Is it over yet? Epic celeb love-in marks end of Oprah
Tom Hanks, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder among a galaxy of stars at recording of (almost) final shows
Pass the sickbag, quick. Oprah Winfrey recorded the second- and third-final shows of her 25-year-old chat show in Chicago last night, and the four-hour event turned into a love-in of epic proportions as the great and good of America's celebrity, sports and political establishments gushed about the 57-year-old billionaire.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, actor Tom Hanks hosted the recording of the first of the two shows in front of 20,000 people at the packed-out United Center. He set the tone for the evening when he opened with this sugary intro: "Now Oprah, I know you do not like surprises. Let me see if I can put you at ease. There was an English playwright who said there's no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved, and that is what tonight is all about."
Oprah's first guest on the show was Tom Cruise, who famously gave an excruciating performance on her show in 2005 when he leaped onto her sofa and professed his love for Katie Holmes. Winfrey revealed that the actor had been on the show 12 times since 1988, joking that "you looked like you were 10 when you were on my show [the first time]. And what was up with my hair?"
Madonna was the next superstar to take the stage, enthusing that "it's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah. I am one of them. She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years. And she is still kicking ass!"
A steady stream of swooning celebs followed, with Beyonce performing Run the World (Girls) twice in a tuxedo leotard. Actresses Halle Berry and Katie Holmes, and rapper Queen Latifah also came on stage. "We love you, Oprah," said Berry, praising the efforts of her viewers to change the world through fostering children and other such good works.
By the time recording of the second show started, with husband and wife team Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith taking the helm, the star quota was through the roof. Basketball legend Michael Jordan was the first guest, before Jamie Foxx and Stevie Wonder performed a musical number together, the pianist emerging from the floor at his keyboard.
A Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine lauded Winfrey, and it was hard to disagree with one of his lines: "We are trying to figure out. How much can one person take? We are going to keep going until you say we can't take it anymore!" Then the high-trousered one himself, Simon Cowell, emerged to confide that "I can also say first-hand that you are a very good kisser."
The appearance of Maria Shriver, the day after her estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a child with a former employee, led to another gushfest. "Well Oprah, for more than 30 years, you bestowed the most amazing friendship on me, have given me love, support, wisdom and most of all truth," said Shriver, who worked with Winfrey early on in their TV careers.
The night finished with more tributes from such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin and Oprah's husband Stedman Graham, whose heartfelt praise was probably the most genuine of the night.
"I cannot believe a coloured girl from the back woods of Mississippi has done all you have done with your show, your magazine, your film company, radio, and your school in South Africa while launching a network."
With such unbelievable quantities of razzmatazz, schmaltz and backslapping on show yesterday, it is easy to overlook one grim fact: the final Oprah show is yet to be filmed. ·
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