Stars share Oprah's lessons with ABC7

Oprah Winfrey speaks as she is surrounded by, from left, Patti LaBelle, Beyoncé, Madonna, Dakota Fanning and Halle Berry during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," Tuesday, May 17, 2011, in Chicago. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is ending its run May 25, after 25 years, and millions of her fans around the globe are waiting to see how she will close out a show that spawned a media empire. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

May 24, 2011 9:02:22 AM PDT
After 25 seasons, Oprah Winfrey's talk show is coming to an end. She often says that her talk show is her classroom.

ABC7 Chicago was the only local crew with backstage access at Tuesday night's star-studded farewell to Oprah at the United Center. And the stars there made it clear that viewers aren't the only ones who learned from the "queen of talk."

The star-studded shows -- which will air next week Monday and Tuesday on ABC7 -- were led by Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. But backstage on the rope line, A-list celebrities told ABC7 what they learned from watching Oprah for the last 25 years.

"Trust your audience, respect your audience, be competitive, and don't let other people make the decisions for you," said Simon Cowell.

"It's an honor to be near her, to have learned from her. I truly meant what I said in my speech that she is one of the few women that I personally can look up to and learn from," Madonna told ABC7.

"She's showed us her failures and her disappointments, but she's also shown what you can do with that and make it for the better," said Kristin Chenoweth.

Many stars who owe their starts to Oprah got a chance to thank her in person.

"Oprah gave us trust, she trusted in us personally, but she also taught people to trust in us," said Dr. Oz.

"It's all about one thing and that's Oprah, it's not about us, it's not about anybody's ego or agenda or projects to promote, it's strictly about honoring Oprah and that's been a really good feeling backstage," said Dr. Phil.

While backstage, ABC7's Cheryl Burton got a private piece of the concert.

"Give me something of what you were singing on the stage to Oprah tonight," Burton told Jamie Foxx who belted out his version of "Isn't She Lovely." Jamie Foxx sings Oprah song for ABC7

Oprah told ABC7's Cheryl Burton that her favorite surprise was when Aretha Franklin surprised her with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" that brought the house down.

Oprah, friends brunch in Gold Coast

The morning after Oprah Winfrey taped two of her final shows at Chicago's United Center, she met family and friends at Table 52, a restaurant owned by her friend Chef Art Smith.

Guests began arriving shortly before 11 a.m. to enjoy a brunch of Art Smith's famous chicken and waffles.

Tuesday night, however, the talk show queen recorded two of her final shows with many surprise celebrity guests and in front of about approximately 13,000 fans. ABC7 caught up with Oprah on her way into Table 52 Wednesday.

"That was something. We felt the love!" Oprah told ABC7. "I think what happened last night was out of this world."

When asked about what she had planned for her final show, Oprah said, "I'm still figuring it out. I really am. I'm still figuring it out. I will. It'll be appropriate, and it'll be right for that moment."

"I don't know if it's going to be out of this world. I think what happened last night was out of this world," Oprah added.

Oprah also said the last show will have an intimate feel.

ABC7's Cheryl Burton goes backstage

"It was just an extraordinary thing that she did to give me that shot, nobody knew who I was," singer Josh Groban told Burton.

"To have been asked to accompany and sing along with Dr. Maya Angelou who is one of my heroes of my life, you know, it was like I was surrounded by heroism and power, and just incredible energy, and I just couldn't believe that I was even there," said singer Alicia Keys.

"If Oprah saw me singing 'Over the Rainbow,' she'd expect Patti to kick her shoes off and sometimes roll on the floor. But I said, I'm not rolling tonight!" said singer Patti LaBelle.

Rascal Flatts band members say they couldn't believe they were asked to be part of Oprah's big surprise.

"I pinched him, he pinched me, and he pinched both of us. We ran out the door and started driving to Chicago!" said Rascal Flatts.

After the second show got rolling, the "queen of soul" was the last to send off the "queen of talk."

"When she started crying, I was crying backstage with her, I had to call up the fellow doing my makeup, look get Reggie in here, OK?" said LaBelle. "My makeup is looking a mess...Oprah needs to stop crying because I'm crying with her."

Celebrities attend after-party

After Tuesday's tapings, the party continued at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Chicago where screaming fans gathered outside to get a glimpse of some of the star power that appeared on Oprah's extravaganza at the United Center. Halle Berry, Kelsey Grammer and Rosie O'Donnell and Dr. Phil were guests at the hotel.

Basketball icon Michael Jordan and actor Tom Hanks were among the few whisked away from the United Center to the after party. Earlier, Hanks got things started at the taping.

"Your studio just wasn't big enough to hold it all. So, here we are," he said in front of the huge crowd. "Today, you are surrounded by nothing but love."

The almost endless line of celebrities was a secret to Oprah. But it was no secret that a good time was had by the 13,000 fans who came from across the world and were lucky enough to get free tickets for the once-in-a-lifetime event.

"Oh my God, it was amazing, beautiful. It was the best, like I was at an Academy Award show, like a star-studded event," said Juanita Malone.

"Aretha Franklin, she was excellent. So was Beyonce. Yeah, I loved it," Shondralis Allen said.

"The people that came were amazing. It was one after the other of shocking people you never thought would actually show up. It just never ended," said Sabrina Gagnon.

"I'm exhausted. My eyeballs hurt! It was just awesome, unbelievable," author Iyanla Vanzant told ABC7 Chicago.

"I think the vibe was really good. Everybody had good spirits, and everybody was feeling that we're really going to miss Oprah," one fan said. "It's going to be really hard. I don't know what I'm going to do at 9 o'clock."

The two shows that were taped Tuesday night will air next week Monday and Tuesday on ABC7. There is also one additional show -- the final show -- that will air next Wednesday.

Next Tuesday, ABC7 will air a half-hour special entitled "Oprah Looks Back: 25 Years of the Oprah Winfrey Show" at 6:30 p.m. on ABC7.

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