By FRAZIER MOORE
NEW YORK — On her new TV special, Barbara Walters gets up close and personal with Donald Trump.
Maybe too personal.
“We started with his hair,” confides Walters. “He said, `Pull it and you can see that it’s not a hairpiece.’ So I did. And I still think it’s a hairpiece.”
Trump – the follically perplexing reality star, businessman and sometime presidential candidate – is on Walters’ list of “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2011,” which airs on ABC on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. EST. It’s the 19th annual compilation of the year’s most prominent names in entertainment, sports and popular culture.
Walters says she questioned Trump on his year of political adventures, which included commandeering the “birther” bandwagon by stoking doubt about President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, and by teasing voters with the prospect of his stepping into the presidential race as a Republican candidate (Trump, of course, then opted not to take the leap).
“But he still is talking about running,” Walters says. “He told me, `If the Republicans pick the wrong person, if the economy continues to be bad, I would certainly consider running as an independent.'”
Other “Fascinating People” include talent-show baron Simon Cowell, pop singing sensation Katy Perry and New York Yankees star Derek Jeter, who tells Walters that he’d like to own an athletic team.
“I told him, `You’re making a lot of money. You could buy one,'” reports Walters. “And he says, `Great. I’ll buy one with you.’ We made a deal.”
Also on board are Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, the loving on-screen couple from ABC’s comedy hit “Modern Family,” and the Kardashian reality TV family.
In profiling the Kardashians, Walters says she plays a game with them, quizzing them on who is the smartest, the nicest, the one Mom likes best.
Speaking of sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloe, Walters offers an explanation for all the popularity that’s been showered on celebrities who readily admit they have no talents worth celebrating.
“They’re pretty women, they’re glamorous and they don’t know private from public,” Walters says. “And they’re part of a family – one for all and all for one – that people relate to.”
Other “Fascinating” names include Pippa Middleton, dishy sister of British royal Kate, and Amanda Knox, the former Seattle exchange student whose four years in custody ended in October when an Italian court overturned her murder conviction in the death of her roommate.
A ninth name – likely to be a political figure – is yet to be announced. The year’s Most Fascinating Person will, as usual, be withheld until the 90-minute broadcast airs.
Walters calls the show “exciting, because it was fun to do. And these were easy interviews. There was no pulling teeth.”
Yet, although she professes pride in this year’s honor roll, she hastens to point out its ephemeral nature. Recognition by Walters as a Fascinating Person is no guarantee of fascination’s staying power.
“This is not The Most Fascinating People of All Times,” she says. “This is The Most Fascinating People of this past year, and we don’t know where they’ll be in five years.”
The Kardashians, for example.
“They’re famous, and richer probably in one year than I am in – God, how many years have I been doing this?” laughs the 82-year-old broadcast legend before taking a moment to toot her own horn. “You know that song from `Follies’: `I’m Still Here’!
“I don’t know where THEY will be.”
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