More Producers' Favorite Moments
"I love Jennifer McDonald's story because she's not unlike a lot of single moms out there," Dana says. "To be able to give her not only a house but a home to keep her safe is really wonderful."
On the day of the show, Oprah pulled Dana out of her office, put her in front of the cameras and revealed her sister's radical new look. "I feel for every guest I've ever done this to," confessed Dana.
But Dana's professional instincts saved her from being overwhelmed with stage fright. "I'm having a whole conversation with myself: 'Dana, you're segment one and you're a really bad guest! You've got to snap out of this!'"
Dana was in her ninth month of pregnancy and experiencing shooting back pains when she heard a vaguely familiar voice say her name. She looked up to see Tom Cruise standing in her office. After that, it's all a blur: she was babbling; he was suddenly rubbing her back.
"I had no more pain. The pain was gone." Dana, still walking on air, called her husband to share. He was nonplussed: "I can take a lot of stuff. But to get a call from my wife saying that Tom Cruise is in her office rubbing her back? That's a little much."
"The moment that really got to me happened right after everybody had left the room and Esona came back in. She ran back to her mother's bed and she laid down there with her mom and she buried her head in her mother. It was just so sad because she didn't know if she would ever see her mother again. It was so heart-wrenching; it really put that face on AIDS that we never really see."
"You are the subject, Mr. Mandela," Oprah replied. "I hope you came to talk about yourself!"
For this very special guest, Harpo relaxed its rule about employees talking to celebrities. The whole building came out to see Mr. Mandela, and he shook hands with every staffer.
One such story was that of 22-year-old photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was covering the United Nations involvement in Mogadishu, Somalia, for the Reuters news agency. On July 12, 1993, a terrible bombing by U.N. forces killed or injured 60. The Somalians were so angry that they picked up pipes and stones and attacked the journalists. Dan started to run, but was hit with a large stone from behind and killed.
On the show, Dan's mother and sister, Kathy, told of how driven and full his tragically short life was, and how inspiring his has been to them. Kathy put together and book called Angel Catcher, "which now we've published, which we hope will help other people not only capture the essence of the person they've loved, but also help them going through the grieving process."
"Two kids were on the show named Kate and Zack. Their mom had died just a few months, I think, before they were on the show," Jill says. "Because they knew she was dying, they had spent a lot of time together taking trips, done a lot of family things together to pack a lot of time in."
In the show, Kate tells Oprah that one of her most favorite memories of this time with her mother was not the trips, but rather was the time that her mother woke her up so they could share a bowl of cereal at 2 in the morning.
Oprah says that she and Jill still call these disarmingly powerful moments "Cheerio moments."
Mattie was a published poet at 9, and Oprah says that his wisdom was so amazing that she "could do a book of the e-mails he sent me."
Mattie did not disappoint. Talking about wishes that he had, he said, "They were things that would last forever. Going to Disney World ends in a week. Having a shopping spree lasts for a day. But being able to talk to Jimmy Carter, being able to have my books published. Being able to talk to you here today lasts forever."
Sadly, Mattie passed away before he turned 14. We will always miss this phenomenal poet, peacemaker, philosopher and friend.
But when Sidney Poitier arrived for his interview with Oprah, he didn't have any of that. Jill says he walked in alone, and his only baggage was "his briefcase, and he had his trench coat over his arm."
Just to add to Sidney Poitier's reputation of supreme class, Amy says, "The day the show aired...I'm sitting at my desk working on the next show and the phone rings...and I hear this voice. And he goes, 'It was amazing.' I thought it was my father goofing off or something. I go, 'Who is this?' And he goes, 'It is I.' And I was like, 'It's you!'"
But The Oprah Show's Sheri has a little surprise, and "America does not know this story. Neither does Oprah. On television you think we settled it all right there at the end of that six or seven hours. The truth is, LaShell wasn't in the final cut."
When they created the list of finalists, Sheri says she knew something was wrong. "Ellen [executive producer of The Oprah Show] and I stayed behind and we looked at each other....Something did not feel right. [We went and] looked at [LaShell's] tape. You cannot deny that she has an unbelievable voice."
Sheri's instincts paid off when LaShell ended up in the final group of qualifiers and eventually won over America. Her CD is called Free. All of the contestants from Oprah's Pop Star Challenge are winners in our book, and even put out a cast album!