Inside Oprah's Secret Send-Off
Local San Diego PR pro Heidi Hageman scores the hottest ticket in TV
While all of us 21st century women boo-hoo the end of the Oprah Era, public relations professionals must be lamenting more than most. Getting clients' books, products, or guest appearances on the Oprah show was the kind of career-making goal that drove so many of their efforts. Publicity gold. The ultimate placement. Instant best seller. One local PR pro Heidi Hageman scored a ticket to The Big O's final send-off so she could pay her respects. Below, she gives us an exclusive account of the evening:
"When you think of the Windy City there are a few things that immediately come to mind: Wrigley Field, deep dish Chicago pie, Da' Bulls and of course... Oprah. Being in the PR industry, the "Big O" carries a superhuman status. Every client wants to experience the "Oprah Effect." So I was beyond excited when I learned a friend scored an extra ticket to the highly anticipated 'Farewell Spectacular' for yours truly--and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It made the Academy Awards look like amateur hour.
The 2-part show airs next week, but below is a sneak peek from behind the scenes, including my 5 most memorable moments. It wasn't easy to narrow it down -- girlfriend went out with a bang!
1 One word: CELEBRITIES. Judging by the procession of black SUVs entering the VIP gate prior to the show, we knew were in for a treat. From Tom Cruise to Tom Hanks, Madonna to Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx to Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Will & Jada, Usher, Halle Berry and more, Hollywood's hottest A-listers were there to love on some O. Beyonce's sassy set had to be taped twice as Tom Hanks proclaimed “I don't know what Beyonce's recruitin' for, but I'm signin' up.”
2 Jerry Seinfeld's knee-slappin' stand-up routine was right on the mark. Seinfeld described the surrounding scene as a delusional male dream: "You walk into the United Center, the Bulls are in the playoffs, there's a million excited people packing the place, and then *poof* you open your eyes and you're surrounded by women at the Oprah show!" Speaking of the Bulls, despite the incredible line-up of stars, the one guest that left Oprah speechless (which let's face it, is rare) was the man who built that house, Michael Jordan himself. While proclaiming his love for Oprah and thanking her for her support over the years, Winfrey boomed in her most Oprah-esque tone: "MJ IN THE HOUSSSSSE!"
3 Maya Angelou was brought on stage in a wheelchair and seated alongside Alicia Keys at a piano. Keys provided a beautiful background track while Angelou shared a touching tribute, recounting Oprah's accomplishments since her birth in the backwoods of Mississippi. With that soul-shaking voice "OOH--PRAH, OOH-PRAH", Angelou detailed Oprah has literally changed the world, in a way that only she could deliver.
4 Oprah's besties, Gayle King and Maria Shriver joined her on stage. Shriver was very composed despite the recent controversy, and at one point praised Oprah for always offering her “the truth.” Then O's main squeeze, Stedman revealed details about his enormous respect for the woman he loves. He said despite her tremendous success; her show, her magazine, her radio program and her upcoming network, she still brings her lunch to work every day because “she wants to save money.”
5 Highlighting Oprah's ongoing commitment to literacy, producers used the event as yet another opportunity to give back. Each member of the audience was instructed to purchase a children's book prior to the taping of the show, which will in turn be donated. John Legend revealed via satellite that 25 new libraries will be built around the US in Oprah's honor, including one in San Diego! Diane Sawyer took the stage to announce that 25,000 oak trees will be planted across the country to remind everyone that like a tree, you too can grow and flourish to become something truly spectacular if you set your mind to it.
Overall, there were points in the show that made me laugh and there were moments that made me cry. In fact, the show was so emotional that there were boxes of Kleenex placed alongside every seated row. Oprah's mascara was dripping just minutes after the show began. Despite how star struck one could easily become by the parade of A-listers that graced the stage, the best portions of the evening were those that were shared by ordinary people. No, I didn't exit the United Center with a new car or a trip to Dubai, but I did leave inspired to do my part--and if the 19,999 other people in attendance felt the same way, imagine the difference we could make!"
To other PR pros out there: Tell us about the one client you most wanted to get on Oprah!