HOLLYWOOD’S A-list celebrities bid a star-studded farewell to Oprah Winfrey in a double-taping of her talk show that included messages from her fans around the world.
“I feel the love and I thank you for it,” Winfrey told the crowd at Chicago’s United Centre. “Thank you for being a part of this great night, this celebration of what you have done for The Oprah Winfrey Show. You have made it possible for us to stand for 25 years.”
Winfrey’s producers made good on their promise of the biggest stars of movies, music and television for Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular. The 13,000 fans who attended the event gave the talk show host a standing ovation.
Aretha Franklin sang Amazing Grace, Tom Hanks acted as host for the evening, Michael Jordan told Winfrey she inspires him, Jerry Seinfeld gave a comedy routine and Madonna said she is among the millions of people who are inspired by Winfrey.
“She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular,” Madonna said.
Tom Cruise, Simon Cowell and Rosie O’Donnell also made an appearance while Grammy winner John Legend was beamed in from a New Orleans school.
Winfrey announced in November 2009 that she would end her popular talk show after 25 years. This taping will air on May 23 and 24, before Winfrey’s final show on May 25.
“You always had the power, and that is the message you brought into our lives,” Cruise told Winfrey after walking in to the Mission Impossible music.
The show highlighted Winfrey’s charity efforts over the years and she was lauded for her book club, which inspired millions to read.
Josh Groban and Patti LaBelle sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow as Winfrey sat in a white chair onstage. Jamie Foxx and Stevie Wonder sang Isn’t She Lovely to Winfrey. Wonder followed with his own song, singing, “Oprah, thank you for using your gifts to uplift so many hearts”.
Winfrey’s long-time partner Stedman Graham introduced Franklin after telling Winfrey he loved her and was proud of her.
“It really does amaze me that I get to be around a woman who changes people’s lives every day and who also takes her own lunch to work,” Graham told the crowd. “You know what really is amazing? You have done this, sweetheart, through all of the sacrifices you’ve made, humility you have and through God’s amazing grace.”
That’s when Franklin took to the stage in a one-shouldered white gown to sing Amazing Grace. She later joined Usher for the show’s finale song, Oh Happy Day, as confetti filled the arena.
Maria Shriver, the TV journalist and Kennedy heiress, appeared on the same day it was revealed her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, fathered a child with a woman on his household staff more than a decade ago. Shriver did not mention her husband during the taping.
“You have given me love, support, wisdom and most of all the truth,” Shriver told Winfrey. “And I know I’m not alone in receiving those gifts from you.”
The taping of the second show began with Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who thanked Winfrey and told her she mothered millions and “that puts you in the status of a goddess”.
Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes and Dakota Fanning all appeared, along with newswoman Diane Sawyer.
Beyonce sang Run the World (Girls) backed by dozens of dancers.
The stadium was decorated with pictures of Winfrey at seminal moments over the course of her career. Boxes of tissues were on scattered seats throughout the audience.
More than 154,000 ticket requests were made to attend the show, which were free and distributed through a lottery.
The content of the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show is still under wraps.
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