Cloud nine.

I’m still there.

On Wednesday, October 8th I attended a taping of the Oprah show. You may remember me mentioning this fact in previous posts. Yes, I was just a little bit excited in anticipation of the big day. I was so excited that I ran through the pouring rain on Michigan Ave at 7:30pm the night before the taping to acquire one last accessory for my outfit. I was so excited that I didn’t even mind hearing my 5:00am wake-up call the morning of the taping. I was so excited that I didn’t mind standing in line in the pitch dark at 6:15am waiting to enter Harpo Studios. After all, I have been waiting and hoping to attend an Oprah taping for a very long time, so I knew my dream was about to come true. My dream that involved sitting in an audience for a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show. I didn’t desire anything more than that- I mean, what could be better? Oh, but it got better, people, it got better. SHOCKINGLY better.

If I may, I’d like to record all the details here. Not that my memory will fail me on this because I think it’s permanently implanted into my brain. But here we go.

We got to Harpo at 6:15am. We stood in a line outside, entered the building, checked our coats, and were identified as reserved audience members. We were then seated in a large room where we waited for about an hour and a half with all of the other audience members. Finally they started seating people. We walked into the actual Oprah studio, and our party of four was seated in row six, in the middle of the audience. After everyone was seated, a Harpo employee talked to the audience, asked some questions, talked personally to a few people in the audience, and basically made us feel very comfortable and welcome. At this time she also told us that the show was going to be a “live” show (aired live in Chicago at 9:00 am, and in the afternoon everywhere else.) If you watched, you noticed that the show was about the current state of our economy and how families are being frugal and cutting back to make ends meet. (And if you watched the show you also probably noticed that there were hardly any shots of the audience and neither me nor anyone in my group appeared on camera.) Anyway, finally Oprah appeared from backstage and the audience stood up and applauded and it was very exciting. Oprah chatted with the audience a bit, and the production people got last minute details in order, and then the show began.

Oprah interviewed a financial expert via satellite. The other guests of the show were a thrifty family, and another family that was on its way to financial distress, but was later counseled by the original thrifty family. Oprah also interviewed some guests via Skype, and finally interviewed an expert coupon-clipper and money saver. It was very interesting to see how the show was produced, and of course to be in the same room with Oprah!

The show was over after an hour, the live taping had ended, and the cameras were turned off. Oprah then said something like “whew, glad we made it through that without anyone saying da*n or sh*t!” The audience laughed. Oprah then begain chatting up the audience a bit, thanking everyone for coming out to a taping of the show. She talked about how much she appreciates her audience, and went on to explain how when she got her first job in Chicago they’d have to go out and pull people off the street to be in her audience. (Oh how things have changed!!) She went on to graciously thank everyone for the sacrifices they had to make to be there that morning (babysitters for children, flights into Chicago, time spent calling and calling for tickets, etc.) Then she started talking about how members of the audience spend a lot of time pondering what to wear to be in the audience. (Lot’s of head-nodding in response to that.) She then asked the audience to raise our hands if we had a hard time deciding what to wear (most people raised their hands!) Then… {now here’s where it gets good!}… (I will write this out in script format for full effect).

Oprah says something like:  considering what to wear to be in the audience of the Oprah show must be a really big deal. Some people even blog about it.

Me, (thinking): Oh heh, how funny! Oprah is mentioning blogs! That’s cool!

Oprah: Here’s a blog with an entry that actually reads, “what to wear to Oprah??”

Me, (thinking): Oh ha! What a coincidence! Someone else wrote a blog post about what to wear to Oprah TOO!

Oprah: This blog was written by someone named Anne. Is there an Anne in the audience?

Me, (sheepishly raising hand, looking around, looking for the other Anne that wrote this blog post): right here?!

Oprah, (looking right at me, smiling): Hi Anne!!!!!!!!

Me: Hi!!!!!!!

Oprah: (I don’t remember what she said exactly here). Then: Here’s what Anne writes in her blog… (and Oprah begins reading the first paragraph of this post out loud. And I am JUST NOW CATCHING ON that she is actually talking about me and reading aloud text from my very own blog! And I am STUNNED!) As Oprah reads, she adds a little lilt and some funny intonation and stress to a few key areas. Here is the actual paragraph read aloud, with the accentuated parts bolded:

T-minus four days until I see the big “O” in person. FOUR days!!! I’m getting so very excited, but I still have so much planning to do before the big day. Mainly, I have been wondering what I should wear. What if the cameras flash on me for an instant? What if O glances my way? What if I get asked to stand up and answer an important thought-provoking question?? Okay, that last one is unlikely to happen, but I do feel like I should put my best foot forward in the appearance department since this is bound to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. And if you’ve ever paid attention to the folks in the audience, the majority of them are looking really good. Quite dressed up. Stylish clothes. Fresh hair styles. Basically I need to bring my A game. And I need your help!*(please see footnote)

Oprah: And then Anne asks her family and friends to comment on the different outfits she was considering wearing today. And then she includes photographs of herself wearing four different outfits, and people can vote on the one they like best. (Looking at me) And you talked about wearing a low-heeled pump, and I totally understand why for standing in that long line outside. Then, looking at the big screen where she just interviewed the financial expert from Wall Street, Do we have the images? (Images from fatj.wordpress appear on the gigantic Oprah screen!) Here are the pictures of Anne in the four different outfits.

