Oprah and Gayle

Day six of Oprah and Gayle's cross-country journey began with a rousing rendition of "Oklahoma" and a chance meeting with two handsome cowboys...but things soon took a turn. Oprah says she and Gayle got into the worst spat of their 30-year friendship somewhere outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. What did they argue about? Song lyrics.

The fight had been brewing for two days. While driving across the plains, Oprah and Gayle began discussing the meaning of "Graceland," a Paul Simon song that Oprah says is one of her all-time favorites.

"Was he talking about Elvis Presley's Graceland when he did that?" Gayle said.

"He was talking about going to Graceland," Oprah said. "Yes."

"I thought he was talking about something in Africa, and his love for Africa," Gayle said. "The story doesn't make any sense about going to Elvis Presley's home. ... I understood 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.' That made sense."

"Gayle, it does," Oprah said. "He obviously liked Elvis Presley, and he's finding some solace there."

After a lengthy disagreement, Oprah says she was very frustrated with her friend. "What I wanted to do was stop the car, open the door and get out," she says. Instead, Oprah took a few "cleansing breaths" and continued on toward Tulsa.
Paul Simon

Even with a copy of Paul Simon's lyrics, Oprah and Gayle couldn't agree on the meaning of his song, "Graceland." Who did they find to settle their dispute? The songwriter himself!

"Let me see if I can clarify the issue a little bit," Paul says. "Oprah, you're right. The song is about a real trip that I took to Graceland. It's not really autobiographical, although there are elements that are. It is about a trip there with a father and his 9-year-old son trying to find some kind of solace from a loss of love."

Before Oprah can gloat, Paul says that Gayle's interpretation is also right! "The song is also about Africa," he says. "The song was made in South Africa, and the musicians were South African. ... The South Africans were going through a time when they went through the reconciliation with their past, and in that way, that's what the father was looking for in his trip to Graceland and hoping to find there. So in a sense, you're both right!"

Now that the spat is settled, Gayle says she's never discussing "Graceland" ever again!
Oprah and Gayle shopping in Dillard's

When Oprah and Gayle began their adventure, they never expected that their road trip would make national headlines...until they arrived in Tulsa. Gayle, a big fan of the blockbuster movie Wedding Crashers, decided that she and Oprah should surprise some Tulsa newlyweds. Although Oprah says she was apprehensive, she went along for the ride.

They couldn’t crash a wedding empty handed, so after they checked into the Crown Plaza Hotel, Oprah and Gayle went straight to Dillard's department store. "Finding the perfect gift for two sets of perfect strangers was harder than we thought," Oprah says.

Although they hoped to slip in and out of the department store without being noticed, crowds gathered as Oprah perused the couples' wedding registries. After much consideration, Oprah settled on a set of dishes for both couples.
Naomi, Marva and Gayle

After picking out a great wedding gift, Oprah went back to the hotel to rest, but Gayle continued to shop. "We're going to church tomorrow in Arkansas," she said. "I don't have any dresses that are appropriate for church."

Without her best friend there to help her pick out an outfit, Gayle got fashion advice from two vocal shoppers—Marva and Naomi. While Marva liked a purple dress that Gayle tried on, Naomi said it was too flashy. The ladies finally agree on a brown dress.

"In honor of Naomi and Marva, I wore the dress today," Gayle says. "Don't you like how perfect strangers take it upon themselves to say, 'Oh, that don't look good,' but I really appreciated it."
Linda, Oprah and Bethany

All dressed up with somewhere to go, Oprah began to have second thoughts about crashing a stranger's wedding.

"We started to have doubts about it," she says. "I did for sure. ... I wasn't so sure that they were going to be happy to see us, and I wasn't so sure that we weren't going to get thrown out and have a really, highly embarrassing moment."

Oprah summoned her courage and arrived at the reception of the first unsuspecting couple—Bethany and Morgan. Oprah greeted the bride and groom, visited with the mother of the bride and then had a sudden realization—they didn't believe she was really Oprah Winfrey!

"I'm really Oprah," she said.

"You're not really Oprah," said Linda, the mother of the bride. "I think I've had too much to drink."

"I really am!" Oprah said as she took off her wide-brimmed hat to show the wedding guests that she wasn't a phony. As a final test of authenticity, the bride's father asked Oprah what her time was in the Chicago marathon she ran years ago. Thankfully, Oprah still remembered. "4 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds," she said.
Gayle and Oprah with the wedding party

Gayle and Oprah decided to press their luck and crash a second wedding reception, which was in full swing across the street. Heather and Ben, the bride and groom, immediately recognized the uninvited guests and welcomed them with open arms.

The wedding crashers joined in on the festivities and took a few pictures. Before saying their goodbyes, Oprah was even invited to give a toast to the happy couple.

"May I just say that I think that marriage is a journey," Oprah said. "I hope that God holds you in the palm of his hands and doesn't squeeze you too tightly. May you both be blessed."
Heather, Ben, Bethany and Morgan

No bride likes to be upstaged at her own wedding, but these newlyweds say they're happy that Oprah and Gayle made a surprise appearance at their receptions.

"Just because you were there was amazing," Heather says. "Anybody would want you guys to come to a wedding!"

Ben, Heather's husband, says that despite some media reports, his mother was not angry that Oprah and Gayle showed up uninvited. "She wasn't upset that you came," he says. "When we were on our honeymoon, she got 80 calls from everybody."

"The media was crazy!" Heather says. "Neither one of us expected how much media attention it would get."

