Oprah Heroes Show
Chicago Airport, IHOP, Driving in
the Big City, and Pre-taping Craziness!
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.
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
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:
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.
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:
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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:
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!"
we all yelled "P!!!"
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.
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.
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....
the next chapter on what happened
to me and Barb at the Oprah Heroes Show
Click on Page 2 below: