More than 20,000 people packed Chicago’s United Center to watch the live taping of Oprah Winfrey’s second and third final shows. We get the inside scoop from a listener who lucked out and beat out thousands to go to the final show taping!
Tom Hanks hosted the first hour and the first guest was Tom Cruise. Oprah joked: “You looked like you were 10 when you on my show in 1988. And what was up with my hair?” She says he’s been on the show 12 times. Next, America’s Got Talent‘s Jackie Evancho sang from The Wizard of Oz, when she is joined by Josh Groban to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” They were joined by Patti LaBelle, who brought down the house with the audience cheering and clapping as Oprah kept bringing her hands to her face. LaBelle kicked off her shoes into the audience at one point.
Next, Madonna took the stage. She told the crowd, “It’s no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah. I am one of them.” Oprah is “a self-made woman who’s been at the top of her game for over 25 years and she is still kicking ass. And she is still kicking ass!”
Between each celeb guest or performance, a video broadcast on three giant screens in the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls normally play. Videos ranged from Oprah’s most memorable moments (“You get a car!”) to embarrassing bloopers (awkwardly dancing with MC Hammer) to skits with celebs like Tina Fey and Steve Carell.
Dakota Fanning came out next to introduce “Oprah Babies,” aka viewers who had been watching their entire lives. They revealed how Oprah had changed their lives. One young girl said she was able to survive abuse because of Oprah; Oprah spent a few minutes speaking to her off the microphone right after their segment ended.
Next, Beyonce showed up in a tuxedo leotard and sang “Run the World (Girls)” with a stage full of backup dancers. Beyonce’s performance was taped twice, and the audience stood up and cheered each time. Next, Tom Hanks announced that the audience had brought some of their “favorite things” – books that they planned to donate to a school library in New Orleans. John Legend appeared live via satellite to accept them.
Diane Sawyer then walked out as a giant lit-up tree rose to the ceiling of the United Center. Sawyer announced that 25,000 oak trees would be planted in Oprah’s honor. Then, Halle Berry, Katie Homes and Queen Latifah walked out. Halle recalled how Oprah viewers have changed the world by becoming foster parents and starting charitable foundations. Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah also called out audience members by name. Rascal Flatts closed the show by singing “I Won’t Let You Go,” as Oprah listened and swayed from the audience. The first hour wrapped up with all the stars returning to stage and Oprah hugging them one by one.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith hosted the second hour. The first guest was Michael Jordan, who came to Chicago the same year as Oprah: 1984. Jamie Foxx then began singing – and was soon joined by Stevie Wonder, who rose from the floor playing his piano. He changed several lyrics to include Oprah; the audience jumped to their feet. Next, Jerry Seinfeld came to the stage and delivered a comedy routine. He joked: “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!”
Simon Cowell was up next and began to talk about The Oprah Winfrey Show‘s impact on music before stumbling over his words, saying “blah blah blah” and starting again. Oprah blew him a kiss from the audience.
Rosie O’Donnell came out next, flanked by dancers. She sang “Fever” but changed the lyrics about how much she’ll miss Oprah. One verse: “You saved me from depression when you gave us Dr. Phil!” Dr. Phil showed up on stage. Also joining him: Oprah proteges Nate Berkus and Dr. Oz.
Maria Shriver then made an appearance on stage – the day after her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced that he’d fathered a child out of wedlock with a former household employee. Oprah kept her arm tightly wrapped around Shriver’s shoulders. Also joining them on stage: Gayle King. Tyler Perry also appeared and urged the audience, “I know it’s getting late but wake up in here, wake up, show the love!”
Kristin Chenoweth sang next as the lights were dimmed and people filled the stage holding single lights. Next up was Oprah’s mentor Maya Angelou, who performed a poem she had written especially for Oprah as Alicia Keys played the piano. Oprah appeared emotional as she sat directly across from Maya. Alicia then sang “Super Woman.”
Oprah left the stage next, and was overheard complaining about how much her shoes hurt as the audience laughed. Her longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham then took the stage, and Oprah grabbed King’s arm in surprise. He said, “Honey, you are so special, and I am so happy… I’m so proud of you…I cannot believe a colored girl from the back woods of Mississippi has done all you have done with your show, your magazine, your film company, radio, and your also hands on with your school in South Africa, while launching a network!”
Stedman then introduced Aretha Franklin, who seemed to be in good health as she performed a bluesy version of “Amazing Grace.” Oprah finally broke into her infamous “ugly cry” after the music sped up and Aretha began dancing around. Tom Hanks appeared again after. Then a producer came out and asked Oprah to speak louder, and Will Smith joked, “Don’t tell Oprah what to do! That’s Oprah! You’re fired.”
Oprah then took a minute to thank her fans: “I’ve never experienced anything like this and I say once again thank you for taking me to a place that’s beyond joyous. I’m going to have to process it and look at it on tape to see what actually happened here. It feels like the rapture, so thank you all for that!” Will Smith announced there’s one last surprise, as a full symphony began to back Usher, who sang “O.M.G.” mashed with “Oh Happy Day” as Tom Hanks awkwardly danced. Confetti shot up from the audience, and the stars rejoined Oprah on stage as she thanked everyone. Four hours later, the show was over.
The shows will air in a two-part series on May 23 and May 24. Her final show airs May 25.