5/19: Aretha Franklin Day
Tomorrow has been proclaimed “[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Aretha Franklin[/lastfm] Day” in Chicago! The Queen Of Soul will be in concert at the legendary Chicago Theatre. We won’t see that on TV. But, we WILL see Aretha next week on one of Oprah‘s final shows. Aretha (and MANY others) appear Monday and Tuesday. Those episodes were taped last night at the United Center. I’ve got the complete rundown of the night’s events – down to the exact time everything happened!
(Courtesy of Ann Oldenburg – USA Today)
11:12 p.m. Thank you!” says Oprah. “See y’all May 25th for the final show!”
11:06 p.m. Will Smith says there’s one more surprise. And it’s … Usher. Everyone’s singing Oh Happy Day. And everyone’s up and clapping. Including Oprah. Cue the confetti. Poor people on the floor are getting covered with gold glittery confetti. The song finally winds up with “Oh
11:01 p.m. We’re not done, yet? Nope. Oprah is back on stage. “Aretha Franklin and Michael Jordan in the same night? What is that? I can’t take it no more.” “Whoo,” said Will Smith. “Took me to church!” Tom Hanks is back. “Lotta highlights tonight. Morehouse College. Stedman!”
Oprah: “I saw Stedman on the stage and I said, Holy Jesus God. Stedman on stage?” She adds, “I’ve never experienced anything like this. And I once again say thank you for taking me to a place that is beyond joyous. I’m going to have to process it. But it feels like the rapture. Thank you all for that.”
10:56 p.m. Aretha Franklin is belting out Amazing Grace. And I mean belting.
10:50 p.m. Stedman Graham! Oprah’s man is on stage in a suit. “I’m so proud of you,” he says. “I know all of us are so proud of you. And who you have become. It’s amazing. The show has been No. 1 for 25 years, which is a credit to you, your team and millions of viewers around the world.” He continues (reading from the Teleprompter), “This is amazing. It really does amaze me that I get to be around a woman who changes people’s lives every day and also takes her own lunch to work. … I cannot believe that a colored girl from the backwoods of Mississippi has done all of you have done with your show, your magazine, film company, radio and you’re also hands-on with your school in South Africa – all while launching a new network. You really are amazing. But you know what really is amazing? You have done this, sweetheart, for all of the sacrifices you have made … through God’s amazing grace. I love you … for making a difference in my life.” Awwwws could be heard through the crowd. (Yes, he said, “I love you…” Have we ever heard him say that to her? Ever?!)
10:35 p.m. Maya Angelou brought an original work of art, a new poem, for Oprah. About Oprah. She is being accompanied by Alicia Keys on the piano. Reads Angelou: “She listened to the rich and the poor, the famous and the infamous. … For 25 years she listened. … She said, Be strong, be kind and call me Oprah. I can. I will. And I shall. Be Oprah. I am. Oprah. Oprah. Oprah.”
10:17 p.m. Tyler Perry continues the education tribute: “You helped light up this world,” he says to Oprah. And then he brings on Kristin Chenoweth, who sings For Good as Morehouse College scholarship students who have benefited from Oprah enter with lights. Oprah’s definitely crying now. “You all were looking for a breakdown. That did it!” It is a moving scene.
10:07 p.m. Enter Gayle King and Maria Shriver, joined by Oprah. Big moment! Says Gayle to Oprah: “You can’t pick a favorite part, but that Michael Jordan thing was so cool.” Oprah, “I’m trying to stay inside my body, girls.” Maria looks great in a blue sparkly dress, curly hair. Oprah has her arm around her and is not letting go. Gayle and Maria are paying tribute to Oprah’s efforts in promoting education around the world. Says Maria: “For more than 30 years, you have bestowed the most amazing friendship on me. You’ve given me love, support, wisdom and most of all, the truth.” Before she could continue, the crowd burst into applause. “And I know I’m not alone in receiving those gifts from you. You have shared that same generous spirit with so many around the world. You’ve believed in others so they can believe in themselves.”
9:57 p.m. Simon Cowell! “Oprah and I have become great friends over the years,” he says. He cites her ability to give credibility to anyone and introduces the next act, but doesn’t seem to think they’re good. “I will definitely give them points for originality and definitely effort. Oprah, I love you.” Enter Rosie O’Donnell, with “a little something from me and the boys.” Rosie’s singing, surrounded by a group of guys in top hats and tails. “Oprah, why you gotta go so soon?” she sings. (You know Rosie loves Broadway.) Dr. Phil pops in. Nate Berkus pops in. (Move over, Tom Cruise. Rosie says, “Dear Lord, that man is a cutie patootie!”) Dr. Oz pops in – to mention poop.
9:45 p.m. Will Smith has just introduced Jerry Seinfeld. “What is this all about here? What are we doing here, Oprah?” he deadpans. “You’ve caught on by this point. We are trying to figure out how much can one person take?!” He’s telling husband/wife jokes: “To be here at the United Center and not be at a Bulls Game!? This is like a dream a disoriented husband would tell a shrink: I was at a Bulls game packed with fans and somehow it all changed to the Oprah show.”
9:33 p.m. The stars just keep coming. Jamie Foxx is here now. “Isn’t she lovely?” he begins singing to Oprah, who just might start crying now. And now Stevie Wonder has emerged from below the stage to pick up the song. He sings while playing a grand piano. No tears, just rockin’ fun. Great music. A great moment.
