Oprah’s Last Show

UPDATED 05/24/11 6:28 p.m.

CHICAGO (STMW) — They emerged squinting into the sunshine outside Harpo Studios, subdued and spent from the host’s extended solo goodbye on the final taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Tuesday afternoon. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on Oprah’s last day.

The taping began around 1 p.m., and the audience members, who exited a bit more than an hour later, said that in contrast to the just-aired, star-studded United Center tribute, the finale (airing at 9 a.m. Wednesday on WLS-Ch. 7) was an intimate affair.

“It was all Oprah,” said Tracy Stevenson, 50, an accountant who flew out from her Atlanta-area home when her girlfriend got tickets through the show’s online selection process. “She just spoke to the audience.”

Those who were inside said the audience did include some familiar faces, such as filmmaker Tyler Perry, actress Cicely Tyson, TV journalist and former California First Lady Maria Shriver, financial advisor Suze Orman, author Bob Greene, plus Winfrey’s longtime companion Stedman Graham and close friend Gayle King. Stevenson said Winfrey also gave a shout-out to her fourth-grade teacher for validating her dreams at an early age.

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But, audience members said, no one else talked but Winfrey.

“It was like a closing lesson of all the lessons she’s learned and found interesting that she wanted to pass on to her viewers,” said Jessica Llamas, 28, a Chicago dental hygienist. “In the beginning she said this was a letter to all her viewers.”

“It was really emotional,” said Llamas’s friend Paola Hernandez, 27, a Naperville food server. “We were sitting right in the second row, so we were unbelievably excited, and as soon as she came out, we started crying. We couldn’t hold it in.”

The audience, as usual, was primarily women, and Tammy Evrard, 28, who works in digital advertising in Chicago, said, “everybody there had never been to a taping before. That was the common connection.”

She and her husband, Curt Evrard, said Winfrey discussed and showed clips covering the show’s more serious topics, such as child abuse and molestation.

“It was a little heavy,” Curt Evrard said. “She’s closing the show, and she wanted to close it on her terms. It wasn’t a party. She’s shed light on a light of important issues.”

Tammy Evrard added that Winfrey aimed to empower the audience to keep fighting the good fights, saying, essentially: “Because I’m not here anymore, you should go out and be a beacon for other people.”

As she and others spoke on the Washington Street sidewalk following the taping, Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers, in his standard Cubs uniform (plus a white, sequined Michael Jackson glove on his left hand) stood on the corner chanting, “Oprah! Woo! Oprah! Woo!”

Audience members said the show ended with Winfrey leaving the stage, roaming the halls of Harpo Studios and thanking her staff; fan Angela Lapworth said Winfrey choked up as she said her thank yous and goodbyes to staff.

Stevenson says Winfrey told the standing-room-only crowd that she’s merely on to her next chapter. “It was basically ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you all’ and ‘it won’t be goodbye’; it will be ‘when we meet again,’” Stevenson said.

Finally, Winfrey stepped off the stage and passed through the crowd of standing audience members and staffers lining the hallways and populating the large staircase just inside the building’s main entrance.

“She started crying, and then everyone started crying,” Hernandez said, adding that a screen in the studio showed her making her way to her office, where “she literally kicked off her shoes, picked up her dog, and that was it.”

“And that’s the last we saw of her,” Llamas said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

More from Bob Roberts
  • Latifah

    It is a sad day to see Ophrah going away to LA and enjoy the warm weather over there. Why on earth she did not leave a substitute of any cute voice to replace her?All women are waiting for another Ophrah to take her place and take them to exotic places and give million dollar gifts and cars and everything else. Is there any candidate over there… somewhere… maybe miss world can come and start speaking nice and polite and all women will cling to her and make her our representative on TV. Any talents out there?

    • ucity88

      WTH? I’m not waiting for another Oprah to do anything…

      Let’s put this in perspective! A long-running talk show is ending. Not the whole world.

  • Ellen Redding-Jordan

    I was blessed to have meet Oprah, when she first came to Chicago, Oprah would stop in the Golden Bear Resturant on Chicago, Ave, and it wes a joy to serve her, she has such a wonderful givining sprit, and you know 25 years later she is the same person. May God watch over you, your family, your friends, your staff; and all of your audience.
    The lord gave you life for a reason, it was the rignt time, for you to be here these pass 25 years. You have opened your heart to use, and we have opened our heart to you also. It has been a blessing, you are right it’s not goodbye’; it will be “when we meet again,”

  • Phil

    She did leave someone to follow her, In the fall Rosie is going to start taping from the studio. I don’t know but I hope she is just as good as she was on the View. If anyone can get America to come around and accept that everyone of us are equal and deserve equal rights, Rosie can. I for one want to be at that first taping.

  • Canstandher

    Goodbye and good riddance

    • David G

      Dear Canstandher, I wonder what hurt you must have gone through to be so bitter. I wish you will learn to love.

      I will send you good thoughts.

      Walk good.

  • Timothy Fitz

    I have met Oprah many times on the streets of Chicago and in business settings. She was always pleasant. My nephew is related to one of her longtime staff members. I am sorry to see her leave Chicago.

  • Chicago dont need Oprah

    What did she ever do for Chicago? and Ronnie Woo Woo is a homeless bum, why is he mentioned in this article.

  • Roquellette

    Ronnie Woo Woo is not homeless. He is a gold digger. He found his gold in you know who. But he should be some kind of hero in this saga that is leaving a big void in a lot of womens lives. Please, get new Ophrah. Women are crying for another one. Yes, Yes.. we need someone that can do better than her. Call back Martha… she is such wonderful cook. She will really makes us look healthy and will cook for us wonderful and delicious meals. Call Latifah… may be she wants to do some shows.

  • quinn kukanza

    i laughed out loud at “ronnie woo woo is a homeless bum” but it is sad to see her go – fan or not. what are all the housewives and unemployed schmucks going to do at 9am every morning? well i guess they can watch that new abc show – windy city live that’s taking her place. i did a little googling and came across this blog, there’s not website for the show (odd!) but this is kind of interesting – http://bit.ly/lEZ8kk

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