[Disclosure: I have been a diehard Oprah Winfrey fan since the first week she appeared on tv. I have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get tickets to her show.]
It’s 1987, I’m in a too small elevator heading from the 2nd floor at the State House to Gardiner Auditorium. A Senior advisor is giving Mike Dukakis and Evelyn Murphy a program rundown before they face a meeting of their full staff and Department Heads. “We want to keep it up beat and a lot of give and take…Q & A from the get-go…you know, it will be like, you are Phil Donahue and the Lt. Gov. is Oprah!” At which point the Governor interrupted to ask his staffer, “WHO IS Oprah?” Hmmm…file under “telling moment.”
That was then, this is now…and everyone knows who Oprah is…every viewer’s girl friend, the confidant, the fellow cheating dieter, the reading club buddy, the actress, the shopper, the decorator, the charitable giver, the celebrities’ cheerleader and the celebrity herself…it’s been quite a ride. What I most liked about Oprah was that she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously…she was one of the girls…
I have bought books at Oprah’s suggestion. Some were good and a few were a waste of time and money…but, in spite of her on-air pleading, even Oprah could not talk me into buying a run of the mill Josh Groban Christmas CD.
More than a few of my fellow Oprah-devotees have noticed in the last few years that as Oprah’s celebrity and Forbes billionaire ranking has grown to astronomical heights, she herself has begun to change, too. (She’s only human.) Instead of just bringing on experts to talk about this or that, she injects her self-perceived expertise. Conversation can border on pontification. “I’m just like you” does not ring as true as it once did. But, her fans are still legion because she managed to avoid the 2 third rails of afternoon chick based talk shows…politics and religion.
I confess that even I was taken back when she had Tom Cruise jumping on the couch while she adoringly exuded praise for Tom’s new love interest (whom he dumped his wife and adopted children for)…I thought she looked as foolish as he did…but, that’s Hollywood and Tom is not trying to be leader of the free world.
Now Oprah is selling more than Groban CDs or books by Dr. Oz…she is selling a presidential candidate the same way she has sold any number of books… which now REDUCES her to the same level as so many stars and starlets who try to use box office to up votes for some candidate or other.
What made her special, I fear, is fast becoming a thing of the past. I understand why she is doing this. Truth be told, I do not think if Sen. Obama were a caucasian, former State legislator from Illinois who had not yet completed one full term in the US Senate, that his “Audacity of Hope” book would have even made it to her book club selection.
I do not know whether or not her stadium appearances will be filled with folks that want to see her and are willing to put up with a few political speeches to get a free seat or if Obama will get a lasting bump from her over the top endorsement.
But if the latter is the case, I think America has jumped the shark along with Oprah and that it is time to start electing President by running an American Idol Show with 1-800- call-in voting. That will end the minute-by-minute polls, end the need for buy-a-candidate fundraising, and we can give the call $$ proceeds to the Extreme Home skinny blonde guy and he can build a house on Sunday night for a deserving and heart-wrenching family.