Getting tickets to the Oprah Show is not an easy task. In fact I think the odds are much like being struck by lightening or winning the lottery. Ms. Winfrey uses an on-line system to request tickets and only accepts requests for the following calendar month. If you can imagine how many hopeful fans and viewers like myself are all vying for tickets, you understand the odds.
There are two tapings most weekdays. The first is at 9:00 am and the guests must be in line between 7:00 am – 7:30 am, but usually show up around 6:00 am. The second taping begins at 1:00 pm and guests must line up between 11:00 am – 11:30 am, and we were there at 10:15 am with about 100 other guests.
A steel-framed canvas awning with screened sides now protects the line up outside the building. Something I sure became necessary as more and more people were lining up in all kinds of weather. After one hour outside, we hit the doors for the building where we are explicitly told there are no photos allowed. This is the security line-up. “Reservation and photo ID out please, the lead name in your party must be first” repeated over and over. We passed a coat check and got a yellow number to reclaim our items after the show, and then check-in to ensure our name is listed for this show. We are handed two pieces of paper; one blue is the video release form, one green is the ‘who the heck are you?’ form. Getting through security requires all women giving up purses and everyone going through the metal detector. Purses are searched and all electronic items must be left with security. I was given a number in order to reclaim my items after the show, and a nearly empty purse to take with me to the show.
After security we are all herded upstairs into a holding room for another hour. The room holds about 300 people in rows of chairs. There are large photos on the walls of Oprah with some of her more popular guests and two televisions on opposing walls playing the Oprah 20th Anniversary DVDs with little to no volume. Still, we eagerly watched and laughed at all the right times while comparing stories as to how we managed to be part of the exclusive group that day. We are handed pens to fill out our paperwork and told the blue paper is our ticket into the studio. Should we need to go back downstairs to the toilet, the blue sheet must remain on our seat or the seat will be given to someone else.
The female security guard begins to speak over the PA system alerting us we are almost there. She calls about 15 different names and their parties. The Oprah veterans in the crowd let us know those lucky few have been chosen to sit in the front rows. The rest of us attempt not be bothered by that and excited for them, but we are, and we are not! When it is time for the rest of us to go into the studio, we are called in groups of 25 based on the numbers at the top of our blue forms. Jeff and I hold numbers 130 and 131.
I am sure there have been incidents of pushing and tripping on stairs as fanatics attempt to be the first in the studio, creating the need for these numbers and the constant instructions to ‘WALK, SINGLE FILE, Please!’. Here is the irony of the numbers game. Those folks that decided to line up very early are seated first, starting at the far left of the studio. Jeff and are perfectly fit in the middle near the top with a great view. The guests with the numbers around 225 and higher are on the far right, thinking they are going to be left out. Wouldn’t you know it, Oprah entered and exists the stage on the right so those who showed up at 11:00 am as told get to ‘high-five’ the media icon as she passes by. The early bird doesn’t always get the worm!
The guests that appear on the show are seated last in the front few rows, two deep steps lower than the stage.
There are LCD screens everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, with the Oprah logo on a green-fading-to-orange background. A few of larger screens also have “The Farewell Season” written across the bottom. The stage itself is much larger (deeper) than it appears on television. Oprah and her guest actually sit only on the front 20% in a small, oval carpet area with a darker perimeter creating the most famous letter ‘O’.
The remainder of the stage is props of lit screens around a huge shiny cube with a monitor on the front where any of her video clips appear. The stage crew is all in black, and there are many of them, scurrying about with equipment and bringing out the butter yellow leather chairs.
After the Audience has been warmed up and told about the topic, we are ready to meet the start of the show! Oprah walks out from stage right carrying her ’22-minute heels’ and wearing metallic flats. She gets the front of the stage and explains how she hates uncomfortable shoes so only wears them when necessary. Her PA is primping her clothes and now getting down on the floor and putting the ’22-minute heels’ on for Oprah. Oprah makes some small talk and gets a brief on how the show will lay out.
Surprising to me, Oprah did not seem to know as much about the show or the run-sheet as I thought she would. She is told where to stand and the teleprompter shows her what to say and when. Between clips her make up is fixed with more primping of the clothes so everything looks just right, along with whispered directions. Oprah cracked a few jokes and made a few comments to the audience when the tape wasn’t rolling. She was very focused on the show and still mindful to include the 300 or so that come to watch.
The stage crew continually adds those yellow, leather chairs as more guests appear and then remove them and assist guest off the stage as quickly as they arrived. All the television screens play the video clips but the actual show does not appear on them. The microphones are not turned very high to avoid feedback so we really needed to be silent and listen to hear what she and her guests were saying.
We were not told when to applaud and when to be quiet, yet when the emotional field in the studio was somber or sad, everyone seemed to intuitively get the same feel without a single miscue.
After the show is over and Oprah has ‘left the building’, we are again instructed to leave the studio in a very orderly fashion – section by section in single file. Security guards stand to monitor our behavior and lead the guest back the claim area for electronics and coats. Making sure everyone gets the correct items takes some time. From there, it is back out on to the street, and for most, a trip to the Oprah Store.