It isn’t often that one gets to sit in the audience for the taping of a tv show, let alone in one of Oprah’s audiences. I peeked behind the curtain of serendipity, and what did I find? Two tickets to see, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” right here in Chicago!
I remember the day quite well. The phone rang, and the call display said, “Harpo Studios”. Harpo Studios…….Cher, think quick! Harpo spelled backwards is, “O P R A H”! Oh my goodness! I had applied to watch a taping of her show, and this was the unexpected call I had hoped for. I had heard from people on the streets (figuratively, not literally!) that obtaining this little gem was practically impossible. I hadn’t been in Chicago for long, and decided to try my luck in the “reservation raffle”, as it were. That was the manner in which audience seats were filled: fill out the form, complete it in its entirety; sit back, relax, and wait for the call! And so, I did!
My husband went with me to the taping which I really appreciated. I don’t think he had even seen an episode of Oprah, much less had an interest in any way, shape, or form to attend a taping. Ah, the things we do for love! I must say, the instructions to attend a taping were quite daunting. A list was provided that could have rivaled any commercial warnings on aspirin that I’ve ever encountered. The list included what colors of clothing you should wear, those you shouldn’t wear, and those you dare not wear (*grin*). The list also informed audience members to arrive much earlier than the time the actual taping would begin. And for good reason, I concluded.
On ‘taping days’ there were generally two sessions named “A” and “B”. I was given the “A” slot. The required time to arrive at the studio was approximately two hours in advance of taping. It seemed like a reasonable request, somewhat like the request by airlines of their passengers to go through security. Ah, security, yes, that was on the list as well. No cell phones, beverages, PICTURES (you know, in case you held up a picture of your 3rd cousin twice removed in order to bestow the, “You were on Oprah” moniker)!
But I digress. The lineup into the studio was, well, ‘outside’. This is not Hollywood, and there were no palm trees swaying to and fro in February; did I mention ‘my show’ was in February? To those who arrived at the crack of dawn, the likes of which I’ve only seen in Black Friday scenarios, much was given. Well, not much, literally, but you may have found yourself in a vestibule (covered) area. Not heated, mind you, but free from rain/snow/sleet; you get the picture.
When the line-up started to finally move, I think I saw a couple of turtles with large “O”s painted on their backs stroll by faster than the lineup! We were asked to show our ID (on ‘the list’ of course) to a lone greeter of sorts. Once confirmed that we were on ‘the list’ *yet another list*, it was mandatory to remove coats and other accoutrements. The next person in the greeting gallery was the coat check person. Next in the audience assembly line was the security area, complete with plastic bags ala airport style. Each person had to hand over cell phones, pictures in wallets, cameras, and their first born! Okay, only the former, not the latter!
After all of that I felt like taking a nap. We were led upstairs to a ‘holding’ room, I guess you could call it. We were required to fill out a release/waver form; I don’t exactly remember what was on the form, but if you didn’t sign it, out you went, just like that. Maybe not ‘just like that’ but I didn’t want to take any chances. The room was filled with pictures of Oprah and past guests. They also had tv sets playing scenes from past shows. It was all so surreal.
Woe betied if you had to use the washroom/restroom. That was back on the main floor. The ‘guards’ allowed only several people to proceed back downstairs at a time. And then back up the stairs you went, until they called you. Did I forget to mention they called you by the number that was at the top of the release form? Hhhmmmm, interesting. And so as it goes, back down the stairs you went, and lined up to go into the studio. A rather curious thing was observed by yours truly. The audience ushers seemed to be strategic in terms of who sat where. Originally the ‘tickets’ simply noted you were on ‘the list’ (there’s that illustrious list again) to attend, but no seats were assigned. Favoritism, perhaps?
We were seated at the end of a row in the gallery. It was like a movie theatre setting. Little did I know it at the time, but about 15 minutes later, Oprah would walk right past me. I was in a seat along a railing that she walked by. It was quite an experience. There she was, someone I had seen on tv many times, just like millions of other folks. I think everyone in the audience was hoping for the same thing: that Oprah would be giving something extraordinary to all audience members. Nope, it didn’t happen; well, except for one audience member.
What did happen, however, has a rather interesting Canadian twist. While Oprah was given some last-minute touch-ups to her makeup, someone walked on stage, whispered something in her ear, and Oprah exclaimed, “What! You’re kidding!” As it turned out, a member of the audience had just began labor, and was in an ambulance outside the studio! The woman as it turned out, was from Canada! Oprah took off her microphone, and her shoes, and began running out of the studio to check on the audience member! Everyone in the audience cheered. The technical folks tried to get a camera to follow Oprah down the hallway, but for some reason it didn’t work. Oprah came back about 10 minutes later and explained to the audience that this had never happened before in the history of The Oprah Winfrey Show! She said the woman who was in labor looked at Oprah and between taking large breaths said, “Hi…………Oprah…………………..”! Oprah promised to fly the woman and her family back to Chicago for a future taping of the show. And that is exactly what happened! Please click on the link below and see what happened! *Thanks to oprah.com for posting this link on their website*.
The topic turned out to be a very sad and negative discussion. The guest was the adopted son of Jim Jones, the orchestrator of the horrific Jonestown Massacre that occurred in Guyana in 1978. By the way, I must add at this point that Oprah was incredibly good at her job. There were no retakes on anything she said or did. It was flawless, as far as I could tell.
After what seemed like an eternity to get into the studio, it abruptly ended after only about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Oprah began to walk towards the same path she had entered the studio from. That was directly past me again. This time, I put my hand down, and reached out to her. Oprah squeezed my hand and I said, “Bless you, Oprah.” No, she hadn’t sneezed, it was all I could think of to say! She said, “And bless you, too.”
Perhaps this sounds rather silly, but it was quite exciting at the moment. And with that handshake, she was gone. The audience team scurried us out of the studio rather quickly, which was just fine with me. There were two more lineups to contend with: pick up your confiscated pictures of whomever, ask for your phone back, go stand in THAT lineup, and grab your coat.
I see this post is much longer than I had intended it to be. Without boring you to tears at line 64 or wherever we are at, I’ll just add this little notation. A year later I applied for tickets and again was successful. How this happened, one can only speculate. My mother came down from Canada to accompany me to the show. It was a repeat performance insofar as the lineups and legalese portions of the program. My mom loved the experience; she got to shake Oprah’s hand this time. We were sitting in a different area than we were during my first Oprah extravaganza, but in the end our seats were located where Oprah happened to be exiting the studio. My mom stretched out her hand to Oprah in the same fashion I had displayed during the first show. Oprah shook her hand, and all was right with the world. 🙂 In case you are wondering, no, there were no special giveaways at this show either. The guest was guy who was formerly married to Courtney Cox of “Friends” fame. Ah, David Arquette I believe it was.
As a small addendum, I should point out that the show I attended with my mom was also an “A” taping. On both occasions, the “B” side folks of both days were watching the “A” folks exit the building. I think they were looking for big ‘ol “shopping bags adorned with an “O”. No, we didn’t get anything. Yes, you might be the lucky ones. Oh, and for those who don’t know it, Oprah has “done an Elvis impersonation” and left the building. Harpo Studios is still in place, but I do not know what transpires there, as Oprah loaded up her (many) trucks and she moved to Beverly……………………Hills that is…………………….. 🙂
Tomorrow’s post will be a continuum of my audience attending ways! I saw “The Rosie Show” twice at Harpo Studios. I’ll share with you some of the extremely notable differences between the Oprah and Rosie shows. Stay tuned, you don’t want to miss it!