Who Was Barbara Walters' Father, Club Owner Lou Walters?

News traveled fast when trailblazing journalist Barbara Walters died on December 30, 2022, at the age of 93 (via CNN). The famous reporter captivated television audiences for more than 50 years. She was most known for hosting and co-hosting popular investigative TV programs like "20/20", "The Barbara Walters Specials," and the annual "10 Most Fascinating People".

Throughout her life, Walters was heralded as a most fascinating person herself, having carved out a space for women in journalism by becoming the first female anchor of an evening news show (per CNN). As it turns out, breaking barriers under the hot lights of syndicated programming was a talent that ran in the family.

PBS reports that Barbara Walters' father, Lou Walters, was quite the show business visionary as well. The successful club owner was most famous for founding New York City nightclub "The Latin Quarter" (per the Internet Broadway Database). Here's a look at his life and how it inspired his daughter.

Lou Walters Way

In terms of paving the way for future family stardom, Lou Walters did so with a literal street named after him. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pictured above (center) in the street-naming ceremony. PBS reports that the "Lou Walters Way" street is situated in Times Square, a stone's throw from the ABC studio where Barbara Walters got her start. In an interview with "Finding Your Roots" host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Barbara fondly reflected on her time at her father's nightclub, stating, "My father founded it, and it's very much a part of my life."

Vintage photographs of scantily-clad showgirls doing the can-can are all that remains of what Barbara Walters called "the most famous nightclub in America." According to an archived article from People originally published in 1978, Lou Walters' club, The Latin Quarter, lived up to this accolade in its heyday. At the height of its popularity, the prestigious venue featured fanciful musical ensembles and talented dancers dressed in elaborate costumes. It was frequented by some of the era's biggest stars, like record-breaking pilot and Hollywood producer Howard Hughes, American politician Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., and the renowned French singer and actor Maurice Chevalier, to name a few.

Exposure to sensational stars at a young age gave Barbara Walters a level-headed approach to fame, which she later used to conduct candid interviews with some of the biggest celebrities of modern times (via ABC News).

There were actually three Latin Quarter clubs

The Manhattan-based Latin Quarter was actually the third in a string of nightclubs operating under the same name. Lou Walters founded the first in Boston after converting a former church before Barbara was 10 (per People). The first club did so well that after two years of founding it, Lou and his family, who had previously been on the verge of an uncertain financial future, were packing their bags and moving to a swank Miami mansion (via People).

It was there in Miami that the second Latin Quarter club was founded and a young Barbara Walters was introduced to the life of luxury. When speaking with People reporter Gail Jennes in 1978, Barbara described her unique upbringing, of sporting exotic Canadian outerwear and traveling the rippling Boston waters in swan boats. "We always lived in penthouses," she said.

This was true once all three thriving nightclubs were up and running, but the climb to fame and fortune was wrought with obstacles for Lou Walters, who seemed to have built his fortune against all odds (per The New York Times).

From humble beginnings to supper-club guru

The life of Mr. Walters was not without trial. Lou was born small in stature. According to The New York Times, he weighed approximately 125 pounds and measured about 5 feet 4 inches tall as an adult. While he had multiple talents and was a natural visionary, he was born in London to a local tailor, a far cry from the multimillion-dollar lifestyle he would later enjoy (per People).

Early life in America was filled with ups and downs as Lou Walters attempted to establish himself as a Boston-based booking agent in the dying vaudeville industry. Throughout his financial turmoil, he also endured the death of his three-year-old son Burton, among other tragedies. In the end, his willingness to gamble kept the family afloat. Barbara recalled how her father lost and gained several fortunes with little regard, leaving the burden of worry to other family members like her mom.

The close-knit unconventional family bookmarked their place in the history books mainly because of Lou's risk-taking personality. "Dad made and lost lots of money," Barbara Walters once told People. "I wouldn't have done all those grubby jobs or worked vacations otherwise."