9:29 p.m. “M.J.’s in the house!” says Oprah. And, suddenly, the place is really roaring. Michael Jordan is on stage with her now. “I’ve been a fan of yours for many, many years,” he tells her. “If you need anything call me. If you need a job, I got one for you.” Says Will Smith: “See, men also love The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
9:27 p.m. We’re back for Show Two! And it’s Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. On Stage. With Oprah. (Hey, Oprah didn’t change her dress? Nope.) “I want to thank you for the 25 years you have given us of you,” says Jada. “You have enlightened us, you have empowered us, you have taught us how to be. I know you don’t have children of your own, but you have mothered millions,” says Jada. “Right now, Mama, that puts you in the status of a goddess. We love you.”
8:56 p.m. TomKat is introducing Rascal Flatts. They’re singing I Won’t Let Go. The crowd has the finger lights going again. “Rascal Flatts!” yells Oprah, hugging them. Everyone has joined her on stage. “I feel the love,” says Oprah. “And I thank you for it.” And that’s a wrap for the
8:40 p.m. Halle Berry: “We love you Oprah!” Halle is joined onstage with Oprah by Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes. They recognize Oprah viewers who have done good works around the world. “Oprah, we thank you. We adore you,” says Katie. Is Suri Cruise running around somewhere backstage?
8:30 p.m. Diane Sawyer is on stage talking about trees and seeds and saplings. A big tree of lights has sprouted in the middle of the arena. “That is The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she’s saying. “I want you to know in honor of your 25 seasons, in front of those 25 new libraries, there will be a giant tree – an oak tree, an Oprah tree, standing and inviting children to bring their books and hopes and fears and know that you are there to embrace them.” Then adds, Sawyer, that’s not all. “Not just 25 trees! We are going to plant across this country, 25,000 oak trees for Oprah.”
8:24 p.m. Each audience member was given a different book. John Legend, via satellite from New Orleans, says a school library has been rebuilt in Oprah’s honor there. The books are symbolic of some that have already been donated. And he mentions that 25 libraries are being built in her honor with Target’s help.
8:21 p.m. Tom Hanks is making everyone spell O-P-R-A-H and scream her name out.
8:15 p.m. “Having fun yet!?” screams Oprah afterward. As the crowd roars, she says, “So. Am. I.”
8:04 p.m. We’re being told Beyonce is going to do her number again! And she does.
7:59 p.m. Oprah hugs Beyonce and Dakota Fanning. Wow. The crowd continues to wave the little glowing white finger lights.
7:55 p.m. Standing ovation for Beyonce, who’s in a leopard tuxedo outfit with red shoes. She’s singing her new song, Run the World (Girls). The crowd is holding up their LED lights – looks pretty cool! The house is rocking.
7:53 p.m. Dakota Fanning is on stage surrounded with “Oprah show babies” – kids talking about what the show has taught them. A little girl says, “I’m 13 and I’ve lost 20 pounds.” Says Fanning, “Oprah, thank you. Because of The Oprah Winfrey Show we believe girls can run the world.”
7:37 p.m. Hanks and Oprah are back on stage. And here’s Madonna! “So, you look surprised,” says Madonna. “Yeah!” says Oprah. “It’s no secret millions of people are inspired by Oprah,” says Madonna. “I am one of those people. She’s a self-made woman who has been at the top of her
game for 25 years and she is still kicking a–, encouraging people to dream big, work hard, to read a book, get an education, ask questions – no matter who you are or where you come from. She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular. She has balls and a wealth of compassion. I’ve learned so much from her.” Madonna says Oprah has inspired her to continue her work at her school in Malawi, despite the setbacks. “I hope to have that same thrill in the years to come, to see that I, too, have made a difference. Oprah, may the next chapters be even better. I stand before you on behalf of the many you have helped and vow to be more courageous and never give up. Never. … Thank you for inspiring me.” Madonna adds, “After 25 years what will Oprah’s shows legacy be? Just look at this audience.” The audience is now holding up cards and videos are being shown on it, featuring videos of people in countries around the world holding the letter O and mentioning how the show has changed them.
7:35 p.m. Short break time. Oprah’s getting touched up.
7:28 p.m. Cruise tells Oprah her message to us all was that we “always had the power,” as Glinda the Good Witch says. Cut to Jackie Evancho, from America’s Got Talent. She’s wearing ruby slippers and singing. She walks over to give Oprah a hug (she’s sitting at the side of the stage with
Cruise) as Josh Groban comes on to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. He hands it off to Patti LaBelle and the crowd is really going nuts.
7:25 p.m. Hanks and Oprah are on stage again. Hanks says pulling off this secret party was “darn near a mission impossible.” Cue the theme music. Enter Tom Cruise! “I love this!” Cruise says to her. Says Oprah: “Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise!”
7:24 p.m. Taped fan testimonials are being shown on the big screens on either side of the side.
7:19 p.m. Oprah is here. The crowd is, of course, going nuts. She’s got on a long gown, dangling earrings, hair in a ponytail. “What’s up, Chicago?!!!! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” she yells to the crowd. Tom Hanks has walked out and given her a hug. “Today, Oprah Winfrey, you are surrounded by nothin’ but love!” he tells her. “Your studio just wasn’t big enough to hold it all, so here we are.”
7:18 p.m. Here we go. … Announcer says to expect “the biggest stars on the planet!”
7:14 p.m. “We’re just waiting for the star-studded people to be ready,” says Sally Lou.
7:09 p.m. Lights are dimming. So far, just a lot of audience dancing.
7:02 p.m. Thumping music begins. T-shirts are being shot into the crowd. Everyone’s being encouraged to clap.
6:59 p.m. “Are you going to keep it together? It’s going to be emotional. It’s historic television and you are part of it,” Sally Lou says. She just introduced Gayle King. “You have never been to an event like you are about to see tonight,” promises Sally Lou.
6:54 p.m. “Put your purses under your chairs and don’t think about going to the bathroom,” Sally Lou is telling the crowd.
6:46 p.m. Sally Lou Loveman, the Oprah show audience warm-up expert, is getting the crowd ready.