Oprah Winfrey's Last Show: 'I Won't Say Goodbye'

2:23 PM PST 05/25/2011 by Lindsay Powers
(c) 2011 Harpo, Inc./George Burns. All Rights Reserved

Alternating between tears and laughter, Winfrey spent her final episode talking to fans about finding their purpose in life and recalling her best and worst moments.

Oprah Winfrey spent her last show speaking to fans about finding their purpose in life and acting on it.

"There are no words to match this moment," said Oprah from Chicago's Harpo soundstage as several members of her audience teared up. "Every word I've ever spoken from the stage of the Oprah show -- 4,561 days of my life -- is what this moment is all about. Yesterday, you heard the legendary Aretha Franklin sing what has really been a constant in the theme of my life: 'Amazing Grace.' And how truly amazing it is: this journey that you and I have shared together." PHOTOS: Oprah's most memorable moments

Oprah then spoke about her first days in Chicago with co-host Richard Scher, who watched from the audience.

"When I arrived in Chicago from Baltimore…I was just happy to get the job. And, as you can see from the first day on AM Chicago on WLS, I had no publicist, no stylist, there was no makeup team… just a jheri curl and a bad fur coat," she said as the audience displayed a mixture of laughter and tears and old footage played behind her. VIDEO: Remember these Oprah Show moments?

"When I came here, I was about to turn 30 years old. I didn't have a vision or a lot of great expectations -- Stedman always talks about vision," said Winfrey as cameras flashed to her longtime partner, who also surprised her in Chicago's United Center last week. "I just wanted to do a good job and cause no harm. I was so happy to get the job, I forgot to ask if I would have an audience." Read THR’s minute-by-minute live blog, and critics’ reviews of Oprah's United Center show.

Winfrey recalled that she didn't, so they set up folding chairs and recruited building workers and those off the street with the promise of free coffee and donuts.

"Soon after I started the show, something shifted for me. I started the show as a job," said Oprah. "It was not long before I realized something else going on here. More than just job satisfaction, something in me connected in each of you in a way that allowed me to see yourself in me and you and me. I listened and grew and you grew, sometimes I was a teacher, and more often you taught me."

“It is no coincidence that I always wanted to be a teacher, and I ended up in the world's biggest classroom. And this, my friends, will be our last class from this stage," continued Oprah. "So today, there will be guests, no makeovers, no surprises. You will not be getting a car or a tree," she said, referring to Diane Sawyer's announcement that more than 100,000 trees would be planted in honor of Oprah, "This last hour is really about me saying thank you. It is my love letter to you. I leave you with all the lessons that have been the anchor of my life, and the ones that I hold most precious."

Winfrey said she never missed one day of work in 25 years "because this is what I was called to do." Then she told her audience, "Everybody has a calling, and your job in life is to figure what that is and get about the business of doing it."

Winfrey then spoke about her show's unbelievable growth. "When I first started, not even I imagined this show would have the depth and the reach that you all have given it. it has been a privilege to me to speak to you here in this studio. In this country and 150 countries around the world."

Next, Winfrey switched gears and spoke about her United Center show. "They rehearsed in one day. [People ask], 'Was I surprised?' Did you see my face? That United Center experience was a love intervention on steroids for me."

Oprah then spoke about some of her earlier, more tabloid guests, and showed clips from The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Oscar in 1985 for playing Sofia.

"Don't wait for anybody to fix you, save you, complete you. Jerry Maguire was just a movie," she said.

Oprah then read fawning reader comments from Oprah.com, and showed footage of her wackiest moments over the years, including her riding an elephant, scaling a wall at marine boot camp and swinging from a rope.

Recalling the show's past, she said, "One day we're LOLing with Chris Rock, the next day we're at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] spending time with soldiers who lost their limbs. The day after that, we're sitting with an entire family of heroin addicts."

"The show has taught me there is a common thread that runs through all our pain and all our suffering, and that is unworthiness," she said, citing former protege Iyanla Vanzant as an example. (Oprah recently reconnected with Vanzant, who had been blacklisted from the Oprah show after she turned down an opportunity to produce her own show with Harpo to instead make her own deal.)

Winfrey said she spoke to 30,000 people over the past 25 years, and thanked her staff. "The team stays, Harpo stays, the building stays." Rosie O'Donnell's OWN talk show will be produced there, among other OWN shows.

"People ask the secret of the show's success, how have we lasted for 25 years? I non jokingly say: my team and Jesus," said Oprah in what then became an increasingly religious show. "Nothing but the hand of God made this possible for me."

Oprah said she is always asked about her regrets, and she said she has only one: "That I was not able to to bring enough attention - although I tried in 217 shows - was the sexual seduction, molestation and rape of children," she said.

"One of my proudest moments in the story of the Oprah show was when my friend Tyler Perry joined me on stage and gave us his testimony of abuse," she said as cameras panned to Perry in the audience, who had tears in his eyes and was clapping.

Oprah then gave out her personal email address, Oprah@oprah.com, and said she hoped to hear from audience members as she moved on to "my next life at OWN."

In the last 10 minutes, Oprah broke into what she calls her "ugly cry," when her face contorts as she tries to continue speaking. "You and this show have been the great love of my life," she said through tears.

"It's been all sweet, no bitter," she said. "We have hooted and hollered together, we ugly cried together" -- as the audience laughed and she paused to smile -- "and I thank you for all your support and trust in me. I thank you for sharing this yellow brick road in blessings, for tuning in every day with your mothers, daughters, partners, gay or otherwise, husbands coaxed into watching me. You were as much as as sweet inspiration to me as I tried to be for you."

Winfrey ended the show by saying, "I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, 'Until we meet again.' God be the glory." Then she walked off, gave Graham a kiss and a long hug and high-fived guests as she fought back tears.

As the credits rolled, she walked through Harpo Studios backstage, hugging crying staffers and shedding tears of her own. "We did it!" she said, throwing up her arms. She hugged her executive producer Sheri Salata. The last scene was her holding her dog, saying, "We did it Sadie!" as she walked out the door. VIDEO: OWN's first promo

Advertisers included Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda 2, MGM's Zookeeper and Pixar's Cars. Cars had a special ad that joked, "You get new cars. You get new cars. The world gets new cars!" to promote the sequel. The Hollywood Reporter has reported that 30-second spots cost $1 million.

Several of the ads were specifically targeted to the show, including one from Kohl's that "thanked Oprah."

Lindsay.Powers@Thr.com

Twitter: LKPE

comments powered by Disqus