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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 10/24/2006

For Madonna, It's Oprah Time

By Liz Kelly

When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go... downtown. -- Petula Clark

When you're surrounded by tabloids and suffocating under the press of the worst PR fiasco in recent memory, you can park your butt on Oprah's couch and hope that O's talent for defusing scandal and transforming bad press into good rubs off on you. A few tears and some tough love may set you on the path to righteous box office numbers (or album/book sales or even possibly get people to stop criticizing an international adoption).

Tom Cruise famously jumps Oprah's couch on May 23, 2005. (The Washington Post)

That last is a reference to Madonna who, amidst an ever-widening PR nightmare over her adoption of a 13-month-old Malawi boy, will tape an appearance on Oprah today to be aired at 4 p.m. ET tomorrow. I'm going to make a wild prediction: Madonna will be quiet, composed and mom-ish. She'll be stung and surprised by the criticism surrounding the details of her adoption. She'll retrofit the story with all the details that seem to be missing at this point -- how she met little David Banda, how his father figured in this drama, how Lourdes and Rocco are welcoming their new little sibling. She will let Oprah ask the (carefully vetted) questions about her intentions, the legality and seeming preferential treatment. Madonna will come through all of it with Oprah's blessing and -- bonus points if I'm right -- we may even get a glimpse of Madonna and child sharing an intimate moment of bonding. All of this, of course, will take place in the first one to two segments of the show, with the remainder of the hour given over to discussion of Malawi and the stories of other adoptive families.

Then, we'll see what happens. We'll comment on how friendly Madge was with Oprah. How Madonna kind of seems like a normal person. And the story, now somewhat defused, will stop being e-mailed so much. We'll hear about Madonna and her new charge only when a lucky paparazzo snaps a candid family shot or we receive officially sanctioned photos of his next birthday. No doubt, this is the net result hoped for by Madonna and her publicist, Liz Rosenberg, who is normally far too on point to allow this kind of image fiasco to occur.

The Governator and wife Maria Shriver visit 'Oprah' in 2003. (AP/Harpo Productions)

When a star appears on Oprah to refute, to announce, to apologize -- we know a grave public relations crisis has triggered this seemingly casual conversation. The Oprah mojo has worked for countless scandal-socked celebrities seeking a reinvigorated image. Tom Cruise's love for Katie wasn't real until he hippity-hopped it home to Oprah. When hulking body builder turned actor Arnold Schwarzenneger decided to run for political office, he and wife Maria Shriver made Oprah their first stop. Just last week, Jennifer Aniston trumped the tabloids by making an emergency stop to say she and Vince Vaughn had not broken up (she still didn't say they are together, either).

It doesn't always turn out for the best, though. Remember James Frey? He was the toast of Oprah's Book Club until it surfaced that he had fabricated portions of his best-selling memoir, "A Million Little Pieces." When Oprah had him back on to apologize/explain himself/do public penance, she tore him to shreds. He's since gone the way of Jayson Blair. (Who?) Exactly.

Will it work for Madonna? Probably. Is it fair? Probably not.

By Liz Kelly  | October 24, 2006; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Celebritology 101  
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