s Constitution the he offered her: "For Barbara as a remembrance the the most complicated interview that i have had in every the work of my life. Fidel Castro, might 20, 1977, 1:29 A.M."

Walters, that as an alphabet Evening News co-anchor and 20/20 cohost and also chief correspondent would certainly go on to interview Margaret Thatcher, Michael Jackson, and also President Barack Obama, amongst other luminaries, had actually the opportunity to speak to Castro again, 25 years later. "I remember speak to him that he had acquired grayer and also I had acquired blonder," she says. She has been requesting access for a follow-up ever before since, seek one more chance come interview the leader. "Cuba is a very different country due to the fact that of Fidel Castro, and also I don"t recognize what that is proudest the or what he desire he can have accomplished," she explains. "I most likely would ask the if he believed the Cuban revolution was a success, and also if his world were better off. What was his legacy, what were his mistakes, what did he remorse most?"

Just as soon as you think you have done everything, over there is another person in the news who still makes it interesting.

Nearly 40 year after that trip to Havana, Walters, now 84, is facing retirement, through the full force of her titanic reputation intact. She claims she"s looking front to writing and also resting: "I would choose to sleep till 9 A.M. Or wake up up as soon as I feel choose it." not that she"s slowing down entirely—there is always another interview with the Obamas to prepare for, and that elusive sit-down with the new pope.?… "Just once you think you have done everything, over there is one more person in the news that still renders it interesting," she says. "If i look back, the hasn"t every been one happy crescendo. There have been a lot of of daunting times too. Yet I"ve traveled everywhere the world. Girlfriend know, I never thought I would be in prior of a camera. I"ve had actually an certain blessed career the is quiet going on. It even amazes me. I think, "No kidding, go I do that? just how nice.""

Fidel Castro shows Barbara Walters a map of the 1961 just of Pigs invasion, 1977

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