Lisa Erspamer, a 10-year veteran of The Oprah Winfrey Show
, helped produce a magical moment with John Travolta to help Oprah celebrate her 50th birthday.
"The day before, John had flown in to practice, and all day long, when it came to the toast, he wouldn't do it for us," Lisa explained. "So we were dying to know what the toast was going to be! I thought that he did such a great job. We were crying in the control room!"
With nine years of producing under her belt, Tara Montgomery says rehearsing with Tina Turner was definitely a highlight. "It was a total thrill. She didn't know she was a surprise [guest], so when she found out, she was so excited," Tara says. "I got to be you [Oprah] for the rehearsal, and we had to rehearse several times. Tina wanted to hug you and greet you, so I said, 'Okay, I'll be Oprah!' It was a complete thrill!"
Another one of Lisa's favorite moments came from our exclusive broadcast from the Kodak Theater after the Oscars® in 2004. Oprah asked fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi to name his five best-dressed women at the ceremony. Unfortunately, his list didn't include another guest on the show—Julia Roberts. So Julia gave Isaac a hard time, jokingly. "She's hilarious," Lisa says. "Isaac Mizrahi came offstage after his segment and Julia said to him, 'I am here! I am sitting in the green room and you didn't even mention me!' She is so much fun."
Another very memorable moment came from the Incredible Weight Loss Stories. At the age of 32, David Caruso weighed in at a whopping 525 pounds. When he realized his life was slipping away from him, he decided it was finally time to make a change. He lost over 300 pounds, and had only one wish—to sit in a Porsche.
Well, we not only let him sit in one, we gave him a Porsche Boxster of his very own!
"That still is one of my all-time favorite moments on television," Oprah says. "The moment that nobody saw was when he was standing in the corner and he just mouthed the words, 'Thank you' to me. There's that moment when you look in a person's eyes and you see their soul—I was a basket case!"
"Some of my favorite moments are the practical joke shows we do with Jamie Kennedy," says Terry, a 10-year veteran of the show. When the renowned prankster posed as a Oprah's annoying personal assistant (with the goal of fooling some women who thought they were at Harpo to shadow Oprah), there was just one problem: none of the women were buying it...until Venis came along!
Watch what happened!
"We were all biting our fingernails backstage," remembers Terry. "We had Oprah, Jamie Kennedy, everyone here for this thing—and nothing was working. Thank God for Venis Duncan!"
Another one of producer Tara's favorite moments happened when Oprah held a roundtable discussion with former batterers. Oprah asked what it takes to change that behavior—the answer, from a man named Zeke, was illuminating.
"That's probably the easiest question so far," he said. "Learning to tolerate pain, and learning to manage emotions that don't feel good."
Zeke's observation made Tara and Oprah see abuse as a response to pain—a response that is socially unacceptable and therefore often misunderstood. "This was a way for us to see it in a new light and maybe reach out to batterers in that way and show them in a different light," says Tara. "I remember when we left. We were both like, 'Wow. We never thought of it that way.'"
Another favorite producer moment involved a blind woman who, with the aid of special lenses, regained her sight.
As a result of that show, another blind woman named Helen learned about and went through the same procedure in 2003. "Thanks to you and your wonderful staff," Helen told us, "I can see again. ... I had never seen my husband or daughter before. ... It's a whole new world."
One unforgettable guest is Lauren Manning, a woman who survived the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Although she was severely burned, Lauren says that her love for her husband and son gave her the will to survive and heal.
"Lauren's story definitely changed me as a mother," says producer Andrea Wishom. "I could relate to her saying that she wanted to live for her son. ... I definitely feel like it made me realize that we have choices every day. She clearly chose to be that spirit that she was—and is."
To date, Lauren has had more than 20 surgeries, and there are more to come. Doctors say that she has made tremendous progress. Her son Tyler is now three years old.
Published on April 22, 2004