Sunday, February 22, 2009

All About The O

If you didn’t already know, one of Burt’s customers got tickets to go to a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was allowed to bring one guest. It was extremely tough to choose, but I invited my great friend Beverly Hansen. We flew up on Tuesday. Burt picked us up at the airport and after dinner in Oak Brook at The Clubhouse, it was time for American Idol and then rest up for our big day in the windy city.

We had planned to take the train downtown Wednesday morning and then cab it over to HARPO studios but thanks to my wonderful husband, a chauffer picked us up at the house around 9:45! Our driver was a young dark haired fellow named Safar. After our introductions, I asked him where he was from. He asked me where I thought he was from. I told him his name sounded middle eastern, but his accent sounded Russian. To which he replied, “Jew are von smart lady. I am of Turkish descent, but grew up in Uzbekistan!”

Turns out he was a civil engineer back home but has lived here five years and loves driving a limo. He has met numerous famous people-mostly athletes. We chatted with him the entire drive and his perspective on things American was certainly different from ours! According to Safar, Obama would never have been elected without Oprah’s endorsement! The guests he drives for another talk show host, Jerry Springer, are “super dumb” and perhaps most astounding—Gov. Blagojevich is INNOCENT!! Well, at least we could see his point about the “super dumb….”

He dropped us off outside the studio and we got in a line that snaked halfway around the building. We met up with our host, Nancy Szesniak and her guest just as things began to move. From there it was a cross between airport security (metal detectors and bag searches) and Disney World (standing in lines and waiting is part of the whole experience).

While our instructions said to be there between 11-11:30, the show was not actually scheduled to begin taping until 1:00. About 12:00, they began seating everyone. Filling the studio is just as orchestrated as the taping of the show itself. Parties were called by name and the producers seated groups by distributing wardrobe colors and demographics throughout the audience. No sections filled with all young or old, or everyone wearing the same color.

Sally Lou, one of the producers then proceeded to “warm up” the audience. She told us the topic would be “Recession-proof your Marriage” and asked us questions about how everyone was faring in this economy. There were a few folks who had lost jobs, started businesses or were just stressed out from the uncertainty of it all. Throughout her warm-up, Sally Lou encouraged everyone to ‘stand up, talk, share. Let’s help one another!’ It was all very touchy-feely and cheerleaderish in a kind of “we are women, we are empowered. Hear us roar!” type of way.

Finally about 1:00, Oprah’s guest, Gary Neuman-author and marriage counselor-strode on to the set. About 1:10, the Great One finally arrived to cheers and a standing ovation. She is much prettier in person and despite all of the tabloid reports on her weight, looked slimmer than I had anticipated. She was wearing black pants and sweater topped by a dark burgundy satiny wrap jacket. Her accessories were minimal and her highlighted hair was long and flowing.

Almost immediately the camera started rolling and things moved very fast. The show spotlighted a couple of families who were unemployed and had lost their homes to foreclosure. Now their relationships were also on the way out. Not exactly fun stuff but not as depressing as it could be, either. One woman lamented the fact that since losing her six figure income, she not longer had a housekeeper, she WAS the housekeeper. This elicited a very vocal negative response from the contingent of stay at home wives and mothers on the set!! At any rate, Dr. Neuman advised the couples of ways to keep the relationship in tact and an action plan was put on the screen near the end of the show.

One thing I found interesting was Oprah’s choice of words. In speaking of one couple’s home foreclosure, the event was always referred to as “having their house taken away from them” or “the bank came and took their house.” I am not implying that this couple deserved what happened to them, but I found it odd that it was referred to in such a way rather than simply “their house was in foreclosure,” or “they lost their house.” It sounded a little more like victimization than empowerment to me. Something else I noticed was that was whenever President Obama’s name was mentioned, the audience clapped as if on cue.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the whole experience was that when the cameras stopped rolling, Oprah kicked off her (no doubt very expensive) shoes and threw her legs up over the arm of her chair. She then chatted with the audience for about 30-45 minutes just like we were her best girlfriends! (though I was amazed at the number of men in the audience) She talked about her empire…er… um… I mean her job and her great friend Gayle.

Undoubtedly, this part is just as choreographed as the rest of the show, but she is masterful at making it seem casual and unrehearsed! Love her or hate her, THIS is her appeal and why she has so many fans. 300 people left that day feeling like “Wow! I just sat around talking to Oprah all afternoon.” Of course Beverly and I were feeling the love so much that we marched across the street and bought gifts from the Oprah store to take back to our friends and co-workers! Never pass up an opportunity to help jump start the economy, right?

By 3 pm we were in a cab headed to our next big adventure, shopping on Michigan Avenue. The Oprah show was fun and I can now check it off my list of things about which I can say –been there, done that!!

Note-we were told to check for the air date of this episode. As of this writing, none has been scheduled.

No comments:

Post a Comment