Oprah's 'Farewell Spectacular': A night to celebrate, and bid adieu


Image Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Images

It’s called the house that Michael Jordan built, but Tuesday night, it was the Queen of TV, Daytime, or All of Media (depending on who you talk to) who held court in Chicago’s United Center — even forcing the Bulls, who are in the midst of an NBA Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat, to cede the stadium for a night to her royal highness, Oprah Winfrey.

Before taping of the two penultimate shows got underway (they will air on May 23 and 24), loyal fans and adorers speculated about which celebrities would show up. For a city not known as a hot bed of celebrity sightings (the paparazzi certainly couldn’t make a living here), it was abuzz with gossip about who was likely in town for the Oprah show. Beyoncé was sighted at Hubbard Street Dance fairly early in the day. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were glimpsed having lunch, and Maria Shriver was said to be having dinner Monday night with Oprah. 

With all those sightings, the “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular” shows didn’t have too many truly unexpected appearances. It was rather impressive that Hanks served as a kind of master of ceremonies for the first show, while Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith emceed the second episode. But Oprah only seemed genuinely surprised a handful of times, like when Stedman Graham, her longtime companion, showed up on stage to offer his personal thanks to her, and when Aretha Franklin made her way down the stage steps to perform “Amazing Grace.” Beyoncé performed “Run the World (Girls)” and Maya Angelou read a piece she’d written about Oprah’s life while Alicia Keys accompanied, playing an instrumental “Superwoman.” Stevie Wonder sang a song he said he had originally composed for his mother but never finished. The performances were certainly spectacular (save for the cheesy Rascal Flats set that closed out the first taping, but maybe that’s just personal taste), but not an altogether unpredictable adieu-bidding for the woman who shut down Michigan Ave. for a taping last season.

The shows were less about the performances, though, and really about celebrating Oprah. Her fans and supporters bid her farewell by thanking her for everything she’s done for them over 25 years, inspiring them to lose weight, go to college, and, for Madonna, open a school in Malawi. Dakota Fanning, for whom, at 17, there has always been an Oprah Winfrey Show, actually had the best summary of just what Oprah’s done for people: She said that Oprah taught them that “we are enough… that our lives have value.” Other guests and performers included Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Foxx, Simon Cowell, Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Rosie O’Donnell, Diane Sawyer, Patti LaBelle, Josh Groban, Tyler Perry, Usher, and, yes, Michael Jordan. Their gratitude was so genuine, and the effect the media mogul and philanthropist has had on her adorers was so obvious, that it was hard to be cynical.

With some 20,000 people packed into the United Center, many of them locals, it was also night for Chicago to say goodbye to The Oprah Winfrey Show. For Chicagoans, though, perhaps the biggest change will be no longer having to explain to out-of-town friends and relatives that just because you have a Chicago address does not mean you can get tickets to Oprah. But, of course, you’d be happy to take their picture in front of the Harpo Studios sign.

Read more:
Oprah’s ‘Farewell Spectacular': We’ve live-blogged it!
Maria Shriver appears on second-to-last ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’
Who will be Oprah’s final guest? Who would you like it to be?
Oprah’s 12 Most Memorable Episode

Comments (81 total) Add your comment
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  • KC

    I’d say she overstayed her welcome by about 20 years. She hypnotized a nation of bored housewives.

    • KC

      …and somebody please whisper in Beyonce’s ear that she’s thunder-thighed.

      • Elizabeth

        … and tell KC that if he/she doesn’t have anything remotely valuable to offer to troll somewhere else. His/her low self-esteem is just screaming.

      • Bill Williams

        You say that like its a bad thing.

      • Good Riddance

        get a life Elizabeth

      • KC

        See, Elizabeth is one of those overweight, bored housewives I was pointing out. Go iron your husband’s pants unless he already wisened up and left you.

      • bigmoemiami

        I love thunder thighs, a lot of men do, in fact we prefer them to skinny legs. As long as they are shapely, and not too much cottage cheese, they are sexy.

      • Ick

        Shockingly, Beyonce looks like JayZ in a wig in that picture.

      • Jake

        Right on brother!!!

    • Lilly

      KC – I was on your side until you stooped to Elizabeth’s level. Grow up people. You can like or dislike the woman but you don’t have to insult other commenters.

      • KC

        *rolls up sleeves*

    • duva

      Oprah just has a certain quality about her. She’s a one in a billion talent. Never seen someone who can connect to so many people on so many emotional levels.

  • Ick

    Couldn’t they have just done this whole “farewell to the queen” crap in the local Golden Corral?

    • Lilly


  • TorontoTom

    Where was Tina Turner? Thought she’d make an appearance.

  • Good Riddance

    Good Riddance

  • bigmoemiami

    Oprah really knows how to sell herself by being very strong, positive and knowing how to communicate her feelings well.

  • Bear589

    So what?

  • orville laird

    Thank you Oprah for the Memories.Too bad ordinary people like me are not allowed to communicate with you.

    • UGH

      Sure you can. Just become one of her servants.

  • Anne

    Oprah WHO???

  • Anne

    Who’s the albino in the above photograph?

    • UGH

      Her next meal.

  • goolee

    What I see in the advertisement of Surprise Oprah is a bunch of phonies. Example Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes. Need I say more.

  • libra925

    Look at all of you with your stupid negative comments, trying to convince yourselves that Oprah is irrelevent, fat, etc. The fact that this story made each one of YOU take the time to post says volumes. And if you think for a New York minute that your negativity has any effect on her or those of us who have been inspired by her, you are even more pathetic than you seem.