Linda, Bethany's mom, says that it was wonderful to have Oprah and Gayle at her daughter's reception. "You were like the icing on an already perfect cake!" she says.
Oprah at St. James Missionary Baptist Church

The morning after the weddings Oprah and Gayle hit a milestone. "We'd been on the road for one week, and it was time for some divine intervention," Oprah says. "I wanted to find a good church with some good choir singing to help sustain me for the rest of the [trip]."

Oprah and Gayle made the two-hour drive from Tulsa to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and arrived at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in time to hear an inspirational sermon from Pastor Gary Hinkel. The pastor invited Oprah on stage to share a few words with the congregation.

"I am so pleased to be here to share the spirit of God with you all," she said. "This is our seventh day traveling to New York City, and I said to the crew, 'We have to find somebody's church to give praise to the Lord.'"

The St. James choir closed the service with a song that Oprah says she'll never forget. As the choir sang, "I pray for you. You pray for me. I need you to survive," Oprah and Gayle wiped tears from their cheeks. As they left the church, Oprah and Gayle felt a sense of renewal.

"I now know I can make it the rest of the way," Oprah said.
Elvis Presley's jumpsuits

A day's drive after leaving Fort Smith, the Impala crossed the Mississippi River, headed down Elvis Presley Boulevard, and arrived at Graceland, Elvis Presley's home.

There Lisa Marie, Elvis's daughter, and Angie Marchesi, Graceland's archive director, led Oprah and Gayle on a private tour. Once they were behind the velvet ropes in the famed residence, they got to see some of the King's preserved possessions and rooms.
Oprah, Lisa Marie, Gayle and Angie in a secret Elvis library

Though millions of fans have toured Graceland, no ticket could get you into the last room on the tour—a secret library of Elvis memorabilia. Its very existence is so top secret that The Oprah Show cameras were turned off to protect the location. The room—which houses Elvis's most personal possessions—is fireproof, earthquake-proof and tornado-proof.

Most of the things in this room—which include signed checks, more than 60,000 photographs, his famous sunglasses and 88 jumpsuits—have never even been seen by the public!

Lisa Marie says having all of her dad's things around is comforting. "It's like a little time capsule of the past. Nothing's changed."
A spread fit for the King

After the private tour concluded, Lisa Marie invited Oprah and Gayle to dinner at the Presley family table, the first nonfamily dinner guests since the King passed away.

The meal was a traditional Southern buffet featuring all of Elvis's favorite foods—corn bread, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, creamed corn, fried chicken, fried catfish, okra, fried corn, fried green tomatoes, butter beans, and biscuits. Then it was time for dessert—strawberry cake, red velvet cake and banana pudding! "Elvis had a lot of food he liked," Oprah says.

Lisa Marie's husband, music producer and guitarist Michael Lockwood, joined them for dinner. Both Lisa Marie and Michael are vegetarians, but meat dishes were specially made for Oprah and Gayle. Talk about Southern hospitality!
Lisa Marie and her husband, Michael, dine with Oprah and Gayle.

During dinner, conversation turned to Lisa Marie's memories of growing up at Graceland. One thing she remembers is that her dad would always sit at the head of the table, and she would always sit right next to him.

Oprah had a surprise for Lisa Marie. "Did you know my family were Presleys? We're like 18th cousins or something," she said. "My grandmother was a Presley."

Lisa Marie was excited to confirm the familial relation. "She was? I read that in the tabloid but I wasn't sure that it was true," she said. "You're my family."
The Peabody's famous ducks

As day eight began, Oprah and Gayle came downstairs to the lobby of the posh Peabody hotel, where they'd spent the night. There they ran into a throng of excited fans. Only, they weren't assembled for the famous road trippers...they were there to see a flock of Memphis's biggest local celebrities.

Everyday at 11 a.m., several ducks take an elevator down from their home on the roof of the Peabody and waddle down a red carpet to the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. They swim around there until their "shift" ends at 5 p.m.

This tradition started in the 1930s when, as a prank, a Peabody manager put ducks in the fountain. An instant hit with guests, the ducks quickly took up permanent residence. Now overseen by a "duckmaster," they work for 90 days before retiring to a private reserve.
The Lorraine Motel

Before leaving Memphis, Oprah and Gayle made a pilgrimage to honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose dream of equality changed America, and whose life continues to be a lesson in faith and courage.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King gave what would be his final speech in Memphis, where he was helping a sanitation workers' strike. In what is called his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, Dr. King spoke like a man who knew he didn't have long to live.

The next day, he stepped out onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and, at 6:01 p.m., the man who fought a war without ever firing a gun was downed by an assassin's bullet. The civil rights leader was just 39 years old.
Oprah and Gayle at the Lorraine Motel

At the Lorraine Motel, Oprah and Gayle were struck by the immense power of standing in the exact spot where Dr. King was assassinated. "To see it in the pictures so many times and be standing here...wow," Gayle said.

The day he died, Dr. King had asked his friends to play his favorite spiritual, "Precious Lord." It now plays continuously in the preserved room at the Lorraine where he died.
Oprah and Gayle

On Tuesday, October 17, the Big Adventure will roll in to the finish line in New York City...but not before a final 30 minutes that left Oprah terrified.

"I wouldn't say terrifying," Gayle counters. "It was a little dicey."

Oprah and Gayle enter the home stretch.
FROM: Oprah and Gayle's Big Adventure, Part 4
Published on January 01, 2006


Next Story