Thursday’s show was called “Oprah’s Producers Uncensored, plus Most Memorable Audience Moments.” Chris, the Oprah producer who called me last week, had suggested they use my After the Show comment about my job modeling nude for art students. She called me again after that. And again. And again. She was fact-checking my bio. Confirming details about the books I’d written. Reserving the limo for me.
The limo showed up right on time last Thursday. Our driver was a percussionist from Romania. He had a dreamy voice, but after hearing him scold Harper about sitting on the leather seats, I knew he could be stern if he had to. You know, to protect the celebrities in the back seat.
We chatted all the way to Harpo Studios. Turns out our chauffeur had originally come to America on a music scholarship. I told him about my sister Bev, a percussionist in high school and college. “I grew up with a marimba in the living room,” I said. He was impressed.
Our chauffeur had played all through college, but he said that after graduating he found more gigs driving limos than performing with orchestras. So here he was, 13 years later, driving for the Oprah Show. He gushed about his six-year-old daughter, referring to her as “the love of my life.” Fathers always say their daughters are beautiful, he knew that. “But trust me, she really is. I’m going to have a lot of trouble when she is older,” he laughed. I laughed, too.
When we arrived at Harpo Studios, I fished in my bag for a copy of Safe & Sound to sign for her. “My daughter, she loves dogs,“ he said. I thought he was going to cry. “She is going to love this book.” He opened the car door for us, and Harper and I were escorted to the front of the line.
“Does your dog need a seat?” an audience service staff member asks. “Or does he sit on the floor?” Security officials confiscate the ink pen I’d used to sign the limo driver’s book. They don’t want anyone asking Oprah for autographs. I explain that the other pen in my bag holds insulin. They let me keep it. In the waiting room, a staff member presses a tissue into my palm. “Spit out your gum,” she orders. I do. Before allowing everyone else into the studio, they call a few names for “Pre-boarding.” My name is first. “Beth Fink?” they say. We’re led to aisle seats.
Chris the producer pats me on the shoulder and introduces herself. “May I pet Harper?” she asks. I hesitate. Seeing Eye rules. No petting allowed while your dog is in harness. This is a special occasion, though. I say yes. “Just don’t let anyone else see you doing it,” I warn her with a laugh. “They’ll all want a turn!”
No need to worry. No one is watching Harper. All eyes are glued to the stage. They’re waiting for Oprah to arrive, but a member of the audience department takes the stage instead. “How you all doing today?” she asks. We clap politely. “That doesn’t sound so good!” she says, repeating her question with more volume this time. Audience members react in kind. We clap harder. One woman yells “Woohoo!” Another shouts out, “I love Oprah!” The woman from the audience department is pleased. She rewards us by opening up for questions. The audience responds, confessing Oprah love.
A woman confides the one thing she’s always wanted to do in life is meet Oprah. “And here I am,” she says. “so now I have no regrets.” The audience cheers. Every story after this echoes that same sentiment: Each woman has no regrets now that they are here watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. One woman in the audience finally asks a question. “How many producers work on the show?” The answer is 90.
That is not a typo. I mean 90. The Oprah Show has 90 producers. Nine, then zero. That meant Chris and 89 other producers had each championed a segment for today’s show. We’d been told earlier that the show is 47 minutes long without commercials. Math has never been my forte, but I was pretty sure that 47 divided by 90 was not a good quotient.
The audience interrupts my thoughts. It roars. Screams. Squeals. The volume grows. Louder. And louder. Oprah is on stage. The show begins. A big screen shows the producers favorite clips from shows over the past 25 years. An audience member who’d been fooled into thinking she was getting a makeover, only to be done up in Goth–style instead, comes up on stage to receive an award. A gay man who’d been in the audience during a show on bullying is on the big screen, live from Newport News, Virginia. He tells us that after telling his story on Oprah of beating a fourth-grade bully with his pink Cinderella lunch box, the attacker approached him at a school reunion and apologized. Two guys who’d confessed their love for Mariah Carey during her appearance on the Oprah Show had ended up on stage with Mariah during her next concert. They were in the audience Thursday and came up on stage to read thank you notes to Oprah out loud. The big screen showed clips of Roseanne Barr on Oprah; Oprah on the “Win, Lose, or Draw” game show; Oprah and her best friend Gail enjoying fried corn dogs at the Texas State Fair; Christopher Plummer and the entire cast of Sound Of Music reunited on stage during an Oprah show. Time ticked by. It became painfully obvious. With 90 producers vying for 47 slots, there wasn’t going to be time left for Chris’ favorite.
So I wasn’t on the show.
Before Harper and I left Harpo Studios I was told my After the Show clip from 2001 would be used as a tie-in to Monday’s show, that fans could link to my clip about my job modeling nude for art students on oprah.com. It’s not up yet.
Show over, A staff member escorted us to an alley So Harper could pee. He really needed the break! Our Romanian chauffeur was waiting for us, and this time I did it the Seeing Eye way. I got myself situated, called Harper to jump in and join me. He sat on the floor. “Good boy, Harper!” The limo started towards home, and I asked our chauffeur if he would get to go home and see his daughter after this. “Oh, no,” he said. “This is a very busy day.” Oprah had already taped a show before Harper and I arrived at noon. Fans had been streaming out of Harpo studios when our limo pulled up. They told us Michael Douglas had been the morning guest.
I’m not a gambler, but I betcha that after dropping Harper and me off at harpo Studios at noon, our chauffeur was scheduled to take Michael Douglas to the airport. I’m confident that along the way my new Romanian friend showed Michael this beautiful children’s book he’d just been given. My guess is that as I sit here, ready to hit the “publish” button on this blog post, Michael Douglas is at his local independent bookstore in sunny California, ordering copies of Safe & Sound for his two little kids.