    • UGH

      She’s still fat and irrelevant.
      Now hurry up and go watch The View.

      • JackieB

        She’s irrelevant? You’re a joke. I’m not even a fan of her show, but I know she is one of the most powerful women in the world (if not THE most powerful woman in the world). She has done a lot of good. So shut your pie hole.

      • Eva

        Or ‘The Talk’..or anything on E.

      • UGH

        Powerful? No.
        Richest? Yes.
        We’ll see how “powerful” she really is once OWN flops.
        ’til then, shut your own “pie hole”.

      • adaboo

        According to Time magazine, she’s the most influential person on the planet (male or female). She tells the world’s most powerful country what to read (toni morrison), what to watch on TV (Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray), who to vote for (Obama), and has earned billion$ popularizing a daytime talk show genre that has broken countless taboos (sexual abuse, weight, addiction, gays, infidelity).

      • UGH

        Wow. Time Magazine. You really let the mainstream media dictate to you who and what is influential? Not a terrible bright person, are you? Sheep.

      • neda

        Actually I agree with Time magazine. Oprah’s without question the most influential person in the world. She’s the Queen of all Media in the world’s most powerful country. She’s been reaching tens of millions every day for an hour a day through the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Her show has stayed #1 through FIVE different presidents. If you look at the culture before Oprah hit the scene and compare it with after she hit the scene, the change is RADICAL. She single handedly created confession culture which has not only revolutionized America but even forced the royal family and Queen of England to show more emotion. She’s so brilliant. 10,000 years from now, she’ll be the symbol of the American empire.

      • UGH

        That was so “elequent” that I shot water out of my nose from laughing. Symbol of the American Empire. That’s rich. I guess some of Harpo’s interns are on here now.

      • Erica

        Gail? Is that you?

      • @UGH

        Perhaps you should spend less time on the internet insulting people and more time consulting a dictionary.
        And by the way, you’d amputate your own arm to trade places with Oprah, weight problem or no weight problem, and you know it, so spare everyone the above-it-all attitude.

    • boocat

      If you get your inspiration from a talk show host, I find that pretty pathetic.

      • Ladyj

        What is really pathetic is people like you who have such a sad insignifigant life that all you do is troll sites that you have no real interest in just so you can spew garbage and think that what you have to say has any real value. Maybe you should have watched a few of her shows, then maybe you could have learned a lesson or two mummy forgot to teach you about being kind to others. Oprah honored and inspired more people on this earth than you could ever comprehend and will continue too long after this show.

      • ^

        BAAAAA, said Oprah’s sheep.

      • elex

        If you feel the need to look down on people for being inspired by a talk show host, I find you pathetic.

      • UGH

        If you feel the need to be inspired by a talk show host, I find you sad.

      • @UGH

        For the love of God, UGH, get a life or grow a brain. If there’s anyone here that deserves pity, it’s you. Your dislike of someone you have never met is disturbing, as is the frequency of your posts. Perhaps you should seek professional help.

    • Hombre

      Oprah has the power to change the world! The world’s rotation that is if we jettison her fat ass into outer space!

  • libra925

    BTW…the blonde standing next to Beyonce in the picture is Dakota Fanning. Not the most flattering picture of her I’ve ever seen, but there you go…even being skinny and blonde is no guarantee that you’ll look perfect in every shot.

    • anon

      I thought that was young singer Cerise with bleached hair.

  • Not a fan

    Oh my God KC and UGH are so funny! Love their truthfulness

    • JackieB

      KC, Ugh, and probably Good Riddance are the same person- a troll who is obviously bored, unemployed and sitting at home. They’re just jealous because she’s had success and they’re little loser EW article commentators.

      • UGH

        Wow. JackieB is obviously completely stupid, mildly obese, and watching soap operas while her husband is cheating on her with his secretary.

      • Truth hurts

        UGH, you’ll have to trust me on this, but there is a world outside of your mother’s basement. Try it, you might like it. You might even find something better to do than spend all day posting juvenile comments on blogs.

  • Bibi

    Lost interest in Oprah when she decided she was god. I only came on to say that Dakota Fanning looks like a corpse. Not a great color choice for how fair she is.

  • Eh

    I haven’t watched Oprah in years and was never really a fan. I do remember back in the 80s and early 90s when I would catch an episode it might actually be helpful advice – real financial planning not tied to positive thinking or any other ridiculous “secret”, travel advice, household advice, sound fitness & diet advice – you know things that are actually useful to most people. That being said, I didn’t really watch her show often but didn’t really have any negative feelings toward her. I do think she is incredibly generous and has given mountains of cash to good causes. However, I lost respect for her when she took Frey to task for not being entirely truthful about his own life in his memoir. Unless someone is lying about another person, who cares if a person embellishes their own story? It’s still a book and if it touched you, it shouldn’t matter if it is fiction or non fiction. But that’s not my issue in itself. I take issue with it because she then did NOT take Jenny McCarthy to task for spreading dangerous information about immunizations. This fallacy has been debunked so many times and yet is far more dangerous than someone telling fibs in their book that I can’t believe Oprah hasn’t reacted the same way. She should be ashamed of herself.

    • johna

      That’s because she had a crush on Jenny, not James.

      • UGH

        I think a crush on Jenny Craig would be a better idea, seeing that she would crush Jenny McCarthy if she ever “got” her.

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