If you want to plan the Ultimate Girlfriends’ Getaway, you may already be too late.
Sure, you can book a spa retreat, shopping weekend or hiking trip any time, but you probably missed your chance to get tickets to “Oprah!,” as the show is now taping its final season.
My sister and I were able to enjoy the experience a few months ago, but we hadn’t planned to do so. Let me explain…
Last summer, my brother – a producer for Harpo – spoke of giving our former neighbors, who are nearing 80, tickets for an “Oprah!” episode featuring the pip-squeak pop sensation Justin Bieber.
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You got the B’s in to see a singer they probably never heard of, and you’ve never gotten me tickets?”
“You live in Seattle,” he said. “I don’t usually get much notice when the tickets come through.”
“You worry about the tickets,” I replied. “I’ll worry about getting to Chicago.”
As soon as the fall season started taping, my wonderful brother did procure tickets for me (and one of my sisters) – and I kept my word. But it wasn’t easy.
The show was set for the first full week of school, when I was still helping my four kids readjust to early wakeup calls and homework. On the taping day, I had scheduled an afternoon meeting at our house, and was to host a pre-game dinner for 40 Varsity football players. My husband had a business trip planned.
My sister teaches at an art school in Minneapolis, and I was sure it would be just as hard for her to break free. Our first email exchange was tentative: “It’s a really tough time to go, but if you can make it, I guess I can, too.”
We made it.
In the lively email stream, my brother counseled, “Going to “Oprah!” is a lifetime highlight for many of these women. You’ll see a lot of ladies who have traveled together, had their hair and nails done, and purchased new outfits just for the taping.” I figured I’d look terrific after a few hours of “sleep” on the red-eye.
After landing at 4:50 am (not quite 3 am Pacific time), I drove to my brother’s house, 45 minutes away in Evanston. I arrived armed with donuts and hugs for my three nieces. After they left for school, I showered and dressed in what I envisioned as an Oprah-appropriate outfit – you know, bold, bright solid colors. I put on a little extra makeup, which for me means anything more than under-eye concealer and mascara, fruitlessly styled my hair and set out in the rain for the subway.
At the Harpo studios, a huge crowd had already lined up in the plastic-covered walkway, even though the taping wouldn’t start for another hour. My sister met me in line; her flight had arrived a little later, so she taxied straight there. She was dressed in her hip-artist best: a pale grey, polka-dotted zip hoodie and faded blue jeans. We felt extremely under-dressed and out-classed, but perfectly poised for people-watching.
The ladies in line were amazing; dressed to the nines (lots of pink, fuchsia and fire-engine red), heavily made up, high-heeled, beautifully coiffed and clearly ready for the time of their lives.
Once inside the studios, I signed a release that restricted my right to say anything about the “Oprah!” experience, but let me assure you that the gussied-up Girlfriend Getaways gals enjoyed close-up seats and two seconds of fame when the show aired. My sister and I were seated off to the side, behind a cameraman. Nevertheless, we did get caught up in the spirit, fell in love with Ms. O and felt privileged to see Cybill Sheppard, Linda Evans and Teri Hatcher more-or-less up close.
Afterwards, we mindlessly followed the crowd to the Oprah! store and bought souvenirs we didn’t need. Then we enjoyed a long lunch at a funky nearby restaurant, and really took time to talk – something that rarely happens when other family members are around.
A few hours later, back in Evanston, our mom joined us for dinner with my brother and his family, and we finished off the evening with birthday cake (just a week before my big day). We talked for hours, then fell asleep whispering in our niece’s bunk beds – just like old times.
The following morning, we arose at dawn and headed back to the airport. The “Oprah!” experience had lasted only 24 hours, but we knew the trailer effect would endure much longer. And now, every time I sip decaf from my “Oprah!”-certified mug, I think of my sister and the laughs we shared during our Girlfriends’ Getaway.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 29 Nov. 2010