Oprah showed her first boss, Harold Crump, the royal treatment in Chicago.
Not only did O invite the Hubbard Broadcasting exec to Tuesday's United Center taping of her two-hour farewell shows, to air Monday and Tuesday, but she also invited Crump, his wife, Leigh, and daughter Missy Porter to an exclusive A-lister after-party at the Four Seasons.
"We didn't know who was invited [to the after party]," he said. "She had invited all the star guests who had been on the shows taped. I couldn't believe it. I'm talking to Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, who was just super, and Stedman, of course, and her. We didn't leave there until 2 o'clock in the morning.
"It was just one of those unusual circumstances," he said. "Everybody was so loose because there weren't that many folks there. I don't mean to tell you it was small -- I would guess the total was less than 100. They were smart enough not to put us at tables. We just had all this stuff to eat and drink all around. Everybody was mixing and mingling."
The Crumps' biggest thrill, according to Leigh Crump, came when Oprah arrived at the party and walked over saying, Oh, Harold! Crump was station manager at Nashville's WTVF-TV when he told Oprah she should be in front of the camera, not behind it. And the rest is history.
"Even then at age 19," Crump said, "Oprah's telegenic charisma was obvious."
The second biggest thrill was provided by the star of "The Dr. Oz Show."
Crump told Dr. Oz -- host of Leigh Crump's second favorite talk show -- that Leigh was very upset the doctor was not present to pick up his 2010 Emmy at the National Television Academy's telecast in Las Vegas. Dr. Oz explained that last year's telecast fell on his 25th wedding anniversary, and he chose to spend that night with his wife, Lisa.
Dr. Oz said he would definitely be in Las Vegas for the 2011 Emmys, and he asked if his wife could snap a photo of him with the Crumps. Dr. Oz promised to send Crump a copy. "I got it," said Crump. "It was here when I returned from Chicago."
The final shows
"It was just an unreal experience. The audience was just berserk the whole time, as they should have been," Harold Crump said of the United Center tapings.
The heavy speculation is that Wednesday's final "Oprah Winfrey Show," airing locally on WCCO-TV at 4 p.m., may not have a studio audience. USA Today said Oprah is aiming for an exit as iconic as Mary Tyler Moore turning off the lights at Minneapolis' fictional WJM after she and her treasured colleagues had centipeded in a hugging circle across the studio floor for tissues to dry their eyes.
Crump had expected to be seated down on the floor for the taping, but Oprah had other ideas. "We were so fortunate, she put us in a suite [at the basketball arena] and had a waitress there taking care of us," he said.
Their most well-known suite-mate was political analyst Donna Brazile.
"I knew Donna was reasoned and intelligent but I had no idea what a sense of humor she has," said Leigh Crump. "I would keep hearing snippets. They talked about planting 25,000 trees in honor of Oprah so Oprah parodied her car giveaway -- You get a tree, you get a tree. And Donna said, I don't think I need to take a tree away from Chicago."
What was Aretha wearing? "Bless her heart, she still has a voice," said Leigh, avoiding my attire inquiry.
Leigh was eager to discuss "the first time I've seen [Stedman] take a public stand, talking directly to Oprah from the stage during the second show, saying how much he loved her and what he admired about her. And I felt Maya Angelou captured the unique broadcasting mindset of Oprah in a poem that said Oprah sees no person below her or above her. I am fascinated by someone of Oprah's means who has spent so much of her money on other people."
And yet, "As we were leaving the arena, I heard one young girl on her cellphone saying, Well, she didn't give us anything. It was just all about Oprah." When you have as many fans as Oprah, there will be a few dummies in the crowd.
"I think that the producers who did this for her were smart as they could be," said Harold Crump. "What they did is review what kind of a person Oprah has become over the last 25 years by noting all the entities she has given money to and helped. You're going to see over 100 men walk in from Morehouse University in Atlanta, the school in South Africa and all kinds of things. It was one surprise after another."
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