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1981: Walters to Hepburn: "What Kind of Tree Are You?"
June 2, 2012  | By Christy Slewinski
 
On this day in 1981, ABC aired one of the most remembered — or, perhaps, most misremembered — episodes of The Barbara Walters Special. The telecast featured interviews with Lauren Bacall, Nancy Reagan, and Katherine Hepburn.

It was during Walter's sit-down with Hepburn, on the set of Broadway's The West Side Waltz, when Hepburn said: "I'm a very strong, I've become a sort of, you know, thing," says Hepburn.

"What?" queries Walters.

"I don't know what," Hepburn replies. "A tree or something."

And, as a follow-up question, Walters asks: "What kind of a tree are you, if you think you're a tree?"

"I hope I'm not an elm, with dutch elm disease," Hepburn says with a laugh, "because then I'm withering. "No, everybody would like to be an oak tree. It's very strong, and very pretty."

After the interview, Walters' "tree" question was remembered, but the context in which it was asked was not. The so-called "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" question quickly became the equivalent of a television urban legend, often spoofed or (wrongly) cited as one of Walters' most outlandish interview questions. Over the years, even interview subjects ranging from Johnny Carson and Glenn Beck to Sandra Bullock brought up the infamous "tree" question during sit-downs with Walters.

In 2006, Walters addressed the misconception on the special 30 Mistakes in 30 Years. She also provided a clip of her interview with Hepburn, to set the record straight:



 
 
 
 
 
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