Friday, November 20, 2009


AOG, Madrid

Oprah! Oprah! Oprah...

I first heard this name in the mid 1980s. I was living in Texas then. I remember watching her show with utter fascination as a kid. I liked her voice, her demeanor, her manner.

I left the US to go and live in the UK, and, within a few years, she was there too, albeit with less success than in the US. Perhaps the American tendency to be touchy-feely about things, the great need to bring psychology to fix and explain all problems, proved too much for the British public.

I remember too how other programs made it big in the UK in the 1990s. There was, first of all, The Jerry Springer Show. Oh I we laughed, and cringed with shame and pain, at the sight of America’s Whitest and Trashiest on television.

On-screen violence, it was discovered, was a great crowd puller. To say nothing of all the insults which got bleeped out show after show.

It was repetitive in that the same sort of problems showed up. People who slept with relatives, men who slept with men whom they thought were women, long lost relatives fighting over who knows what. In short, people who went on television to sort out a problem the old fashioned way: with violence and insults. Touchy feely only in that you got hit and you felt it.

Then there was Jenny Jones. Interesting, and a couple of steps up on the social scale. But she was always so frail. Nonetheless, watchable enough. Being frail and open is not a negative.

And Ricky Lake. Gay friendly, fat friendly, girl friendly, mother friendly, tv friendly.

But I think we all liked her better on the silver screen.

We do owe her one key 1990s idea: the makeover!

On her show you could bring your old tattered mother who looked like a tired, run over, 1950s Vegas stripper, give her over to Ricky Lake’s staff, and return home with a cleaner, more updated version of the poor woman. Or your boyfriend. Or your Gothic daughter. Or your slimy boyfriend. Or his boyfriend!

Finally, there was the Oh-how-very-sanctimonious-holier-than-thou Sally Jesse Raphael.

Sally Jesse was like that bitch of a teacher you had in Elementary School who was always right. Always had the last word. Always tried for you to improve yourself. And when you didn’t, she came down on you like a ton of bricks.

Was she watchable? Was she ever. Like a car crash!

I mean, how could you not watch, perplexed, someone who defied the aging process? And in designer gear!

However, all along the line, Oprah remained a cut above the rest somehow.

Her show, which was always on again, off again in the UK, was always aimed at people who were aspirational.

It didn’t matter what your background was when you were on Oprah because being on Oprah meant that, by default, you were elevated from your social status immediately. To hers. A bit like Colonel Pickering, who would talk to a flower girl as though she were a lady.

You too were then a celebrity. Oprah always brings you up to her level. And unknowingly so. That of a rich celebrity. A well-to-do, upper middle America, normal person.

Because Oprah is nothing if she's not normal. Her reactions, her feelings, her ups and downs, are all normal. She is not what I'd call pretentious in the slightest.

Perhaps it was this elevation which made people tune in. Oprah is not for intellectuals, it is for people who aspire to know and understand what intellectuals were about. At least at first.

She even has a book club which recommends which books, and thoughts and ideas, your new-found social group cares for.

On Oprah I saw how racist people tried to make sense of their ideas by saying things like, “I don’t like blacks, but I like you. You are not like them”.

Is this not amazing? I think she did more for what is know in America as “race-relations” than any piece of legislation or Governmental goodwill.

I always liked her. So did my family. We all still do.

But because I live in Spain, I can’t watch her show any longer.

And I miss it.

I will miss it even more after 2011 because the queen of all talk shows started to say goodbye today.

On that year, 2011, she will tape her last show and concentrate on her new channel.

I am amazed at how long she has been a part of my life- over 20 years!

I have suffered with her when her weight you-yoed. I was with her, side by side, when she championed civil rights, when she had KKK members on her show, when she tried to help people.

I think this is probably what I will miss most, her ability to help people. I have seen so many shows where she helped others.

Most of all, she helps you to be yourself, whomever you might be. And that is great. I have to say, 2011 will be the end of an era. It will represent the end of a show, but much more. It will be a milestone of sorts.

Suddenly, we will all realize how far away we've come by her side. And how far we'll go without her.

Thank you Oprah. For being Oprah.

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