Oprah Winfrey wiped away tears as celebrity after celebrity surprised her during a farewell double-episode taping of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ that will precede the finale. “Thank you is not enough, but thank you,” Winfrey told the crowd of 13,000 gathered at Chicago’s United Center for ‘Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular’.
The crowd gave Winfrey a standing ovation when she first walked on the stage. The biggest celebrities of movies, music and television were there.
Aretha Franklin sang ‘Amazing Grace’. Tom Hanks acted as host for the evening. Since the taping took place in the house that Michael Jordan built, it was only fitting that the Chicago Bulls all-star himself was part of the grand farewell. Jordan told Winfrey she inspires him.
Tom Cruise, famous for his couch jumping on Winfrey’s show, was there. Jerry Seinfeld gave a comedy routine. And Madonna said she is among the millions of people who are inspired by Winfrey. “She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular,” Madonna said.
Winfrey had announced in November 2009 that she would end her popular talk show after 25 years.
The show highlighted Winfrey’s charity efforts over the years. About 300 Morehouse College scholarship students walked along the United Center aisles as Kristen Chenoweth sang ‘For Good’ from the musical ‘Wicked’.
Grammy winner John Legend was beamed in from a New Orleans school and Winfrey’s book club was lauded for getting millions to read. Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, thanked Winfrey and told her she mothered millions and ‘that puts you in the status of a goddess.’
Maria Shriver also took part in the finale, amid her very public separation from husband of 25 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Well Oprah, for more than 30 years, you bestowed the most amazing friendship on me, given me love, support, wisdom and most of all truth,” Maria said.
Oprah stood strong next to Maria, keeping her arm tightly around her the entire time. It has been rumored that Maria will get her own show on Oprah’s network, OWN.
Oprah and the audience members were also treated to musical performances by Beyoncé, Rascal Flatts, Usher, Jamie Foxx and Stevie Wonder. The talk show host’s longtime boyfriend, Stedman Graham, was also on hand to honour his beloved — “Honey, you are so special, and I am so happy… I’m so proud of you,” Graham said.
“I feel the love! And I thank you for it,” she said with tears streaming down her cheeks. “Thank you for being a part of this great night, this celebration for what you have done for The Oprah Winfrey Show … your being here tonight… honors me in the deepest way possible.”