Nearly 45 years she's been at this televised business of leaning in, inviting the confidence and getting your Fidel Castros and your Saddam Husseins and your Monica Lewinskys to give up their innermost thoughts. To do this, she has researched obsessively.

But Barbara Walters, at 76, never had been roasted before last night.

"I'm a little nervous," she said before a Hyatt Regency benefit for the Spina Bifida Association. "I'm not sure you can prepare for this.

"I just came back yesterday from Saudi Arabia," she said, as if that might have been easier, trying to get new King Abdullah to give up his innermost thoughts. "I guess I could have worn my shmatte," which is what a 76-year-old Jewish woman who grew up in New York might call an abaya.

Instead she wore a floor-length, wine-colored, body-hugging gown, one shoulder exposed. Robert Hormats of Goldman Sachs was her escort. Her hair was golden and perfect. She sat on the dais. ABC News's Sam Donaldson called her dumb. She sat for it.

"Women couldn't be on television," said Donaldson. "They could bring you coffee or something. She's so dumb she didn't know that."

And, he added, any man who had been treated as poorly as Walters was when she joined Harry Reasoner to become the first woman to co-anchor an evening newscast would have "called a press conference and issued a denunciation of management. She is too stupid to do that. She just went back to work."

Karen Hughes said King Abdullah had promised Walters 22 years ago that he would grant her the first interview if and when he became king. "And that was smart," said Hughes. "He's had 22 years to think about what kind of tree he is."

"You should have seen her at the ranch in Crawford," continued the former presidential aide. "She didn't seem to want to get out of the car. And who could blame her? She was the only person who ever showed up at the ranch in Chanel boots."

Hughes said she had to get out of broadcast journalism because "I couldn't make anyone cry." But Walters writes her own material, and it was much sharper.

About Donaldson, Walters said: "I can't decide if he reminds me of ABC News or ABC Carpet."

To Hughes, she said: "Following Karen into Saudi Arabia, I felt like Rita following Katrina. Karen is the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, and I think that means keeping Ferragamo open late for Condoleezza Rice."

Ever the promoter of her own work -- her interview with the king airs next week on "20/20" -- Walters said she learned that Abdullah has four wives. "He did ask me after the interview if I would be the fifth," she said, to much laughter.

She is considering it, she continued, for the power it might bring. "I will end the war in Iraq, I will bring peace, I will solve the Palestinian problem and, if I accept, no man in Saudi Arabia will ever be allowed to drive again."

The event was expected to raise nearly $400,000 for the association, which works to raise awareness of spina bifida, a defect that occurs in utero and can cause a multitude of disorders ranging from learning disability to paralysis.

The crowd was mostly well-paid media types -- and what really caused a stir was when Andrea Mitchell and her husband, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, won the raffle for the sweet little goody bag of a silver Porsche Boxster.

Still golden: Barbara Walters at her Hyatt Regency roast.State Department official Karen Hughes and ABC newsman Sam Donaldson supplied some of the warmth at last night's roast.