Phil Donahue

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Before there was The Oprah Show, there was The Phil Donahue Show. When Oprah first started her talk show in Chicago 25 years ago, Phil was the reigning king of daytime. "When I first came to Chicago, my boss at the time freed me because he said, 'We know you can't beat Donahue so don't even worry about that. Just be yourself. We're not going after Donahue's ratings,'" Oprah says. "If we'd set out to try to beat Phil Donahue, we never would have succeeded."

Oprah says she was stunned when her brand new show got higher ratings than the seasoned Donahue. "Nobody expected me to beat Phil Donahue, nor did I," she says. "So when that happened it was like, 'Whoa. What is that?' That was a huge victory for me, an overweight black woman with a Jheri curl. I didn't think he could be beaten so I wasn't trying to."

Now, in her 25th season, Oprah is looking forward to a sit-down with Phil Donahue, who has never appeared on Oprah's show. "Donahue is sort of the king for me because he opened the door and made this all possible," Oprah says. "Over the years I have never forgotten that had there not been him, there couldn't be me."