Walters spotlights year's most fascinating people

NEW YORK - November 30, 2010

What do film star Sandra Bullock and hoops star LeBron James have in common?

All are among this year's crop of "The 10 Most Fascinating People," as harvested by Barbara Walters from the fields of entertainment, sports and world affairs.

Also on the list: GOP superstar Sarah Palin, incoming "American Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez, royal fiancee Kate Middleton and the entire cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore." Two more Most Fascinating People are yet to be disclosed, and, as usual, the 10th name will be kept under wraps until the ABC News special airs Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. EST.

This is the 18th year Walters has presented her roundup of the biggest and most buzzworthy. But this year, there's more. She's got a companion special the same night.

An hour earlier - at 9 p.m. EST - Walters is hosting "Oprah, The Next Chapter." It's an in-depth visit with Winfrey as she readies OWN, her new cable network launching Jan. 1, and roars down the home stretch of her daytime talk show's final season.

"I interviewed her in 1988, when she was first becoming very popular," Walters said not long ago. "She and I consider this latest interview our coming full circle."

On the program, Winfrey will discuss her new network, the reason she's doing it and concerns she has for its success - "it's a huge leap of faith," Walters said.

Winfrey also talks "very personally" about her relationships with best friend Gayle King and longtime partner Stedman Graham.

"This is an interview about Oprah's life at this turning point," Walters said.

On "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2010," the conversation is personal, too, when Walters sits down with White.

At 88, White has enjoyed a year of triumphs and much-deserved attention as an actress-comedian who is full of life, but during her interview, "she talks about how she feels about death," said Walters, adding, "She still wants to have sex."

Palin - the best-selling author and former governor and vice presidential candidate - is one of Walters' most fascinating people for a record third consecutive year. Walters said she came away from their recent meeting convinced that "this is a woman who is going to be a candidate (for president) - or, at least, wants to be a candidate."

Despite acknowledging that "Jersey Shore" is not a series she has watched very much, Walters saw fit to interview Snooki, The Situation and the rest of this outrageous reality show.

"They were all on very good behavior and very well dressed, and they've all got big plans for the future," said Walters. "And they taught me their language" - terms like smoosh and grenade - "none of which I need to know."

Walters learned something from Bieber, too. He taught Walters a new dance.

"This is a kid who is smart as can be and very talented at 16," Walters said. And despite his huge success (he emerged as the biggest winner at this year's American Music Awards), he hasn't lost his grounding as a 16-year-old: "His mother still takes away his computer when he doesn't behave."

As Walters looked back at the year that served up her latest "Fascinating People," she couldn't help remark on what the year has meant to her: In May, she underwent open-heart surgery to replace a faulty valve.

"It was last year at this time that there began to be this shadow in my life," she said, "because that's when I heard that I might possibly have to have this surgery. Now that shadow is gone. I've been staggeringly busy the last few months, and I'm fine.

"It's not that I'm fascinating, but I think my journey this year has been fascinating."


ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co.



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