Me, (sitting there thinking “crap! Everyone is seeing me standing in front of my air conditioning unit at home! Why didn’t I pose somewhere else??”)

Me, (as images from fatj.wordpress appear on the screen, and noticing that Oprah is holding a hard-copy screen shot of my blog): OH. MY. GOD! (hands to face, rocking back and forth)

Oprah: There she is in #1, and #2, and #3 and #4. And Anne, which outfit did you end up wearing?

Me: Number two.

Oprah: Well stand up and show the audience your outfit!

Me, (slowly standing up, looking around).

Audience, (cheering and applauding).

Oprah, (she may have said something here that I missed), then: Well I am glad you didn’t go with outfit #1!! Was that a dress or a skirt and a top?

Me: A dress. But I was going to go with outfit #1 until about 9:00pm last night!

Oprah, (I think she said something else here that I didn’t catch, and then she went on to talk to someone else.)

(Oh!! And then I heard the most thrifty lady in America down in the front row say “I TOTALLY wanted to buy a new outfit for today, but that wouldn’t have been very thrifty!”)

Anyway, Oprah then went on to personally chat with three more people, one of whom was this super-excited girl from the back row who made herself known to Oprah by screaming and jumping up and down and exclaiming how much she loves Oprah and that she has an Oprah tattoo. At which point Oprah asks the girl to come down to the stage to show her the Oprah tattoo. At which point Oprah then holds the girl’s foot and examines the “O” ankle tattoo, and then proceeds to hug the girl upon the girl’s request.

Finally the woman who welcomed us to the show at the beginning comes back out, thanks us for participating in the show, and explains how she will dismiss us from the studio. Oprah then begins walking away, heading towards backstage. The whole audience stands and applauds, and just as she’s about to exit the stage Oprah turns around, looks at me, waves, and shouts “BYE ANNE!!!”

And I jump up and wave and shout “BYE!”

And that was my five minutes of fame with Oprah.

And I was in shock. And I still really can’t believe that it happened. But I loved that it happened. It was a really fun, unexpected, special surprise.

Upon leaving the studio (we were one of the last ones to leave) a production assistant-type person walked by me and said “goodbye, Anne! We’re really glad we were able to find you in the audience! We were wondering if we’d be able to pick you out of the crowd before the show began.” And then I proceeded to ask her how they happened to find my blog, and she said she really didn’t know for sure because she only works on the audience side of things, but she said that the only info they had on me was my Twitter username (annejo), so then they compared that to the list of audience members, and assumed it was the Anne J they had on their list. And she said then they had to try and match my blog pictures to all the people streaming in and being seated, and that they were able to identify me once we sat down. And then I thanked her for including me and my blog in that morning’s show.

{How did they find my blog, you ask?? I HAVE NO IDEA!! I’m guessing Harpo people keep tabs on “Oprah buzz” on the internet maybe?}

Anyway. This whole experience completely made my day (and week, and month, and year!) The Harpo people were all very nice and helpful. And Oprah herself was wonderful. She looked great, and was very personable, friendly, and interested in the audience. I could not have asked for a better Oprah experience! I love ya, O!! I will come back any time!! (Harpo, are you reading? I hope so! wink, wink)

_________________________________________

But our experience didn’t end inside the studios. After we left the building, we were out taking pictures by the Harpo sign. My hero Erik was risking his life standing in the middle of a busy street to snap a photo of me in front of the sign,

when suddenly a black SUV drives by him, and I hear him exclaim, “THERE’S STEDMAN!! IT’S STEDMAN!!!” To which I shout “TAKE A PICTURE!!”

THEN, we’re walking back again past the main Harpo doors/garage door, and I notice a limo and a town car pulled up alongside the building. And I think to myself, hm, I bet there’s someone famous in there waiting to get out to be on the afternoon taping of the Oprah show. And sure enough, just as we walk by the towncar, out comes Lisa Ling! She crossed right in front of us, looked at us and smiled and said “hi” in response to Erik’s “hi”. And I just so happened to be holding my camera as we were approaching her and I just so happened to get a picture of her! She was very pretty.

And finally, last but not least, a shot of all of us posing with the Harpo sign:

(l-r): my bro-in-law Jim, me, my hero Erik, Erik’s mom

Thanks for everything, Oprah!! We loved every minute!

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