Barbara Walters' 'Most Fascinating' People: How It Began

The Walters team develops a special about newsmakers, from the Clintons to pop icons.
3:00 | 12/04/14

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Transcript for Barbara Walters' 'Most Fascinating' People: How It Began
Tonight we bring you the 12 most fascinating people of 1993. 12 most fascinating people"? That's right. We shot the first program and handed it to the boss, the late, great roone arledge. He said it was a nice show, but it needed two more names -- rush limbaugh and hillary clinton, as the most fascinating person. So, for the first and only year, we had 12 -- not 10 -- fascinating people. So be it. Walters: That's all you've done in a year? Just an album? Just a movie? Just being rookie of the year? What do you do in your spare time? I'm not finished yet with my list. [ Laughs ] why did we create this show? Narrator: The barbara walters special. Walters: Tired of being confined to specials that only focused on entertainers, we thought that we could get away with interviewing politicians and doctors and lawyers, businesspeople, and so on, if that format was fast-paced and lively. It worked. That premiere special included an interview with the poet maya angelou. Angelou: I'm always talking about the human condition -- what makes us stumble and weep and fall and fail and, somehow, miraculously rise. And an architect, james freed, who passed away from parkinson's disease in 2005. He had just finished the holocaust museum in washington, d.C., to great acclaim. This building has so much to say. It also has a mind and a heart. Also, k.D. Lang. ♪ For somebody new ♪ remember when being openly lesbian was a big deal? And smoking in an interview wasn't. You mind if I light this? The next year, we had a blessedly shorter list. I recall tom hanks and a box of chocolates. Life is a good box of chocolates? It's pretty good, barbara. And leslie abramson, who had just represented convicted parent-killers, the menendez brothers. I would have been happy to raise erik menendez. He wouldn't be in jail right now. The most fascinating person that year -- the late nelson mandela. It was the year he was elected the first black president of south africa. Mandela: I am tremendously impressed by the readiness of south africans to forget the past and to work together to build this great country of ours. Walters:1995 was a particularly dramatic year for the program. The oklahoma city bombing occurred earlier that year, and we profiled one of the rescue workers, dr. Rick nelson. And it was the year that courtney love finally decided to talk about the suicide death of her husband, kurt cobain. There are times on stage when you simulate your husband's death. To some people, that's really terrible taste. Why do you do it? WHAT CAN I DO? Do I sit here and, you know, play betty crocker and pretend that I don't write music? And die? So this was your way of what? Paying tribute to him by doing that on stage? It's more catharsis. It's catharsis. This was the year the late john kennedy, jr., got into publishing. I assumed I'd be talking to him for years to come. Sadly, this was our only interview. Ladies and gentlemen, meet george. Walters: Every woman on our staff begged to go on that shoot. Do you mind all the stuff about you? What stuff? The stuff about being sexy and attractive. Listen, people can say a lot worse things about you, right, then you're attractive and you look good in a bathing suit. And perhaps most of all, I REMEMBER 86-YEAR-OLD oseola McCarty, a nice lady who did other people's laundry all her life and slowly tucked away over $250,000, most of which she gave away to a scholarship fund for promising black students. There's more in giving than there is to receive. I don't regret it one minute. Just wished I had more to give. We are up to 1996 now, which really isn't that long ago. So, this quiz should be easy, right? Okay, here is your question. Who is shannon lucid? Too hard? Well, how about kerri strug? A lot of people have written and called and just on the streets have told me, "you're a hero. You're what all sports are about." You remember kerri -- the big vault with the injured ankle at the '96 atlanta olympic games. She was one in a long line of olympians we'd profile. There was gold-medalist skater oksana baiul in 1994... My coach say to me, "oksana, you skate like swan." Walters: Like a swan. Yes. ...Sarah hughes, the long island girl who skated her way to a gold medal at the salt lake city games in 2002... Hughes: I was on such a high. I used to think what's so special about the olympics? And now I know. Of course, no one needs help remembering michael phelps. Phelps: I had a dream to win an olympic gold medal. I just went for it. ...And last year, we featured the adorable gabby douglas. Finish the sentence for me. Okay. "Gabby douglas is"... Awesome. Indeed, but where were we? Oh, yes.1996 and shannon lucid. She was 53 at the time, the mother of three grown children, and the most experienced astronaut in america. She also spent a year living in the space station with two russian men. Here we were, three people that grew up mortally afraid of each other, but living and working together and having a good time doing it. Walters: Most fascinating person that year -- president bill clinton. What would you like the mark you leave to be? I would like to be thcond president in the history of the country -- the first was theodore roosevelt -- to lead this country through a period of dramatic change within america and in the world without a major war. In 1997, I flew to texas and the byron nelson invitational to interview an up-and-coming 21-year-old golfer by the name of tiger woods. I think my golf is merely a vehicle to influence people. How? Well, so many kids look up to role models. I can help out kids in a positive way, I can influence their lives in a positive way, and I think that's what it's all about. Well, best laid plans. This was the year that michael flatley became lord of the dance. Who's the greatest living dancer today? I am. And dr. Ian wilmut cloned a sheep named dolly. ♪ goodbye, england's rose ♪ ♪ from a country lost without your soul ♪ we had elton john on this show the year he paid tribute to princess diana, who had recently died in a horrendous car accident. The question I heard most that year was "why isn't diana on the list?" Well, we had made the decision from the start that we wouldn't be doing eulogies, that this show is about honoring the living, not the dead, and we kept that promise to the bitter end -- almost. More on that later. ♪ Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want ♪ ♪ so tell me what you want, what you really, really want ♪ remember geri halliwell? In 1998, ginger spice, as she was called, made headlines as the woman who quit the spice girls and broke up one of the most successful acts of all time. Are there some circumstances some day where you might go back with the spice girls? The way I feel at the moment, I don't think I would. Nine years later, they went back on tour. ♪ Hold tight ♪ if you were taking a poll on my small new york staff, this interview in 1999 would probably rank number one. Hot off the new york yankees world series win, we sat in the center of the yankees locker room with manager joe torre. You know the old saying. "It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game." It's whether you win or lose. And speaking of winners... The streak is over! Susan lucci! Walters:1999 was the year susan lucci finally won that emmy that eluded her for 19 years. You almost became more famous by not winning. In a way, are you sorry you won? Oh, no. and the most fascinating person? A pre-steroid scandal lance armstrong. I didn't do anything special. I just -- I just tried my best. Oh, well. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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