Oprah announces non-retirement for 2011!!!
Oprah Winfrey isn’t retiring. Not this year, not next year, not in 2011. She’s just moving on, perhaps to California, maybe to a show on cable, perhaps to a Barbara Walters-type deal where she does specials, develops programming and occasionally returns to the type of show that made her world-famous and scary-rich. But she ain’t retiring any more than Jay Leno retired when he left “The Tonight Show.”
Or how about this. She’s retiring in 2011 because that positions her for…
OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT IN 2012!!!
She’d kick Sarah Palin’s ass.
Oh wait. Obama’s probably gonna run for re-election, right? So scratch the whole Oprah for President deal. (Years and years ago, I wrote that Oprah should run for mayor of Chicago. I was only half-kidding. These days, I can’t imagine her thinking that small. Mayor of the World, perhaps.)
Mayor Daley, perhaps jousting with the media just a bit, said with a nearly straight face he believes the criticism of Oprah’s Michigan Avenue shutdown-show might have contributed to her departure
“That became a big rhubarb in the Chicago press—-beat up Oprah,” Daley said Thursday night. “So you keep kicking people, people will leave, simple as that.”
Uh-huh. Methinks the mayor might be projecting a bit there.
I remember when Oprah arrived in Chicago in the 1980s to take over the “A.M. Chicago” hosting slot from a guy named Robb Weller, who went on to hosting duties at “Entertainment Tonight.” She was a raw talent who immediately connected with the Chicago audience and started taking away viewers from Phil Donahue, who had pioneered the morning show format in Ohio and taken it to national prominence out of the CBS studios in Chicago. But none of us could have envisioned that she’d ever reach such stratospheric levels. Even when I guested on Oprah’s show in the early 1990s, it was a pretty cool thing but for me it wasn’t nearly as exciting as my first time on “The Tonight Show” or even Conan’s program.
According to one urban legend, Oprah took control of her show after a dispute with the general manager of the ABC affiliate in Chicago, who wouldn’t give up one of his parking spaces for her. I don’t think that one’s true—-but I do believe the story about how my pal Roger Ebert was the one who convinced her that syndication was the route to national exposure and possible fortune.
As I write this, dawn has broken in Chicago. After I did a live spot on the CBS affiliate in Chicago in which I pointed out that Oprah’s total weight gains and losses over the last 25 years equals the national debt (it was a JOKE!), I cruised past the Harpo Studios, where some fans were already lining up for the Friday morning show. Lining up in the dark, God bless ’em. (There was also a considerable media presence. Oprah’s one of the few TV stars who merits constant coverage from the competition, such as it is. In Chicago, she’s on ABC-7, but WGN, Fox, CBS and NBC were covering her Friday with as much verve as Channel 7.)
For anyone who works in the Chicago media, Oprah’s departure means we’ll finally, finally, FINALLY stop hearing from friends, acquaintances and friends of friends of acquaintances asking, “Can you help my Mom get tickets for Oprah?”
For some 600 Chicagoans, the end of the show could mean the end of a job. That’s how many staffers report to the Harpo complex every day for work. The neighborhood where Harpo is located is going to suffer quite the blow if the studio shuts down.
As for the show itself: I won’t miss it much because I hardly ever watch it. I’m not the target audience. I’d occasionally tune in or TIVO when Oprah interviewed a newsmaker, or when the show made news because of some wacky episode, e.g., Tom Cruise’s couch-dancing.
I’d go after Oprah when she touted another fad diet, embraced that bullshit known as The Secret or indulged her monumental ego to the point of insanity. I hated that shit when she gave away the Pontiacs and some members of the studio audience nearly fainted with greed, and nobody pointed out that PONTIAC was giving away the Pontiacs, not Oprah, and by the way: everyone owes about $7,000 in taxes, so good luck with that.
I also praised her for commanding the small screen like few ever have. I expressed admiration for her myriad good deeds, her love of reading and the Oprah Book Club, and the fact that she stayed in Chicago all these years when it would have been easier to take the show to the West Coast.
You don’t really see Oprah out and about in Chicago these days; her restaurant is long-gone, and she’s hardly a regular at White Sox games. Once she goes to California, I doubt we’ll see much of her here. But, like Michael Jordan and Siskel & Ebert, like Harry Caray and Walter Payton, like the Tower formerly known as Sears and the Daley dynasty, Oprah will always be an iconic part of The Chicago Story.