Last week I was able to check a generally unachievable item off my personal bucket list. Five of my friends and myself were VIP guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show two days in a row! Yes, I said two days consecutively. This gift came from two of the most important people in my life, my husband and my best friend.
My awesome husband never fails to amaze me. He takes note of the tiniest comment I drop in conversation. I believe he files these comments in the back of his mind in a drawer called “Gifts for Judi”. Then, when I least expect it the surprise is unveiled. And, always presented in the most dramatic way, like four tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Lisa moved into her house just a few houses down the street Fourth of July weekend fifteen years ago. The air conditioning unit was not working yet, so she and husband Barry and their two children slept at our house. We have been friends ever since. We have weathered illness, death of close family members and career changes. There were many tears of joy, and some from sorrow, shared over raising our children. The gifts over the years have been many, but none so memorable as the gift of sharing the same air with the single most influential woman on earth, Oprah Winfrey.
Lisa is a Marketing Executive with a big corporation that does business with a PR firm out of Chicago. The firm asked Lisa what she would like for a Christmas present. She replied, “Well, besides tickets to Oprah….”. Sure enough, they were able to hook four tickets. She called me screaming into the phone….”We are going to Oprah!!!”
With several big trips solid on the Zitiello 2010 calendar as well as a wedding of our daughter in the fall, I felt it necessary to run this by my sweet husband. I felt confident he would say yes. (We always ask as a show of respect to each other and I can’t recall a time either of us has refused a girl or guy trip blessing.) His response was the next bolt from the blue. “Wow, in the background I have been trying to get you tickets and have an email on my computer asking when and how many!”
We both had scored four tickets: four for Thursday and four for Friday. Next, we tracked down cheap airfare to Chicago plus a sweet deal on a suite at the Ritz Carlton. Now we had to try to decide with whom we would share our good fortune.
Our first reaction was to include our daughters. Both Lindsay and Kylie are college grads with about a year on the job with their first employers. Since Lindsay is slated for two weeks off for her wedding and some family obligations, she could not take time off. Kylie was in. The next few days were difficult as we presented our plans and finally completed our guest list knowing we had left some close friends and relatives seriously disappointed. Michele, Rae, Marcie, Kylie made up the extras, and of course Lisa and I would go BOTH days.
Five ladies in a hotel room was a laugh in itself. It actually worked out pretty well since Kylie was not opposed to sleeping on the floor. We agreed on shower and bathroom time to get ready. The real problem was a green showerhead and a slow flushing toilet. The hotel plumber can be viewed on U-Tube/Facebook with a six-foot commercial auger, and a great big smile as he reamed out the bowl around the third day surrounded by women laughing hysterically. Once we verified who shared the top two floors of our hotel as their personal condo, we were thrilled to know we slept under the same roof with Oprah and Stedman. The choice of hotel was perfect.
The dynamics for the two shows could not have been more opposite. Thursday ‘s theme “Reunions” guest starred the guy from the show “The Locator” and reunited people who have become estranged. It was very emotional and imtimate.
After the show, Oprah kicked off her five-inch Manolo Blahniks’, pulled her feet up under her and began to talk to the audience as if she were sitting in our front rooms. She was genuine, warm and cozy. She took questions from the audience and even a picture with some of the guests. After about 20 minutes or so she told us she had to go to her next job, recording Oprah Radio. Just as she was rising to head offstage, our friend Michele yelled ”OPRAH.” She turned and started walking toward us. “Yes?” she said. “You have no idea what it has meant today for my two friends here to come to your show and see you. Could you give them a hug or something?” “Sure” she replied as she took Lisa’s hand helping her on the stage and hugging her closely. “Mmm you smell good, what is that?” “Coco Channel” Lisa said coyly as Oprah extended her hand to me and also helped me up to the stage. She hugged me for a full minute it seemed. We nervously discussed my recent birthday party and the Oprah inspired gratitude box the girls had given me. Then she asked if we would like a picture as she took me by the hand leading us to the center stage where her professional photographer was setting up the shot. She leaned her head close to mine as the picture was snapped holding Michele, Lisa and Kylie close. It was surreal. Then it was over and she left the stage. We floated out of the studio wondering if what we had just experienced was a dream.
Friday the show was upbeat and positive. As the MVP of the Saints entered thru the tunnel Lisa and I were the first of the audience to slap him a high five!!! Drew Brees, his darling wife and baby shared his Superbowl win. We previewed part of the Haitian Relief video Lionel Ritchie produced. The piano appeared and Lionel sang a mix of favorites. Oprah was wonderful and warm as she spoke to the audience during each commercial break. But, there was no after show. She exited the stage soon after the live show yet we were still blown away by the experience.
Being in the presence of one of the most influential women on the planet was surreal and will undoubtedly remain a highlight of my life. And, I do have something to gaze upon if I ever wonder if it really did happen…a framed 5×7 of the four of us with Oprah her arm around me and tilting her head close to mine.
Thank you Tommy and Lisa!