I've been seeing blurbs today about the big Oprah finale taking place this evening at the United Center. Got me thinking back to my couple of visits to the Oprah Show years ago. It was the early 1990's. At the time, getting tickets was no problem at all. You called the number. Someone answered. You told them you wanted to go to a taping. They gave you a date. You said "okay" and then you showed up on the designated date. Back then, there was no website to go to so you could get more details or find out if there may be a celebrity guest showing up. I don't think she was even giving things away yet. Your only line of communication was through that phone number, which was never busy when you called.
I went to two tapings, probably in 1992. One time I remember going with my mother-in-law, who raised her hand to one of Oprah's questions during a commercial break. "See me after the show," she told my m-i-l and the two chatted for a few minutes.
The other time, I went with a co-worker, my sister and my niece, who was 15 or 16 at the time. We showed up early as instructed and went to a nearby diner for breakfast. When we got to the front gate, we were notified that you had to be over age 18 to be part of the audience due to the racy content. It was about older women dating young guys and some moms going after their sons' friends. Today, we call them cougars -- and see them all over TV. Twenty years ago, it was "too racy."
Most responsible adults would have left disappointed. Yet, when someone at the counter suggested she could sit in a waiting room while the rest of us went into the studio, we decided it was a good idea. We still laugh about how we abandoned my niece and left her to watch a rerun in the waiting room with a security guard, while we went in for the taping. We can laugh about it now. Looking back, I have to wonder what I was thinking. She was bummed, but still happy to have gotten a day out of school and a chance to be in the building. And years later, she was able to return and see a much better show than we did.
I still remember shaking Oprah's hand on the way out and telling her how wonderful she looked in the peach suit she had on. (WHEN is that color going to come back? It looked great on her.)
Not too long ago, my niece finally got her chance to get in and be part of the audience for real. She sent in an e-mail on a whim and ended up right in the front of a show featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It made up for the crummy circumstances of her first visit.