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Oprah debut surprise: audience going Down Under

[This post has been updated.]

Oprah promised the kickoff of her last season as Queen of Daytime would include "two of the most heart-pounding, head-spinning surprises of all time."

No, she did not announce that cable TV's Oprah Winfrey Network co-venture with Discovery was all just a bad dream and that she would not be quitting her talk show after all at the end of this, its 25th season, to focus on that new network and would instead continue her reign over the kingdom of daytime.

Instead, Oprah announced, on The First Episode of Her Final Season, that she would take the entire, 300-strong, carefully picked "Oprah" super-fans who were in the studio audience, to Sydney for an eight-day visit in December.

Did she make this confetti-dropping announcement to make sure she gets a warm studio welcome when she tapes a couple of episodes Down Under for this, her last season, before turning all her attention to her cable network co-venture with Silver Spring-based Discovery?

We're not sure what was the other heart-pounding, head-spinning surprise. It might have been John Travolta coming out onstage at the top of the show, which had the Oprah Uber Fans on their feet, screaming and gasping and clasping their hands to their mouths and chests. Travolta, Oprah explained, was voted the show's all-time favorite guest -- he has put in 11 appearances over the years.

"If I may be so bold as to speak for the public, speak for the world, Oprah, there's only one of you and there will never be another," Travolta gushed.

"Oh, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!" Oprah emoted.

(Travolta, Oprah told her audience, is a pilot with Qantas, which is among the sponsors footing the bill for the Sydney trip.)

The other surprise might have been the six fans from Boston who were sent by Oprah's BFF Gayle King on a road trip to Chicago to attend the season debut, but were "tricked" into driving right onto the stage after being told the debut would happen the next day.

"This isn't what I was going to wear!" wailed one of the Boston Oprah die-hards.

We're pretty sure it wasn't Don Johnson's walk-on, which allegedly came as a surprise to Oprah, while she was reminding her fans how she failed to land the now-semi-washed-up, then-very-hot "Miami Vice" star as a guest on the first episode of her show.

"Ho, they didn't! No, they, no, no, no, no! Didn't! No, they didn't!" Oprah screeched about her staff pulling a fast one.

"Oh, no! No! No!" she added for good measure.

And if it reminded Johnson how far he'd fallen relative to how far she'd climbed, so much the better. Johnson insisted he'd wanted to be Oprah's guest that very first day, but owing to "Vice's" 18-20 hour-a-day shooting schedule, "they wouldn't let me come."

On the other hand, the second surprise might have been what Oprah's staff had prepared for Monday's Very Last Season Debut, in which Paul Simon came out onstage to play an updated version of a song, the audience was told, he wrote for Oprah 15 years ago for her 10th anniversary show.

It definitely came as a heart-pounding, head-spinning surprise to us that Simon was in a place, 15 years ago, in which he thought writing ditties for Oprah's syndicated talk show was a good career move.

Rounding out Monday's episode, Oprah wept as Simon sang to her:

If you look into your future life,
decades from this question,
do you imagine a familiar light burning in the distance,
the love that never dies?
Twenty five years have come and gone,
and that story's still unfolding,
suitcase packed, you're moving on,
with the memories you're holding,
and you'll be home when you arrive.

(Take a look at Oprah over the years in this gallery.)

By Lisa de Moraes  |  September 13, 2010; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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I hope things work out better for Sydney than they did for Pontiac.

Posted by: mattintx | September 13, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Finally, this overpriced/overpaid whale is leaving. Now if we can get rid of all the night talkshow hosts save for David Letterman....or, at least, bring back Dick Cavett.

Posted by: bigisle | September 13, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Is she still on the air? I haven't watched Oprah in years. Think back before the Oprah Book Club debuted. When she rolled out the book club was when she and I parted ways. I didn't need someone to tell me what to read. I still can't grasp the Oprah with her new age beliefs with the hatred/bigotry of Rev Wright's preachings. I still wonder which Oprah attended his church. Oh well bye bye!!

