A producer from the Oprah Winfrey Show contacted me last week. She wanted to let me know they might use a clip of my 2001 “After the Show” appearance in an upcoming segment.
The show is tentatively titled “More Oprah Producers Most Unforgettable Moments,” and is slated to air Monday, April 25, 2011. “We’re taping the show on Thursday afternoon,” the producer said. “We’ll send a car.”
The clip the producer was referring to is from 2001, when my friend Mim was asked to be on the Oprah Winfrey show. I met Mim when we were both still in college — we were on the same study abroad program in Austria.
Now Mim is Dr. Miriam E. Nelson, author of the Strong Women series of books about the benefits of strength training. Ten years ago Oprah producers asked Mim if she’d come for a show Oprah was doing on the art of aging gracefully.
Mim had never seen an Oprah Show before. Honest. Remember, Mim’s a scientist. A researcher. An academic. She’s usually working when the Oprah Winfrey Show airs. So she asked if I’d come to Harpo Studios to lend some support.
My sister Cheryl came along, too, and when we checked into our room at the Omni (“guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show stay at the Omni Hotel….”) there was a message waiting for us. It was Mim, explaining that she’d just finished watching tapes of old Oprah Shows in her hotel room. “It’s amazing!” she exclaimed. “She’s like a goddess to these women!”
Mim ended up calling Cheryl and me four or five more times that night. Now that she understood how the show worked, she wanted to plant me with things to say from the audience. I didn’t mind being an Oprah patsy. Mim knows me well. I’m a ham. Her new book back then emphasized the emotional benefits of strength training. “If you could get called on and say something about that, it’d be GREAT!”
I never got a chance. Not during the regular show, at least. Oprah’s people screen audience members far in advance. The chosen ones know who they are long before they arrive at Harpo Studios, and they are escorted to special seats in the front rows. Cheryl and I sat in the back. Turned out Mim didn’t need me anyway. After she was introduced, Dr. Miriam E. Nelson gently patted Oprah’s shoulder and said, “You have beautiful arms!” She had Oprah eating out of her hand. The new book sold a ton.
Mim’s Oprah debut included one of those After the Show segments. From Oprah’s Web site:
After select tapings of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah continues the topic with guests and the studio audience in a casual after show.
I was able to give my emotional strength training comment then. You know, After the Show. A year later, when Oprah was on vacation or something, the producers put together an hour-long Best of After the Show segment to air during her regular time slot. My bit after Mim’s show was featured.
Oprah introduces my bit by saying that sometimes her audience members tell the naked truth. The camera goes to me, I tell the audience I lost my sight in 1986. “As far as I’m concerned, I still look the same way I did when I was 26!” I give a suggestion to audience members who have spent the hour fretting over wrinkles and age spots. “Quit looking in the mirror!”The audience laughs. Mim and Oprah do, too. And then I get serious. I tell them I lost my job when I lost my sight, and confess I lost a lot of self-esteem then, too. I tell them a friend read Dr. Nelson’s book out loud to me, that got me started lifting weights (it’s true) and that strength training had given me courage to go out and look for a job again. Then I ask the big question. “Know what I do?” The audience waits at the edge of their seats. “We live in a university town, and I model nude for art students.” The audience howls. Mim is pictured, leaning over, hands just above her knees, laughing. Oprah is incredulous. “Is that really true?” she asks. “Is that a true story?”
It is. I don’t model anymore, though. I quit when my first book, Long Time, No See,was published. We moved to Chicago then, and my writing career took off.
I’m not exactly sure what they’ll do with me during the show tomorrow. I’m not even sure they’ll show my clip during the show. I do know they want Harper and me to be there, though. Just got my reservation from Windy City Limos. Oprah’s sending a car.
PS: Can’t resist, gotta share a paragraph or two from the reservation Windy City Limos emailed to me:
Take to Harpo Studios 1058 W Washington, Chicago for Drop Off
Chauffeur to check in with security. Guests to wait in vehicle. Ch auffeur to escort guests into the studio. Chauffeur to help assis t bringing any luggage into studio (if
Chauffeur is ABSOLUTELY NOT to be on his cell phone or text withh te passenger(s) in the vehicle, if the vehicle is out of PARK!!!
Show topics should never be discussed with guests.
Chauffeurs should never discuss who they have transported.
Instructions: Passenger is blind – will have guide dog.