Making Oprah's Favorite Things
This year Oprah wanted to use Favorite Things to thank her most loyal fans—the viewers in the area around Macon, Georgia. At 4 p.m. every day, 45 percent of the televisions on in Macon are tuning in to The Oprah Winfrey Show!
Days before the big show, crew members in Chicago packed up Harpo Studios in Chicago, including everything they'd need for the show, and headed off on an 800-mile road trip.
Oprah says the front-page headline in the next day's Macon Telegraph is one of her favorites ever—"Oprah Lands in Macon, Dines at Fish 'N Pig."
"I have to say 'howdy-do' to Em and Gloria at the 1842 Inn who always had a warm cheese biscuit, a plate of cookies and a glass of wine waiting for us in the parlor at the end of the day," Oprah says. "Thank you so much. They call themselves 'Ladies of the Evening.'"
In the morning, Oprah and her producers met up for their first order of business—a morning meeting over a Southern breakfast of grits, muffins and eggs.
As the caravan starts to leave, a crowd of Maconites forms—a local paper has created an "Oprah Tracker" on its website to let readers know Oprah and her crew's every move in town.
With a full crowd following, Oprah next visits a shoe boutique owned by the widow and daughter of legendary soul singer Otis Redding.
Oprah gets a serious welcome from the crowd at H&H Restaurant, an old hangout of the Allman Brothers Band, where 76-year-old Mama Louise and 94-year-old Mama Hill have been serving Southern style soul food since the mid 1950s.
Macon insiders say visitors just have to try the famous Nu-Way Weiners—a Macon staple since 1916.
Macon escaped the destruction of the Civil War that ruined some other Southern cities, so many of the gorgeous mansions and ornate buildings in town date back over 150 years.
During the 1960s, Macon was a hub of Civil Rights protest and attracted great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Even during that turbulent time, one thing all Maconites could agree on was music. Legendary musicians Otis Redding and Little Richard were raised in Macon, and James Brown and the Allman Brothers Band made their mark in town.
Macon is also home of the Tubman African-American Museum, named for Harriet Tubman—a woman who escaped slavery in Maryland and devoted her life to helping other slaves escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
"You never know when I'm going to come knocking!" Oprah says.
See what it takes to pull off Oprah's Favorite Things.
No one from the outside was allowed in—including cleaning crews. "We decided not to let any local Macon people in the auditorium so that we wouldn't blow the surprise, so we are literally cleaning the bathrooms ourselves," says senior associate producer Brian.
Twenty hours before the show, Oprah sees the elaborate stage for the first time. "One of my favorite things about our Favorite Things show is when we pull the presto change-o switcheroo from an historic Southern mansion to Christmas magic," Oprah says.
On Saturday morning, way before the crack of dawn, production designer Tara Denise and her crew rehearse to make sure their complex stage trick is actually going to work. "What makes it even more complex—if it's even possible—is that it's two sets. We've got to do one set to fake everybody out," Tara says. "This is so fun because the whole idea is to keep it a secret. Half the fun's over if it's not a surprise."
Things come to a nail-biting standstill back at the auditorium when a generator truck malfunctions, taking the satellite truck and control room with it—"the lights went out in Georgia!" Without power, there will be no show.
After some amazing emergency surgery on the truck, the show will go on. Now, it's time to let the audience in on this very big secret—and no one is more excited than Oprah. "It's a very fun show, and it's very exciting to be able to give things away. The truth is, I realize that they're just things and that a panini maker cannot change your life," she says. "Most people never want anything or got anything in their whole lives for free. So what it does is, is it creates a level of excitement and hopeful energy for you that you believe good things can happen. And good things do. And so in that way, you are changed. You are not changed by the things, but you are changed by the experience of it all."
Don't feel like you have to only serve this at home. Paula says it can also make a great holiday gift for the food lover in your life. "If you've been invited to a party and you want just a little hostess gift? You can put this in clear paper or a pretty antique dish," Paula says. "Tie a ribbon around it, and you've got a gift that folks will just love."
Then it's time for the presentation meeting for Oprah in which hundreds of products are auditioned—everything from food to games to beauty products. The scrutiny is intense. It's not enough if Oprah likes an item...she has to love it.
Everything around Oprah's Favorite Things is hush-hush. Once the items are narrowed down, the producers work with spy-like secrecy to collect all of the items, organize the audience gift bags and ship everything down to Georgia—all without anybody knowing!
Watch Josh perform "Little Drummer Boy."
Josh says he was honored to be asked to perform at Oprah's Favorite Things. "I can feel the energy here. It's really, really cool to be here," Josh says. "Oprah's been kind enough to have me on many times, but this is special."
Watch Josh's online exclusive performance of "Amazing Grace."
Relive all of Oprah's Favorite Things 2007