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The Oprah Heroes Show

The Chicago Airport, IHOP, Driving in
the Big City, and Pre-taping Craziness!

I finally caught up with the work I do for clients, and had some time to write about the Chicago trip with Oprah and our SFLCO Moderator, Barb.

While I was writing this, I had the
DVD of the Favorite Things Show playing that was sent to Kathy and me by one of our SFLCO members. Very big thanks to Adrianne for doing this for us! It's playing perfect on our PlayStation, and the quality is so much better than the video we taped of the show. I can also slow it way down and you can actually see where Barb and I were standing in the audience.

First off, I wanted to mention that before I left on this trip, Kathy had asked me a couple of times, "What if the show you are going to turns out to be Oprah's Favorite Things?" But I kept saying that from what Oprah's assistant had told me, the show was about Heroes who were doing some kind of community service work, and had been nominated by people they'd helped; and I was thrilled to go for that reason alone.

Don't get me wrong, I respect Oprah, and over the years I've seen many of her shows, but I'm not any where near an "Ultimate Fan." I had vaguely remembering hearing about Oprah's Favorite Things, but I HAD NO IDEA what the show was about at all, which made this day even more over-the-top for me.

So after the amazing flight up, where I sat in seat 13, my lucky number, next to the one person who could take a message to to my horse's old trainer, which I had no way of doing, I landed in Chicago around 8:30am--the biggest airport I've ever been in. It was HUGE, with flights coming in from all over the world; they have a whole gate for flights from Japan!

I called Barb and she said she lives about 10 minutes away. She told me where to go so that she could easily find me, but of course I couldn't really find that place. I asked several different people, and was directed to the limo and taxi area. I called Barb again and told her where they'd sent me. I walked out to wait for Barb, but it was 30 degrees outside! YIKES--way colder then when I'd left Asheville a few hours before. I went back into the airport so I could stand in the warm building. I called Kathy and told her that I'd made it, I was freezing, and that I was waiting on Barb to pick me up. A few minutes later Barb was there, waving from a nice warm SUV, and I threw my one bag in the back, jumped in next to Barb, and after a quick hug, we drove away from the very crowded Chicago Airport.

On the Oprah Reservations PDF they Emailed me, it read: "You will be at the studio for an extended period of time, so be sure to have something substantial to eat before you come. Food service and vending are not available at the studio." So Barb and I headed over to an IHOP that was not too far from the airport for breakfast. At the IHOP, we called and updated Kathy where we were at and what we were doing. I told her that because Chicago is an hour behind Asheville, and the B (afternoon) Taping of the Oprah Show was not scheduled to be done until 5pm, I probably would not be able to tell her what happened until after she got home from work later that evening. I told her I'd let her know as soon as I could, but that we were not allowed to bring phones into the studio, so I couldn't call her until I got back into Barb's car.

After breakfast, Barb asked if I could drive because she'd just had hand surgery the week before. I said, "Sure, I'm a good driver, and I'm less likely to get motion sick if I'm driving," but I soon found that driving in Chicago is WAY DIFFERENT than driving in Asheville, and I couldn't believe how rude some of the drivers were!

We finally made it to Harpo Studios on W. Washington St. in downtown Chicago. The studio is big--a block in size, and when we drove by we found that there was already a huge line of people waiting to get in that was halfway down the building!

It was around 11:15am and the official check-in time was between 12:00 and 12:30pm, but there was not a parking space to be found on the street anywhere. Barb and I drove around several blocks for a while looking for somewhere to park, and at one point I noticed an ambulance on the side of what I thought was Harpo Studios, but traffic was bad, and I didn't pay much attention to it at the time. Since I'm totally not used to the traffic patterns or the city, I almost went down a one-way road more than once. We figured that audience members from the A-Show would be leaving soon, so we kept driving around looking for a space, but couldn't find an empty parking spot anywhere.

There was some kind of little car repair place that had a large fenced-in parking area right across from where everyone was lining up outside Harpo Studios. Eagle-eye Barb spotted someone leaving the lot, and I whipped in there, hoping that we could park. We were directed to an empty spot, and I gladly paid the $20.00 for a fairly safe parking place. Looking back on this, I am VERY GLAD that we didn't find a spot to park that was blocks away.

By the time we got to the area to lineup, the temperature had warmed to around 50 degrees, so I left my outer coat in Barb's SUV. The line on the side of the Harpo Studios building was now outside of the covered isle-way, so Barb and I got in line. Barb had brought a camera, so we got to take some photos outside the studio. Some ladies in front of us took a couple of photos of Barb and I standing together under one of the Oprah's Banners:

I wish I would have run around to the front of the building and got a daytime shot of the Harpo Studios sign, but I didn't want to get out of line, because by then it was getting to be near check-in time. I did find a photo online, so that's what you can see the arty 3-D Big O logo to the right:

Barb and I slowly made it into the covered hallway that wraps half way around the studio (see the photo below.) Lots of people were talking excitedly about being nominated, and actually seeing Oprah. We were all very happy to be included in the Heroes show, and not one of us knew what the show would be like, or what was in store for us.

