My Buddy, Oprah
My Chico friends don’t know of my brushes with fame with a capital F. I am referring to encounters with Oprah Herself, not one or two, but three times.
The first occurred in the early eighties when Oprah was brand-new to Chicago. Back then as an out-of-state newbie taking over for Robb Weller, the longtime host of AM Chicago, she responded to viewer letters with personally typed notes. Mine was three paragraphs long, signed with her signature “big O” name scrawl.
I’d written her an earnest missive after a live discussion about Women of the Bible on her show. I knew the topic was coming and had itched to be in the audience for the program, but those were the days I was triple-whammy trapped. I was scared to drive to the city, afraid to leave my kids with a sitter, and had zero money to pay one anyway.
So having seen what I felt to be a weak show that morning, I’d taken out a yellow legal pad and wrote three earnest pages in defense of the significance of the Women of the Bible. To my surprise, Oprah responded thoughtfully, closing her letter with “I only wish you could have been in the studio that day.” I’d been impressed that she seemed to care about the subject, and at the time I felt like she was my buddy because she really heard me out on the matter.
In the evolutionary years ahead, I’d shake her real-life hand twice, and even ride in her show’s limo.
“Oprah Calls Linda” proclaimed the quarterly national newsletter generated by the company I was with in 1993. Actually, it wasn’t quite like that, and I never presented it that way, but it was hard to restrain the enthusiasm of the easily impressed. Oprah’s, um, people had called my children’s nanny after her name had been provided by the professional nanny school she’d attended. She and I had been invited to be in the audience during a particular taping of a show about nannies. Oprah, then firmly entrenched in the shock news culture of the day and riding the coattails of publicity surrounding the creepy movie “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” wanted scoop on the stuff nannies were REALLY up to when Mom and Dad were away. Our stories were much too mundane to feature on the edited show, so we were relegated to be faces in an audience that got to hear juicy stuff about nannies who slept with dads. Thus my only claim to fame is a 5 second or so camera shot of me “looking on.” My image flashed briefly across the country, prompting many multi-state colleagues to tell me they had seen me on the Oprah show. The nice thing about fame is that a little can go a very long way.
I’m sorry to say the Oprah-sponsored limo ride several years later was not about me at all. I had the opportunity only thanks to a brilliant Chicago-based friend of mine who’d been an invited guest of the show, and I was merely there for moral support. As such, I got to primp and eat snacks in the green room. I also got a free book from life coach Cheryl Richardson. Off camera, Oprah griped about the original cover of that book, saying the publishers better change the cover because she had found it hard to even pick up a book that featured a white girl twirling, much less read it. “Who is responsible for this stupid cover?” she asked of the sheepish publishing execs in the front row. Ha ha.
After this, my contacts with Oprah were limited to my faithful perusal of the monthly words of wisdom in the Oprah magazine. I realized recently that I’d never read anything in that magazine that really stuck with me except for maybe the name of a helpful website or two. What really has been sticking in my craw lately has been the cumulative writings of the closing page of every issue - usually the only Oprah-generated piece of writing in her magazine, titled “What I Know For Sure.”
As it turns out, not as much as either she or her readers thought, I’m afraid.
Other thinking readers must have surely noticed many contradictions and inconsistencies in those articles through the years. Oprah’s themes are predictable and mirror that of most any reflective person over time; the difference between her life and others’ appears to be a matter of scale and minor details. Themes regarding what Oprah “knows for sure” cycle through on a fairly regular two-to-three year rotational production schedule, going something like this: I am on top of the world, I am sad and disappointed. I am blessed with the gift of connection, I am just like you. You can do it, you don’t always get what you want. I am authentic, I offer you whatever I can sell. I am the representative of truth, I was too tired and busy to know what I was really doing. I am in a growth phase, I need to let go and just be. I said I slowed down but I really didn’t, but now I really will. I thought I learned but I hadn’t. Now, I’m ready. I am skinny and I am fat. All the while I said I accepted myself I really didn’t, but now I do. Here’s what I know for sure...
On her downer phases, I wonder if she reads her own magazine. I’m left to conclude that there really aren’t Ten Tricks to Boosting Confidence Forever after all.
But on a more positive note, Living Your Destiny is an option available to us for free whether or not we currently own the wardrobe for it, or are even quite ready. I have that assurance in the form of an earnestly written typewritten note from a woman who must have still been a little scared of the big move she’d just made, but was “all in” nonetheless.