When Barbara Walters went into New York Hospital yesterday evening for her exclusive 50-minute interview with the shah of Iran she couldn't take an ABC News camera crew.
But she did get his public relations director to take a picture of her and the deposed ruler with Walters' Polaroid one-shot camera.
"They'll give it to me after he leaves the country," she said in a telephone interview last night. "They're afraid any picture released now might be used on Iranian TV to everybody's disadvantage."
Walters obtained the interview after her conversation with the Empress Farah on Tuesday in the New York apartment of the shah's sister. Walters said the empress called her on Wednesday asking whether a 6 p.m. interview last night would be alright -- if if didn't interfere with Walters' Thanksgiving. Walters assured her it wouldn't.
Walters' interview was reported on the 7 p.m. World News Tonight, the "20/20" telecast at 10 p.m. and the late-night wrap-up of the Iranian Crisis. The principal news from the interview was the shah's statement that he hoped to leave the United States and return to Mexico within two weeks.
At 6 p.m. yesterday -- accompanied by a camera crew that got a shot of her entering a private entrance of the hospital -- she rode the elevator up to join the shah.
Walters said the shah does not have a suite -- only a large room that is entered through a smaller room occupied by several men she believes are probably security people.
The shah's room was bare of flowers. The only decorations are pictures of his children and a poster showing a gorilla with a paw pressed to his forehead and bearing the caption, "Don't Be Hard on Me, I've Had a Bad Day."
The shah wore slippers and a bathrobe, stood when she entered, and sat in a chair during the 50 minutes they were together.
Walters said that at one point they talked "about God for some 10 minutes," during which the shah revealed his intense belief in God and his conviction that events are preordained.
Walters had last interviewed the shah eight months ago in Morocco, shortly after he was deposed by the revolution. Yesterday, she said, he seemed much more human, not so distant, and less regal.
"He looked wan and thin and I'd guess he'd lost 15 pounds," Walters said. "He was very distressed by events and told me he was very anxious to leave within two weeks."
The shah had just completed a radiation series yesterday afternoon before her visit and is expected to undergo "semi-surgery" on his gall bladder next week.
Walters said that the shah watches television constantly, and not only the news: "He said, 'I saw you on the "Mike Douglas Show" last night.' I explained to him that that program had been taped about two weeks earlier -- but I didn't have the nerve to tell him it was really the 'Mirv Griffin Show.'"
Walters said that although there were stringent rules against filming the interview, the empress had told her on Tuesday that she regretted very much that no photographs had been taken when the shah arrived a month ago. Pictures, she believed, would have shown how ill he really was. She said she thought that a great many people believe he isn't sick.
When Walters completed her interview she raceddown to the lobby of the hospital for a pay phone. She was able to reach Frank Reynolds in time for a brief report on the World News Tonight. Later, at the ABC News studios on Manhattan's West Side, she taped interviews for both "20/20" and the Iranian crisis news wrap-up.