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | September 13, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Cult Of Oprah. Just go away.

Posted by: gce1356 | September 13, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

somewhat strange piece written
into male bashing much?

Posted by: Elisa2 | September 13, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Don't let the jealously eat y'all up, so negative. But guess what? she's a very PAID whale, haters!

Posted by: veholland | September 13, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse


The writer of this article is soo full of sarcasm and cynicism!

That was funny!

Posted by: coqui44 | September 13, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I have never watched her show on TV. Never, not once. Can anyone else make that claim?

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Posted by: gjhgklglghg | September 13, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

DrFish wrote: "I have never watched her show on TV. Never, not once. Can anyone else make that claim?"


I can! I tried to watch one much-ballyhooed episode about 3 or 4 years ago (I don't even remember the subject). But I couldn't get past the first 5 minutes.

And I've never had a Big Mac, either.

Posted by: Vosora | September 13, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Why won't "The BIG O" go "down under" to her home state of Miss? Why not do her last show down near her roots and deal with some of the real "black and white" human issues there? Glad she is leaving--one big distraction--but we all know that "The BIG O" isn't going anywhere. She'll continue to "dance with the ones what brung her," and continue her folly of relevancy. I never understood why folks loved O so much except that white folks viewed her as their Exhibit A, for "why can't all black folks be like Oprah" and somehow escape oppression and repression, a la don't have any black kids and don't marry a black man--their shining example of a "purified" black woman. I never saw O as an example of much of anything worth emulating. Her wealth was quite accidental, nothing she did on her own, just right place, right time, good advisors who handled every nuance of her life. What I remember most is that early on Shirley McClaine told Oprah that she needed to keep her show mostly about white causes and that is precisely what she did to stay vital to Hollywood. I'm a black woman and I have never "hated" O. I have found her to be quite phony and rather shallow. So, she taking a bunch of suck-ups down under? What I really want to know is why she has such tight-lipped controls over her former employees? What is that all about? What big secrets do they harbor? I say Big O--just go away.

Posted by: flrsg40 | September 13, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Haters, indeed...Back to your cubes!

Posted by: MsAyesha22 | September 13, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I really like Oprah Winfrey and I get to see her show every now and then. Hopefully she will have as much success as she's had on network TV and other in other areas. She has done a lot of good during her career so far but too bad she's not as perfect as some of the commenters here; some of you must be the cream of the crop.

I think it's Jill Scott that has this great song that's perfect for some of you to listen to.

Posted by: shejoy | September 13, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

You mean there won't be a Kindergarten class available for viewing on broadcast TV after a while? Say is ain't so, please . . . I need a goody bag . . . . to be happy, and fulfilled . . . Oh, what will I read???? Help, I need a huggggg . . . .

Posted by: rep15 | September 13, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Winfrey? Don't tell me she's still afloat? I could have sworn I saw the wreckage after that North Korea torpedo.Well well, will blunders never cease.We should be seeing the president elect being hugged by her sometime soon, a jolt of moral support as it were. Do muslims hug better? Imam Rauf? Hello? Better floor mats make for better worshippers, it's all in the knees, old boy. ciao

Posted by: boblusby | September 13, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing that with her vast wealth and ability to get her message out, Oprah would open her farewell season with John Travolta & giving a trip to Australia to her loyal audience. There are so many other worthy causes! I lost interest in Oprah years ago. She has become quite boring..her show a tribute to herself and her pre-occupation with herself. She holds herself out as a paragon of morality when she has been living out of wedlock with Stedman for more than 25 years. None of us is perfect,but most of us are not on t.v. saying that we are!

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Posted by: mooncusser | September 14, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

And no, I'm not an Oprah fan but think she's a terrific actor (The Color Purple et al) and I wish her continued success. She has a following and people enjoy her.

Posted by: mooncusser | September 14, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

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