Goodbye Oprah

If nothing else, you have to agree that Oprah Winfrey is a woman of conviction. So after almost 25 years, the cries of housewives and unemployed all over the world will be deafening, as Oprah announces she is putting the famous sofa to rest and taking a bow.

Born in Mississippi in 1954, Oprah was the wrong colour for her place and time. But despite being dirt poor and having being sexually abused by an older cousin at the age of nine she defied the odds by graduating with honours and at the age of 19 becoming Nashvilles first female African American broadcaster.

Now arguably one of the most powerful entertainers on the planet and tipped as one of the most powerful women in America, Oprah has been gracing our screens for almost a quarter of a century on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The O-factor, as it is commonly known, has changed lives, sold millions of books, and exercised a pull on the hearts, minds and wallets of middle-America. As a result Forbes estimate her fortune to be at 2.3 billon dollars (2009).

The talk show host is adulated for a number of reasons but mainly because of the host’s ability to identify with all aspects of life following her own problems and success. She dealt with problems such as addiction, racism, giving birth and losing her baby at the age of 14. She has also, of course, been notorious for her struggle with her weight, which millions of women can identify with.

It’s a credit to her that after almost a quarter of a century, Ms Winfrey, 55, still commands the heights of daytime chat. Through her syndication deals her programme reaches some 7 million homes daily in the US.

Not only that, but Winfrey can add acting to her resume too, having scooped an Oscar nomination for her performance in The Colour Purple in 1985.

There are also rumours she will be starting her another show on her coming cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, after her current show finishes.

So what will we remember The Oprah Winfrey Show for most? Will it be how Hollywood titans and ordinary Joe soaps alike opened up on the show – revealing things they would usually never say on air? Will it be Oprah’s sense of modesty? Her donations to the poor, helping of hurricane Katrina victims and helping the FBI track down child molesters? Or is it the wacky moments that will have us remembering the show long after it is finished? Here are some of the moments that made the Oprah Winfrey show what it is today.

1. The Tom Cruise Incident.

Comedians couldn’t believe their luck the day Tom Cruise jumped around Oprah’s set, hopped onto a couch and professed his love for his new girlfriend Katie Holmes. In fact it should go down in history as the funniest day in showbiz history. Or at least the only day Tom Cruise had been taller then a woman. Winfrey said of the Irish jig on top of her furniture: “I kept saying to him ‘you’re gone, you’re really gone.’”

His reputation of being a scientologist and control freak, was not helped by this, making in the number one Hollywood eccentric. We never would have got to see this wonderful event had it not been for Oprah.


2. Bucket of Lard

If Oprah’s famed talk show antics came first – her dieting came second. Although her yo-yo dieting has continued for decades, her most famous weight loss was in 1988 when she famously lost 67 pounds on a liquid protein diet. Oprah appeared on her talk show dressed in size 10 Calvin Klein blue jeans wheeling a wagon loaded with fat representing the weight that she had lost. She then quickly regained the weight. Fat or skinny, however, everyone still loved and admired Oprah.

3. Oprah Interviews Jacko

Ms Winfrey hosted an exclusive prime-time interview with Michael Jackson in 1993 which became the fourth most watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of one hundred million. Perhaps it was Oprah’s kind demenour that allowed Michael to feel he could talk to her. In the hour long unedited interview, Michael Jackson let the world look inside his home at the Neverland Ranch. Oprah delivered a more normal side to the Jackson who, at the time, was being intensely scrutinised. She also put to rest some rumours:

Oprah: Did you buy the Elephant man’s bones?

Michael: No. I love the story of the Elephant man, he reminds me of me a lot, and I could relate to it, it made me cry because I saw myself in the story, but no I never asked for the…where am I going to put some bones?…

Michael: ….and why would I want some bones?

Oprah: I don’t know. So where did that story come from?

Michael: Someone makes it up, and everybody believes it. If you hear a lie often enough, you start to believe it.

4. Oprah locked out

It might technically have not been on her show, but it showed Oprah should not be messed with. Oprah turned up outside Hermes luxury boutique store in France, just after their closing time of 6.30pm and was not let in. The street is well travelled by tourists because of its abundance of famous designer boutiques. In the first version of the incident, Hermes staff members stationed at the door failed to recognize Winfrey, as she was not in full glamour makeup with her TV hair. They denied her entry and a gossip item claimed, told her that they had been “having a problem with North Africans lately.” In the other version of events they were busy organising event and were unable to let Winfrey in. Nevertheless, it was unusual that someone who could buy everything in the store would be refused. Then despite rumours of a conciliatory crocodile skin ‘I’m sorry’ bag – Oprah swore off the shop announcing publicly that she would never go there again, and that she would be addressing the matter on her show that Autumn. Take that Hermes.

5. The Jeep giveaway

Oh we were jealous, very jealous indeed, when we found out Oprah had given a free Pontiac G6 Jeep to ‘everyone in the audience.’ This was in 2004 when our height of sophistication in Ireland was a free hamper on The Late Late Show. The company covered the seven million costs in promotional payback. On the night, pandemonium allegedly took over the studio in Chicago. Cries of “Oprah, you’re beautiful!” and “We’re blessed” ricocheted against the rafters and later Winfrey described it as one of the greatest days of her TV life. Well, if hundreds of people were screaming that you were beautiful, wouldn’t it be your favourite day too?