I was really hoping that Barb and I might get to discuss the SFLCO group and what Amazing Dreams Publishing does for women coming out worldwide, but when I figured out that there were over 150 other heroes lined up with me, I didn't figure Oprah would get to interview us all for one show. I did feel very honored to be in the presence of so many people who freely give of themselves, and talking with them made this day really special.

We were behind some really nice women who were doing work for women in Africa. They had started the Hope For Limpopo organization. They wanted to know why I was nominated for the Hero's Show, and I told them that members of a Coming Out support group for women I had started 7 years ago had secretly nominated me. We had a discussion about how some of the women that they assist are lesbians and have been brutally raped in order to cure them. They gave me a brochure for their company, and you can find it online here:

You can see these women standing in front of me in the photo to the left.

While at their website a few moments ago, I emailed them the following note:

I was standing behind you at the taping of the Hero's Show, AKA: Oprah's Favorite Things. I still can't believe what happened that day! I have some photos that you all happen to be in if you'd like them. I'm putting together the story of my trip to Chicago for my support group, and you all are in the group shots. If you'd like to download the photos, let me know

Jo Ann wrote me back this morning:


Thanks for sharing the pictures! I definitely remember you! I was just telling my coworker about you, your work and your book. It is still hard to believe, but will seem much more real next year when we drive away in that new car! Keep up the great work you do!

Jo Ann


Suddenly, we heard women excitedly yelling at the front of the line. I was standing on my tiptoes, trying to figure out what was going on. The yells were so excited that I really thought that Oprah herself had walked out, and was standing with them at the front of the line! I then started hearing the words "It's Favorite Things! It's Favorite Things!!!"

I thought "Favorite things? Just what IS favorite things?" I looked at Barb and we both kind of shrugged our shoulders, and I saw people rushing to look out the windows that were all along the covered hallway we were standing in.

Barb asked me if I wanted to take a photo of what everyone was screaming about, so I took the camera and ran up to where everyone was staring out the windows and being wild. All I could see were some women with big paper bags getting into taxi cabs, so I really was not sure what the heck all the fuss was about. I took a photo of them, and went back to stand in line with Barb.

During the entire time we were standing in the covered hallway, women with big professional video cameras kept coming by us and filming everyone in line. They did this both inside the hall we were in, and outside looking through the windows in. I thought this was a bit strange, but then I figured it was what they always do before the shows.

After the people in line saw the women with the paper bags, things got wild in the hallway. The excitement level was really high, and people were laughing and carrying on, because the news was that since the first show was also a Heroes Show, and they got Favorite Things, then we would get this too. At this point, I was still wondering what the big deal about Favorite Things is? I know, I can really be oblivious sometimes, but it was really fun to be around so many women who were so happy and excited.

Not too long after the squealing and screaming of the words "Favorite Things," the line started moving and we were being let into the studio. I was happy about this, because I had 2 big glasses of ice-tea at IHOP, so a bathroom was the first thing on my list.

When Barb and I made it into the check-in area of the studio, there were so many of us, that they had those rope dividers set up to herd us along single-file. As soon as Barb and I walked into the building to get in line, one of the female security guards grabbed Barb and opened up the rope and put us in front of everyone. Oprah's Assistant, Sharvonne, the one that I had been in contact with, was checking everyone in, and she totally recognized me from my driver's license photo I had sent in earlier in the week.

Before I even handed her my ID she looked at me with a big grin on her face and said, "Well, HEY TRACEY! I'm SOOOO GLAD you could make it!!!"

"Hey Sharvonne! I'm darned glad I could make it too!" I replied, and I was in shock that she knew who I was, considering that there was around 300 other women in line.

Remember, Sharvonne was the one who did me a gigantic favor by letting me be a part of the afternoon B Taping, instead of the early morning A taping that I was first assigned to be in.

We got behind some people, and I apologized to the ones behind us, saying "I'm sorry to butt-in front of you, but the security guard opened up the rope and put us here." Everyone was so jazzed-up about finally moving into the studio after standing in line for over an hour, that they didn't seem to care.

We were then taken into a room where we had to first walk through a metal detector. Outerwear, cameras, cell phones and recording equipment were not permitted in the studio, so Oprah's staff was checking bags and coats into a secure guarded area.

I turned to the back of the room and saw something that REALLY IMPRESSED ME--3 bathroom doors all lined up on the back wall and two of them were for WOMEN with the Mens' room in the middle! YEAH! I quickly found a staff member and asked if I could go to the rest-room, because by then I felt like I was about to pop. She said sure, and Barb took my purse to let the security guards check it. We were asked to "Please downsize purses as much as possible in order to expedite the check-in process," so I only had my checkbook with my IDs, and every bit of cash I had for this trip was hidden in it.

I got out of the rest-room a few moments later, and found that my purse had been checked into the security area. I was kind of worried about this, and one of Oprah's assistants asked me what was wrong?

I leaned over to her and whispered, "I'm a bit worried that my purse got checked in, because my checkbook and every bit of cash I have for this trip is in it."

She smiled real big at me and said, "Girl! There is nothing to worry about, because Big Momma Oprah is watching your purse!" She pointed at all the security cameras that were everywhere, and we both started laughing.

