A Brief History of Barbara Walters's Nickname, Baba Wawa
When John Travolta mangled Idina Menzel’s name during the Oscars on Sunday (who's Adele Dazeem?), he ignited a frenzy: There were countless jokes, a fake Twitter account, and a Travolta name generator.
But before Adele Dazeem, there was another famous garbled nickname. Do you remember Baba Wawa?
That one started out as a joke on "Saturday Night Live," Gilda Radner's parody of longtime news anchor Barbara Walters.
On "The View" this morning, the hosts were revealing their results after using Slate's Travolta name generator, when Walters piped up with a rare acknowledgment of her "SNL" moniker.
"And mine is Brandon Lee Wazines, or... Baba Wawa!" she exclaimed. The audience roared with laughter. "I never thought I'd say it!"
Co-host Whoopi Goldberg grinned. "But I love that you did!"
"Baba Wawa" became Walters's unofficial, unwanted nickname in the '70s, when Radner famously impersonated the newswoman on "SNL." At the time, Walters hated the impression, saying, "I don't talk that way, and I do pronounce my Rs."
But Walters eventually grew to enjoy Radner's take. When the comedian died in 1989, "I sent her husband [actor Gene Wilder] a sympathy note and signed it Barbara Wawa," she told the New York Daily News in 2012. "Gilda was so wonderful — the sketch immortalized me — but at the time I wasn't so thrilled."
Radner's Baba Wawa became a classic recurring character on "SNL." Some memorable sketches include:
• Baba Wawa interviewing Mawena Doitchwand (Madeline Kahn). "How do you stay so swim?" Baba asks. "Swimming keeps me swim," Mawena replies.
• Baba interviewing director Lina Wertmuller (Laraine Newman), who can barely understand the newswoman. She encourages Baba to gain 200 pounds to star in her next movie about "totawitawianism."
• Baba doing a special from her home, so she can show viewers her "twinkets" (trinkets), including her "wings" (rings), "wecords" (records), and "wipsticks" (lipsticks).