Twenty Questions for Oprah
A: In the course of a segment, a man mentioned his book 26 times. The 27th time, I stopped the interview and said, "Do you think we don't know the name of the book? Audience, what's the name of the book?" They all said it simultaneously, and I said, "Now, can we continue without your mentioning the book, sir?"
Q: Have you ever been so taken with an audience member that they became a guest?
A: In the early days, audience members were guests—that's how we booked the shows. We would go out beforehand and ask for stories. If someone sounded good enough, we'd put that person onstage or build the show around them. You could never trust that method today.
A: During our shock mode in the late eighties, a husband appeared with his wife and mistress together. We were live on the air, and he told his wife that his mistress was pregnant. I didn't know it was coming, and neither did his wife. The humiliation and pain I saw on her face changed forever the way I handled my job. I thought no one should ever have to experience being surprised by pain in front of an audience. I couldn't take that moment back, but I could do everything in my power to ensure it didn't happen on my watch again.
Q: Which shows are you proudest of?
A: I'm proud of how we evolved from a TV show to an hour filled with purpose and intention. The show is a force for good. Good information. Good entertainment. Goodwill.
Q: Is it hard to let go of certain stories? Are there any that stayed with you long after the show aired?
A: The one about Forsyth County, Georgia, where they didn't allow black people in the town, stayed with me for days. Also the one about a town in West Virginia that tried to ban a young man with AIDS in 1987. This summer I told that story to the press in South Africa. I said, "Less than 20 years ago, we were as ignorant in some parts of the U.S. as you all are now. But you can turn it around with education and information." I have a lifetime of stories still living in my heart.
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