Poor Walt had to have a crash course in Oprah Winfrey tonight.
I was never a huge Oprah fan. I watched her show occasionally, when the topic sounded interesting, or the guest was someone I wanted to see. But the make-overs, the "how to look thinner," the big give-away shows and that sort of thing left me cold, so I was never swept into the Oprah world. I can't actually remember, before her "final season" the last time I watched her show.
But when she started OWN (the Operah Winfrey Network) and began broadcasting an hour-long behind the scenes show for each of the last umpty-ump shows, I watched the first one and I found that watching what went into making the show was fascinating. Maybe it's my theatre background (such as it is) that made me enjoy watching the people behind the scenes working together to make it all a success.
Her executive producer Sheri Salata became a star in her own right, conferring with Oprah on every detail of everything, handling all the problems with such a modified calmness.
I found it interesting that though there was a close working relationship among Oprah and all of her staff, there was a healthy wariness on the part of the staff too. When everything was going right it was champagne toasts and puppy dogs and hugs, but if something threatened to go wrong, you could see fear on the faces of the people who would bear the brunt of Oprah's ... displeasure? anger? whatever? The show never showed her getting angry with people, but sometimes you could sense that anger just under the surface -- most of the time not, but maybe I was raised to always be on my guard for "anger just under the surface" and developed both a nervousness when I sensed it and techniques for deflecting it before it could bubble over, which, of course, made me feel helpless watching it play out on TV.
Watching the "behind the scenes" show actually made me watch some of the last shows when they were broadcast because I wanted to see the stuff that didn't make it to the "how to" portion of the show.
Some of the "behind the scenes" shows were more interesting than others, but I recorded them faithfully on the DVR because I didn't want to miss the behind the scenes of the surprise 2-show extravaganza, the one her staff had talked her into letting them do for her, and about which she new virtually nothing.
I had, of course, watched those two shows before the "behind the scenes" show aired tonight and sobbed my way through all the emotional parts and fully intended to do so again.
The most emotional scene will always be when some 300 men of Morehouse College, all of whom had been able to graduate thanks to Oprah scholarships, marched through the arena and onto the stage, holding candles while Kristin Chenowith sang "For Good" fromWicked. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and that included the entire Oprah staff and all those watching backstage. Rosie O'Donnell was sobbing during rehearsal. So was I.
I tried to explain to Walt, who was eating dinner and totally oblivious of even what show was on, what that emotional moment was going to be like it, and trying to explain that alone took a few tissues before I could get through it.
You may not like Oprah and, in truth, I can take her or leave her, but someone who has enough wealth to be able to change literally thousands of lives around the world is pretty special. I am all about changing lives by whatever way you personally can do it, whether it is something very small or whether it is something like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been able to do in their own special area of the world.
So Walt sat down to watch the rest of the show with me, but he was totally lost. "Who's Harpo?" he asked (Harpo, "Oprah" spelled backwards, is the name of Oprah's studio). Steadman Graham (Oprah's long-term partner) came on stage to huge applause, astonishment on Oprah's face and absolute delight on the face of her staff. "Who's that?" he asked.
But he eventually got all the players straightened out and even he was moved when the men of Morehouse began to parade out. I don't know how anyone could fail to be moved by that incredible sight.
I don't think Walt became a fan, but at least he was able to understand why I was so emotional watching that last "behind the scenes" show.
AT&T Update: WE HAVE A WORKING PHONE AGAIN!!!