“Oprah’s House Party” Full of SurprisesMay 18, 2011 - 2:28 PM | by: Marla Cichowski
Surprising the most famous woman in television is no simple task. Somehow Oprah Winfrey’s team of dedicated producers pulled it off with a star studded event that has the city of Chicago still buzzing with excitement.
The special taping of Oprah’s “Farewell Spectacular” was without a doubt the hottest ticket in town on Tuesday night at the United Center. More than 20,000 fans cheered, laughed and cried as celebrities honored Oprah Winfrey for her contributions over the past 25 years.
Hollywood A-listers shared the spotlight with Miss O for close to four hours as they taped Oprah’s third and second-to-last shows, airing May 23 and May 24. The first show taping kicked off with actor Tom Hanks as co-host, telling Oprah, “you are surrounded by nothing but love.” A few minutes later Tom Cruise surprised Oprah sharing memories from his very first appearance on the Oprah Show back in the 1980s. Later, Cruise and Oprah took a seat in the audience for a better view of the show.
Introduced as a “hard working mother of four,” Madonna delivered a special tribute to Oprah and her girls school in Africa, but did not perform. Beyonce, however, ended up performing her song, “Run the World (Girls)” twice due to a technical error during the first taping.
Some of the more candid moments happened during commercial breaks. At one point Tom Hanks led the audience in a cheer spelling out Oprah’s name, “give me an O, give me a, P…”. Hanks commented on Beyonce’s high energy performance saying, ”I don’t know what Beyonce was recruiting for but I’m signing up! If she runs for President I think she’s gonna win.” Oprah told the crowd, “I’m so happy you are all here. You must have known somebody to get these tickets. You’ve got connections.” With the exception of the many VIPs in the audience, Oprah die-hards applied on Oprah’s website for tickets to the ‘Farewell’ show and were selected at random.
Celebrity couple, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith co-hosted the second show taping of the night. Pinkett Smith told Oprah, “Thank you for 25 years you have given of you. I know you don’t have children of your own, but you have mothered millions..” Of all the surprise guests, one of the biggest may have been former Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan who appeared after Will Smith told the crowd, “Let’s get this party started…. in the house that Michael Jordan built,” referring to the United Center where the Chicago Bulls play. Jordan joked with the queen of talk tv, “if you need a job, call me.”
Throughout the show several emotional tributes honored Oprah’s work, but the one that brought Oprah to tears (what she called the “ugly cry”) featured students from Morehouse College. Oprah has donated millions to the school in Atlanta enabling thousands to receive an education. During the tribute, Tony Award winning actress, Kristin Chenoweth, sang “Because I Knew You” from the musical “Wicked”. Oprah was visibly emotional throughout the performance.
At certain moments, it seemed as if even Oprah was at a loss for words. After a surprise performance by Oprah’s long time mentor, poet Maya Angelou and singer Alicia Keys, Oprah summed it up with one word, “Amaaaazing!” Just when fans thought they had seen it all, Aretha Franklin showed up to sing “Amazing Grace” which moved everyone to stand up and dance. Toward the end of the second taping, Oprah, clearly overwhelmed by the spectacular line up, shouted, “Aretha Franklin and Michael Jordan in the same night. I can’t take anymore. That’s crazy!”
Check out the photos below for more memorable moments from Oprah’s Farewell Spectacular!