This is about the time that I started noticing that every one of Oprah's staff had a Cheshire Grin on their faces, like that cat who ate the canary. I remember thinking "Dang, these people seem so happy--Oprah must be really GREAT to work for!" Little did I know that they knew what was in store for us.

Barb had to go to the rest-room and while I was waiting for her, one of Oprah's staff asked me to please go upstairs, and that they would tell Barb where I went. There was so many of us, that it was slow-going up the stairwell which had two landings. At the top, we were ushered into a gigantic room, with hundreds of chairs in it. From my guessing, I would imagine that the room is as big as the red area in the photo below. The walls were cream-colored with huge windows on the end of it:

There were members of Oprah's staff everywhere, they were all smiling like crazy, and one of them told me to go ahead and pick up a boxed lunch. She pointed at the wall, and there were hundreds of boxes stacked there. I asked if they had anything for vegetarians, and the staff member said "Sure! There's your pile!" and she pointed to about 100 boxes that were separated from the rest. I thought, "Dang! Oprah sure thinks of EVERYTHING!" I picked up a box, and then saw a big variety of drinks, everything from bottled water to cans of soda and juices. I grabbed a can of soda and started moving towards some empty seats on the side wall.

On the walls, there were large pictures of Oprah with lots of people she had interviewed through the years. In front of where I sat down and saved a seat for Barb, there was a great photo of Oprah and Richard Gere and the one below with the actresses from Sex in the City:

I was looking around at everyone, and feeling the crazy excitement I wondered if I should eat or not. I thought it was strange that Oprah's staff fed us, especially when we were advised to make sure we ate before we came. I then looked at my watch and it was around 1:30. I thought, "Maybe that first show's taping took longer and that's why they fed us..."

Yeah, longer all right...

I opened my cardboard lunch box, and it was the best-boxed lunch I've ever had--I mean REALLY HIGH END! It included a nice deli-type sandwich on some really great whole-grain bread. The sandwich had some kind of spread on it which tasted like kalamata olives and roasted tomatoes, with big slabs of mozzarella cheese and avocado. There was a cup of noodle salad that also had squares of cheese in it, a big bag of potato chips, and a really good oatmeal and raisin cookie. I was in Vegetarian Heaven!

Barb came to sit with me, and I asked her if she was going to get a lunch, but she was afraid to eat one, because she is on a special diet, and didn't want to risk getting sick.

Everyone was eating lunch, so the room was fairly quiet, although you could still hear the excitement in the voices of people who were still coming up the stairs. After everyone finished up our boxed lunches, the energy in the room got really high. People started doing the wave through the room, and then one woman in her 60s, stood up and yelled, "GIVE ME AN O!!!"

We all screamed "O!"

"Give me a P!"

And we all yelled "P!!!"

Then she yelled "GIVE ME A---" and she was so excited that she totally forgot how to spell Oprah's name! We were all laughing like crazy by then, and getting wilder by the second.

I looked around at the members of Oprah's staff, and some of their expressions were total amazement. I'm wondering if they'd ever experienced an audience that was as wild and geared-up as this one was! This high energy went on for the two hours we were in the room!

On and off, a voice that sounded like Oprah's assistant, Sharvonne, would come booming out of the ceiling. She asked if we were excited and having fun, and of course the room went wild! Later, she started asking for certain parties by name to please go downstairs. She called the two women who were in front of us that were doing work in Africa, and several other women we'd seen in line

During this time, I went to the rest-room several times, because I figured if the first taping had gone so long, so would the second, and I sure didn't want to feel like I had to go in the middle of whatever was going to happen. At one point I felt a headache coming on--I'm sure from all the excitement, so I took my claim ticket to get my purse out of security, and I headed downstairs.

The security was really tight down there, but everyone still had huge grins on their faces. I asked someone if I could get to my purse, and she directed me to go towards the security closets. I was behind a bunch of people who had been called downstairs by the booming voice from the holding room ceiling. One of the security guards asked if I was in that group? and I said, "No, I was looking for my purse."

Dang, if I would have said, "Yes, I'm in the group," I may have gotten to meet Oprah, but I didn't want to leave Barb upstairs on her own, and I really needed an Ibuprofen bad. I asked this big African American security guard if I could get my purse out because I was getting a headache.

"SURE YOU CAN! Sorry you've got a headache--I bet it's from all the excitement!" He was also smiling like crazy, and then he asked "So are you from the South?"

"Yes. I live in Asheville, NC," I replied, still wondering why Oprah's staff looked as thrilled as the rest of us.

"I thought so! I could tell by your accent!" He lead me over and got the coat-check person to get my purse, and I took out my pills and started back up the stairs.

The energy was WILD up there, because they were getting ready to take us into the main studio. We were all called by the numbers we'd been assigned. Barb and I came through around the middle, but since we were put in line in front of everyone, we ended up being closer to the front, so we were in the 4th or 5th group that went down the stairs to go into the studio....

For the next chapter on what happened
to me and Barb at the Oprah Heroes Show
Click on Page 2 below:

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